In this blog post, we will answer the question, “What are the best David Foster Wallace books you must read right now?”. In this article, we introduce Wallace and his writing style and a list of handpicked books that we have curated for you if you are worried about where to start.
Who is David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace (February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008) was a novelist, short story writer, and essayist from the United States, as well as a professor of English and Creative Arts at the College of William and Mary.
Wallace is most known for his 1996 novel The Infinite Jest, which he wrote. Time magazine named The Infinite Jest one of the 100 Best English Novels from 1923 to 2005.
His posthumous work, The Pale King, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2012.
The Los Angeles Times’ David Oulin called Wallace “one of the most influential and imaginative authors of the last 20 years.”
David Foster Wallace has worked in nearly every field, including literature, journalism, and vacations, and has done so at a breakneck speed.
His life was a jumble of paths and disputes, a quest for understanding. “Today, I received 500,000 little bits of info.” There are a total of 25 of them, with 25 of them being critical.
“It’s up to me to figure it out,” the narrator declares. He stated, “I wanted to construct a story about how it feels to exist.” It’s more than a relief to learn “what it’s like to live.”
His humor, knowledge, and humanity had readers kneeling in amazement.
His life was like a skewed map pointing in the wrong way.
David Foster Wallace could appear frightening to the ordinary reader. “Postmodernism,” “experimental,” and “absurd intellectual” are all terms that come to mind when characterizing his work.
This is all true. But we’re here to tell you that DFW is the most approachable “tough” author you’ll ever read. The most enlightening. One of the funniest, too.
Jason Segel plays novelist David Foster Wallace at The End of Tour, in what is being lauded as a possibly Oscar-worthy performance for the generally comical actor.
The film is based on author David Lipsky’s book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, which describes talks Lipsky had with Wallace over the course of five days when Wallace was on tour promoting his most famous work, the novel Infinite Jest.
Jesse Eisenberg portrays Lipsky in the picture, and while he gets a lot of accolades, it’s Segel who truly shines.
Wallace is imbued with a pearl of deep unfathomable wisdom, passion, and tribulations by the actor, who draws striking parallels to the real-life novelist, who committed suicide in 2008.
Anyone who has watched the film can’t help but be captivated by Segal’s portrayal, and if they’re anything like me, they’ll be more interested in Wallace’s work as a result of seeing it.
Choosing which David Foster Wallace novels to read might be difficult if you’re inexperienced with his work.
We think you’ll enjoy him as well. As a result, here’s a proposed DFW reading sequence:
Wallace’s writing style
Much of David Foster Wallace’s work aspires to move beyond the irony and metafiction common in postmodern literature.
It makes use of a variety of satirical tactics, but it also seeks to underscore the human need for genuine, subconscious experiences.
Wallace’s letter has a variety of voices, as well as jargon and vocabulary from a variety of fields (some of which are coined).
He uses abbreviations, multi-sentence long phrases, footnotes, and endnotes in his writings.
He added that these comments were designed to express his viewpoint on reality without detracting from or complicating the story’s linearity.
He believed that if he tried to combine all of his notes and thoughts into one continuous project, no one would read it.
Beginning with the Essay Collections is a good place to start
Consider the case of Lobster. DFW’s seamless combination of simple comedy and high intellectual clarity, which occurs frequently within the same piece, is one of its greatest assets.
This collection is the most visible in DFW’s work.
For example, the DFW criticizes a particularly poor assertion, calling it “…so foolish that I’m nearly drooling,” in an academic (but extremely reading) essay titled “Rights and American Usage” on technical and regulatory grammar.
This article is the finest representation of the DFW’s various styles, which range from scholarly to pompous to disgustingly humorous. As a result, this is an excellent location to begin learning about his approach.
Things you’ll probably never do again.
The title article in this book, on the DFW’s socially uncomfortable and supernaturally bashful solo cruising experience, finest exemplifies another of the DFW’s greatest gifts: careful observation. Aside from that, the article is intriguing.
For example, defeating some nasty adolescent in table tennis is the single highlight of his day for him (adult guy).
This is what water looks like. In 2005, DFW delivered a commencement lecture at Kenyon College, emphasizing the value of empathy.
In essence, this is a challenge for every one of us to follow one unchanging life rule. “Don’t be an idiot if you’re in doubt.”
This is something I read multiple times a year. Every time I hear it, it gives me goosebumps.
Continue with short stories.
Girl with curious hair:
This is perhaps my least favorite DFW collection, but there’s still a lot to like. The title tale is my favorite, but ‘Little Bumpy Animal,’ about a lesbian who has earned consecutive triumphs in ‘Danger,’ is also fantastic.
Read the last story, “Empire Goes Its Way Westward,” if you want to read a little masochism. This is one of the toughest books I’ve ever read.
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
This is more of a whimsical experiment with structure and style than a short story collection.
There are a few true anecdotes in the book, but the most of it is comprised of interviews in which the answers are read but not the questions.
You’ll have to believe me when I say that it’s not quite as obnoxious as it sounds.
Believe it or not, The Office’s John Krasinski took on the task of adapting and filming this. It was only adequate, but an A for effort!
DFW’s most recent collection of short stories, published in 2004, is both his most “normal” (i.e. plain) and his most intellectual and gloomy.
As a result of reading these accounts, the events of September 12, 2008 became less startling, but much more tragic.
(If you don’t know who David Foster Wallace is, he committed suicide at his house in California after a life-long struggle with depression.)
He had just been 46 years old for a short time.)
You’re all set to take on the novels now.
The crowning achievement. David Foster Wallace is the author of this book. It is, in fact, 1,079 pages lengthy. Yes, there are over 300 endnotes in this book.
And, certainly, you’ll have no idea how the many stories are linked for the first 200 pages.
But if you get into a reading groove, sit in and get comfy, and relax and accept that you won’t be able to finish everything right away, you’re in for arguably the finest reading experience of your life.
The Pale King
While Infinite Jest is about entertainment addiction, this unfinished novel from earlier this year is about boredom.
Michael Pietsch, DFW’s long-time editor, adds many pages of comments he gathered from some of DFW’s collected writings towards the end of the novel.
The notes reveal how DFW would have related characters and ideas in order to complete the work.
Reading those is quite depressing since you quickly realize The Pale King was DFW’s finest book.