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Infinite Jest turns 20

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2016

David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest turns 20 years old this month. To mark the occasion, the Harry Ransom Center, home of DFW’s archive of papers, is posting some of the more interesting findings by visiting scholars. Here, for instance, is a letter written by Wallace to his editor a few months before IJ’s publication.

DFW Letter To MP

(via @john_overholt)

Update: In a NY Times essay adapted from his forward to an upcoming 20th anniversary edition of IJ, Tom Bissell reflects on why Infinite Jest still resonates 20 years later.

In interviews, Wallace was explicit that art must have a higher purpose than mere entertainment: “Fiction’s about what it is to be a … human being.” And here, really, is the enigma of David Foster Wallace’s work generally and “Infinite Jest” specifically: an endlessly, compulsively entertaining book that stingily withholds from readers the core pleasures of mainstream novelistic entertainment, among them a graspable central narrative line, identifiable movement through time and any resolution of its quadrumvirate plotlines. “Infinite Jest,” in other words, can be exceedingly frustrating. To fully understand what Wallace was up to, the book bears being read, and reread, with Talmudic focus and devotion. For many Wallace readers this is asking too much. For many Wallace fans this is asking too much.

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