The History of Literature #181 – David Foster Wallace (with Mike Palindrome)


Frequent guest Mike Palindrome takes the wheel for another solo episode on David Foster Wallace, including a deep dive into Wallace’s unfinished manuscript The Pale King, published posthumously in 2011.

DAVID FOSTER WALLACE (1962-2008) was an American author best known for his novels The Broom in the System and Infinite Jest, his story collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, his essay collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, and his graduation speech to Kenyon College, published under the title This Is Water. Known for his writerly struggles to advance the novel form beyond irony and postmodernism, as well as for his personal struggles with depression, drug addiction, and suicidal tendencies, David Foster Wallace died of his own hand in 2008. In the years since his death, new biographical information has emerged, including several disturbing incidents regarding women whom Wallace treated poorly, including stalking incidents and other alarming incidents and allegations. Today, Wallace has an uneasy relationship with the literary canon: widely recognized as a brilliant if sometimes narcissistic talent, possessed of both genius-like intelligence and deep flaws both as a writer and a human being. Today, his reputation is a source of contention: Was he a prophetlike figure who surpassed his peers and superseded all who came before? Or a smart but flawed man whose worst tendencies led him to generate thickets of navel-gazing and unreadability?

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