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David Foster Wallace

Born: 1962 in Ithaca, New York
Died: 2008 in Claremont, California

Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Wallace was raised in Champaign-Urbana. He taught English at Illinois State University from 1992 to 2000.

Biography: David Foster Wallace was born in Ithaca, New York, in 1962 and raised in Illinois, where he was a regionally ranked junior tennis player. He received Bachelor of Arts degrees in philosophy and English from Amherst College and wrote what would become his first novel, ''The Broom of the System'', as his senior English thesis. He received a Master of Fine Arts from University of Arizona in 1987 and briefly pursued graduate work in philosophy at Harvard University. Wallace published short fiction in ''Might, GQ, Playboy, The Paris Review, Harper's Magazine, Mid-American Review, Conjunctions, Esquire, Open City, Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The New Yorker,'' and ''Science''. In 1997, Wallace received the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, awarded by editors of The Paris Review for one of the stories in Brief Interviews - "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men #6," which had appeared in the magazine. Wallace taught creative writing at Emerson College, Illinois State University, and Pomona College, where he was the first Roy E. Disney Professor of Creative Writing in 2002 - where he usually taught one or two writing classes a semester and had developed a reputation on campus as a personable, engaging teacher. He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship in 1997, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers' Award, and was appointed to the Usage Panel for The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

  • The Pale King Nominated, Pulitzer Prize, 2012
  • Brief Interviews with Hideous Men #6 Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, 1997
  • Infinite Jest Time magazine's Best Books of the Year (Fiction), 1996 Salon Book Award (Fiction), 1996 Lannan Literary Award (Fiction), 1996
  • The Broom of the System Whiting Award

Primary Literary Genre(s): Fiction; Non-Fiction

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments
ISBN: 0316925284 OCLC: 41459863

These widely acclaimed essays from the author of Infinite Jest -- on television, tennis, cruise ships, and more -- established David Foster Wallace as one of the preeminent essayists of his generation. In this exuberantly praised book -- a collection of seven pieces on subjects ranging from television to tennis, from the Illinois State Fair to the films of David Lynch, from postmodern literary theory to the supposed fun of traveling aboard a Caribbean luxury cruise liner -- David Foster Wallace brings to nonfiction the same curiosity, hilarity, and exhilarating verbal facility that has delighted readers of his fiction, including the bestselling Infinite Jest.

Both Flesh and Not: Essays
ISBN: 0316182389 OCLC: 865175714

Never has Wallace's seemingly endless curiosity been more evident than in this compilation of work spanning nearly 20 years of writing. Here, Wallace turns his critical eye with equal enthusiasm toward Roger Federer and Jorge Luis Borges; Terminator 2 and The Best of the Prose Poem; the nature of being a fiction writer and the quandary of defining the essay; the best underappreciated novels and the English language's most irksome misused words; and much more.Both Flesh and Not restores Wallace's essays as originally written, and it includes a selection from his personal vocabulary list, an assembly of unusual words and definitions.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: Stories
ISBN: 0316925195 OCLC: 40354776

Little, Brown, Boston : ©1999.

A collection of 23 stories, several of which deal with misunderstandings between men and women. In one, a man assumes that women find his mutilated arm sexy, in another a wife is inhibited in her lovemaking by fear that her husband will think she is a slut.

Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays
ISBN: 0316013323 OCLC: 244642394

For this collection, Wallace immerses himself in the three-ring circus that is the presidential race in order to document one of the most vicious campaigns in recent history. Later he strolls from booth to booth at a lobster festival in Maine and risks life and limb to get to the bottom of the lobster question. Then he wheedles his way into an L.A. radio studio, armed with tubs of chicken, to get the behind-the-scenes view of a conservative talk show featuring a host with an unnatural penchant for clothing that looks good only on the radio. Do lobsters feel pain? Did Franz Kafka have a sick sense of humor? What is John Updike's deal anyway? And who won the Adult Video News' Female Performer of the Year Award the same year Gwyneth Paltrow won her Oscar? Wallace answers these questions and more.--From publisher description.

David Foster Wallace: The Last Interview And Other Conversations
ISBN: 1612197418 OCLC:

Melville House 2018

In intimate and eloquent interviews, including the last he gave before his suicide, the writer hailed by A.O. Scott of The New York Times as “the best mind of his generation” considers the state of modern America, entertainment and discipline, adulthood, literature, and his own inimitable writing style. In addition to Wallace’s last interview, the volume features a conversation with Dave Eggers, a revealing Q&A with the magazine of his alma mater Amherst, his famous Salon interview with Laura Miller following the publication of Infinite Jest, and more. These conversations showcase and illuminate the traits for which Wallace remains so beloved: his incomparable humility and enormous erudition, his wit, sensitivity, and humanity. As he eloquently describes his writing process and motivations, displays his curiosity by time and again turning the tables on his interviewers, and delivers thoughtful, idiosyncratic views on literature, politics, entertainment and discipline, and the state of modern America, a fuller picture of this remarkable mind is revealed.

Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity
ISBN: 9780393339284 OCLC: 658003884

W.W. Norton, New York : 2010.

Wallace brings his talents to the history of one of math's most enduring puzzles: the seemingly paradoxical nature of infinity.

Fate, Time, and Language An Essay on Free Will
ISBN: 0231151578 OCLC: 694147464

Long before he published Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote a brilliant critique of Richard Taylor's argument for fatalism. In 1962, Taylor used six commonly-accepted presuppositions to imply that humans have no control over the future. Not only did Wallace take issue with Taylor's method, which, according to him, scrambled the relations of logic, language, and the physical world, but he also called out a semantic trick that lie at the heart of Taylor's argument. Wallace was a great skeptic of abstract thinking as a negation of something more genuine and real. He w.

