The David Foster Wallace Reader

The David Foster Wallace Reader

by David Foster Wallace


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316182409
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 12/01/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 976
Sales rank: 1,158,190
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

David Foster Wallace wrote the novels Infinite Jest, The Broom of the System, and The Pale King, and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl with Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes Consider the Lobster, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, Everything and More, and This Is Water. He died in 2008.

Date of Birth:

February 21, 1962

Date of Death:

September 12, 2008

Place of Birth:

Ithaca, NY

Place of Death:

Claremont, CA


B.A. in English & Philosophy, Amherst College, 1985;MFA, University of Arizona, 1987

Table of Contents

Introduction ix


"The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad thing" (1984) Afterword Kevin J. H. Dettmar 20

The Broom of the System (1987)

1 22

5 /a/ 38

11 /c/ 49

Afterword Gerald Howard 63

Girl with Curious Hair (1989)

"Little Expressionless Animals" 65

Afterword Hari Kunzru 98

"My Appearance" 100

Infinite Jest (1996)

Year of Glad 122

Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment 138

"In the eighth…" 149

Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment 151

Autumn-Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland 158

As of Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment 164

Winter B.S. 1960-Tucson Az 167

"Here is how…" 182

"But there's this…" 188

"If, by the…" 194

"The bathroom has…" 207

14 November 215

8 November 223

Winter, B.S. 1963, Sepulveda CA 250

"It is starting…" 264

"As at all…" 275

"And re Ennet…" 296

"Joelle used to…" 303

11 November 317

Afterword Nam Le 339

"The ceiling was…" 341

Notes and Errata 362

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (1999)

"A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life" 381

"B.I. #14" 382

"B.I. #40" 383

"Forever Overhead" 387

"The Depressed Person"

Oblivion (2004)

"Good Old Neon" 418

"Incarnations of Burned Children" 452

Afterword Nick Maniatis 455

"The Suffering Channel" 456

The Pale King (2011)








Afterword Deborah Treisman 597

Teaching Materials

Introduction Sally Foster Wallace 601

English 64A

First-Day Pop Quiz 606

Student Data Sheet 607

English 170R, Spring 2003

Course Syllabus 609

Student Info Sheet 616

Specs and Guidelines for Peer-Review Missive 618

English 183A, Fall 2004

Guidelines for Writing Helpful Letters of Response to Colleagues' Stories 620

English 183D, Spring 2008

Syllabus 622

Student Data Sheet 629

English 183A, Your Liberal-Arts $ At Work

16 October 2002 630

30 October 2002 632

13 November 2002 633

6 October 2004 634

1 December 2004 635


"Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" (1990) 639

Afterword Mark Costello 654

"E Unibus Pluram" (1990) 656

Afterword David L. Ulin 708

"Getting Away from Already Pretty Much Being Away from It All" (1993) 710

Afterword Anne Fadiman 759

"A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" (1995) 763

"The Nature of the Fun" (1998) 845

"Some Remarks on Kafka's Funniness from Which Probably Not Enough Has Been Removed" (1999) 849

"Authority and American Usage" (1999) 584

"The View from Mrs. Thompson's" (2001) 910

"Consider the Lobster" (2004) 920

Afterword Jo Ann Beard 937

"Federer Both Flesh and Not" (2006) 938

Afterword Sven Birkerts 956

About the Contributors 959

Copyright Acknowledgments 961

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