ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Who Was David Foster Wallace?

Updated on September 13, 2011

A Short Biography

David Foster Wallace was born on February 21, 1962 into an America that had not yet been victimized by President Kennedy's assassination. Although born in the hippie stronghold of Ithaca, NY, the Wallace family moved to Champagne, Illinois when David was just a few years old. He became a prodigious junior tennis player and also possessed an incredible mind for memorizing obscure facts and understanding complex math and logic.

Wallace first gained notice from the literary world with his first novel, The Broom of the System, published in 1987. Soon after Wallace would attempt to attain a masters degree from Harvard in Philosophy, but soon abandoned that plan and began teaching literature and Emerson College as an adjunct.

Wallace's magnum opus was completed in 1993 and published in 1996 under the title Infinite Jest . It's this novel that Wallace will be remembered for, and it has taken its place along with Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow , Toni Morrison's Beloved , Don DeLillo's Underworld , Philip Roth's American Pastoral , and a select few other novels as the so-called "canon" of modern American literature.

Wallace also published many short stories and articles for magazines including Playboy, Rolling Stone, GQ, Esquire, McSweeney's, The New Yorker and The Paris Review. His piece about Roger Federer for the New York Times, titled "Federer as Religious Experience" (see link below), is still considered one of the finest pieces of modern sports writing.

After suffering from depression for nearly 20 years, David Foster Wallace hanged himself on September 12, 2008.

Buy Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest is a novel about addiction. Addiction to drugs, addiction to athletics, addiction to entertainment. It takes place in the near future (although with the passage of time, that near future has now become just an alternative version of the present) when Mexico, the United States, and Canada have all joined as one organization. Parts of Ontario are used as a wasteland, and a growing group of Canadian separatists in wheelchairs are attempting to undermine the unification of North America. Enter into this chaotic situation the Incandenza family.

The Incandenzas run a prep school in Massachusetts for talented young tennis players. The patriarch of the family, James Orin Incandenza (referred to by family members as "Himself") has a strong interest in both tennis and avant garde film. Among the many films he directs is Infinite Jest IV,  also referred to simply as the Entertainment. This art film causes an uncontrollable addiction for anyone that even glances at it. For this reason, the Canadian separatist movement views it as a potential weapon. Rumors of another Incandenza film that is an anecdote to addiction to the Entertainment abound throughout the novel.

Aside from the addictive film and the stories about the various characters in the Incandenza family, their is also another sub-plot involving the residents of Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House. These residents are all recovering addicts, and many of them work as the grounds crew at the adjoining Enfield Tennis Academy run by the Incandenzas. Wallace goes into great detail about the rehab process, including the ups and downs of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Infinite Jest can be a challenging novel because of the many different established characters and the non-linear plot that takes place over the course of a decade. The years in this alternative reality are no longer marked by numbers, but rather by sponsorships. Many of the events happen during the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. These sponsorships were necessary because a change in the way entertainment was disseminated (from standard TV with commercials to a cartridge viewer system with none) took away advertising opportunities.

Despite (or perhaps because of) its oddities and challenges, Infinite Jest is one of the most rewarding novels of modern times.  

This is Water - David Foster Wallace's Commencement Speech to Kenyon College, 2005

David Foster Wallace was invited to speak at Kenyon College's commencement ceremony in 2005. He gave a moving speech entitled "This is Water". The entirety of the speech has since been published in book form, but an excerpt can be found at the bottom of this page.

David Foster Wallace Quotes

"This is so American, man: either make something your God and cosmos and then worship it, or else kill it."

"What TV is extremely good at - and realize that this is "all it does" - is discerning what large numbers of people think they want, and supplying it."

"There are no choices without personal freedom, Buckeroo. It's not us who are dead inside. These things you find so weak and contemptible in us - these are just the hazards of being free."

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Richard toran 

      7 years ago

      In listings "David Foster Wallace quotes, there is one NOT listed, from infinitenjest, which I think is insightful, very correct' short, and connotes the purity of science compared to psychology.

      The quote is:

      "the evolution of marriage is the product of concurrence and compromise"

      Evolution connotes science

      Product connotes the multiplication of math

      Marriage is all about psyches

      (:>)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)