D-F-W, easy as 4-6-23

If you're alive and literate in this part of the world, and if you haven't done so yet, you may have felt enjoined to read some David Foster Wallace. Since 1996 and the publication of Infinite Jest but especially since he left us all behind in September 2008, David Foster Wallace has become required reading for contemporary cultureds. As it goes, since his death, interest in the man and everything he touched has grown immensely. Evidence of this: our store now stocks all his books that are in print, from his undergraduate honours thesis in philosophy (Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will) to his last unfinished novel, The Pale King. Wallace may be the only non-comics author for whom this is true; for a store with a small, selective fiction and non-fiction department, this is significant. If you're a Foster Wallace fan, then the past few years have probably been devastating but also exciting, with so much of his writing and so much writing on his writing newly out there. For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, you may have felt left out of the conversation, maybe felt like you should read something of his. But where to start? When the author's most popular work is an intimidating 1079-pager dense with footnotes and a vocabulary that necessitates a dictionary? Here are some tips from a 2006 inductee to the DFW band of fans:

1. Start small. Virgin territory? Ease in with one of his collections of short stories (Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men) or, better still in my opinion, his essays: Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again are both phenomenal. His non-fiction is subjective in the New Journalism (Orwell, Capote, Didion) tradition but what truth (I believe in truth) is found in his observations! Observations on tennis, on cruise ships, on David Lynch, on adult entertainment, on English grammar, on McCain and Kafka and Updike, on 9/11, on the ethics of eating lobster...

2. Go BIG. Infinite Jest. You can do it. Download a good dictionary app on your smart phone. Give it a couple hundred pages to get into. Have tape on hand for the inevitable spin breakage. Enjoy.

3. Etc. Etc. Congratulations, now you're where I'm at: anything goes. Follow what you love; for me, it's the essays. Try something you aren't sure about; his history of the concept of infinity? Be of the moment; The Pale King, released April 2011. Go backwards in time; his novel novel The Broom of the System (1987)... It's all good.

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