On David Foster Wallace

Two articles on David Foster Wallace captured my attention today: an Observer interview with his widow, the artist Karen Green and an LRB review of Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky and The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel by David Foster Wallace. Both have sealed my decision to read more David Foster Wallace (after chucking aside his first novel).

The interview with Karen Green is deeply moving. Of his suicide, Green says, “[…] that doesn’t define David or his work. It all turns him into a celebrity dude, which I think would have made him wince, the good part of him […].” Of the decision to publish his unfinished novel, Green says, “The notes that he took for the book and chapters that were complete, were left in a neat pile on his desk in the garage where he worked. And his lamps were on it, illuminating it. So I have no doubt in my mind this is what he wanted.”

Of the imminent novel: “The theme of The Pale King is boredom and the ways in which a group of young Americans mitigate its effects to get through working life.” Green adds, “I’d have been interested to hear what he might have done with the idea of boredom in marriage, though,” she says, with a smile. The pervasive monotony of career, marriage, modern consumer-society gets surprisingly little analysis in literature or philosophy (that I’ve come across), which puts The Pale King to the top of my ‘must-read’ pile when it arrives. Ballard was the last writer to powerfully deal with boredom.

The LRB review, written by novelist Jenny Turner, is excellent. Turner writes, “When I started reading Wallace, it was this directness that hit me hardest, this effort to speak openly and straightforwardly about things so obvious and so embarrassing that most of us, most of the time, just ignore them; this eager voice reaching out to touch its knuckles to my being, though both of us know there’s nothing there, really, apart from printed words on a page.”

3 thoughts on “On David Foster Wallace

  1. >I enjoyed Campbell's article and expect no more of The Pale King than a curiosity, not a completed work. Its theme is one I wish to explore further, it resonates.I never find Ballard boring, overly sentimental occasionally but never dull.

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