Girl With Curious Hair
ISBN: 0349111022 OCLC: 38069162

Abacus, London : 1997, ©1989.

David Foster Wallace is one of the most prodigiously talented young writers in America today and Girl With Curious Hair is replete with his remarkable and unsettling re-imaginations of reality. From an eerily 'real', almost holographic evocation of Lyndon B. Johnson, to over-televised game-show hosts and late-night comedians, to the title story, where terminal punk nihilism meets Young Republicanism, Wallace renders the incredible comprehensible, the bizarre normal, the absurd hilarious, the familiar strange.

Infinite Jest: A Novel
ISBN: 0316920045 OCLC: 32738491

Little, Brown and Company, Boston : ©1996.

A spoof on our culture featuring a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation house near Boston. The center becomes a hotbed of revolutionary activity by Quebec separatists in revolt against the Organization of North American Nations which now rules the continent.

McCain's Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope
ISBN: 0316040533 OCLC: 225874601

Offers a close-up look at John McCain and his campaign for president in 2000, exploring both the candidate's personality and the posturing, spin, and media manipulation of presidential elections.

Oblivion: Stories
ISBN: 0316010766 OCLC: 63136458

These are worlds undreamt of by any other mind. Only David Foster Wallace could convey a father's desperate loneliness by way of his son's daydreaming through a teacher's homicidal breakdown (

Quack This Way David Foster Wallace & Bryan A. Garner Talk Language and Writing
ISBN: 0991118111 OCLC:

Rosepen Books 2013

David Foster Wallace was at the center of late-20th-century American literature, Bryan A. Garner at that of legal scholarship and lexicography. It was language that drew them together. The wide-ranging interview reproduced here memorializes 67 minutes of their second and final evening together, in February 2006. It was DFW's last long interview, and the only one devoted exclusively to language and writing.

Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present
ISBN: 0316225835 OCLC:

Back Bay Books 2013

Living together in Cambridge in 1989, David Foster Wallace and longtime friend Mark Costello discovered that they shared "an uncomfortable, somewhat furtive, and distinctively white enthusiasm for a certain music called rap/hip-hop." The book they wrote together, set against the legendary Boston music scene, mapped the bipolarities of rap and pop, rebellion and acceptance, glitz and gangsterdom. Signifying Rappers issued a fan's challenge to the giants of rock writing, Greil Marcus, Robert Palmer, and Lester Bangs: Could the new street beats of 1989 set us free, as rock had always promised?

String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis: A Library of America Special Publication
ISBN: 1598534807 OCLC:

Library of America 2016

An instant classic of American sportswriting—the tennis essays of David Foster Wallace, “the best mind of his generation” (A. O. Scott) and “the best tennis-writer of all time” (New York Times) Gathered for the first time in a deluxe collector's edition, here are David Foster Wallace's legendary writings on tennis, five tour-de-force pieces written with a competitor's insight and a fan's obsessive enthusiasm. Wallace brings his dazzling literary magic to the game he loved as he celebrates the other-worldly genius of Roger Federer; offers a wickedly witty disection of Tracy Austin's memoir; considers the artistry of Michael Joyce, a supremely disciplined athlete on the threshold of fame; resists the crush of commerce at the U.S. Open; and recalls his own career as a "near-great" junior player.

The Broom of the System: A Novel
ISBN: 0143116932 OCLC: 457151478

Penguin Books, New York : 2010.

Published when David Foster Wallace was just twenty-four years old, The Broom of the System stunned critics and marked the emergence of an extraordinary new talent. At the center of this outlandishly funny, fiercely intelligent novel is the bewitching heroine, Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman. The year is 1990 and the place is a slightly altered Cleveland, Ohio. Lenore’s great-grandmother has disappeared with twenty-five other inmates of the Shaker Heights Nursing Home. Her beau, and boss, Rick Vigorous, is insanely jealous, and her cockatiel, Vlad the Impaler, has suddenly started spouting a mixture of psycho-babble, Auden, and the King James Bible. Ingenious and entertaining, this debut from one of the most innovative writers of his generation brilliantly explores the paradoxes of language, storytelling, and reality.

The David Foster Wallace Reader
ISBN: 9780316182409 OCLC: 887606116

Where do you begin with a writer as original and brilliant as David Foster Wallace? Here--with a carefully considered selection of his extraordinary body of work, chosen by a range of great writers, critics, and those who worked with him most closely. This volume presents his most dazzling, funniest, and most heartbreaking work--essays like his famous cruise-ship piece, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, excerpts from his novels The Broom of the System, Infinite Jest, and The Pale King, and legendary stories like The Depressed Person. Wallace's explorations of morality, self-consciousness, addiction, sports, love, and the many other subjects that occupied him are represented here in both fiction and nonfiction. Collected for the first time are Wallace's first published story, The View from Planet Trillaphon as Seen In Relation to the Bad Thing and a selection of his work as a writing instructor, including reading lists, grammar guides, and general guidelines for his students. A dozen writers and critics, including Hari Kunzru, Anne Fadiman, and Nam Le, add afterwords to favorite pieces, expanding our appreciation of the unique pleasures of Wallace's writing. The result is an astonishing volume that shows the breadth and range of one of America's most daring and talented writers (Los Angeles Times Book Review) whose work was full of humor, insight, and beauty--

The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel
ISBN: 0316074225 OCLC: 668192483

Little, Brown and Co., New York : 2011.


This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life
ISBN: 0316068225 OCLC: 290479013

Little, Brown, New York : 2009.

In this rare peak into the personal life of the author of numerous bestselling novels, gain an understanding of David Foster Wallace and how he became the man that he was.Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in This is Water. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace's electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others. After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friend.Writing with his one-of-a-kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that renews us with every reading.