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David Foster Wallace and "The Long Thing": New Essays on the Novels

Overview

Of the twelve books David Foster Wallace published both during his lifetime and posthumously, only three were novels. Nevertheless, Wallace always thought of himself primarily as a novelist. From his college years at Amherst, when he wrote his first novel as part of a creative honors thesis, to his final days, Wallace was buried in a novel project, which he often referred to as "the Long Thing." Meanwhile, the short stories and journalistic assignments he worked on during those years he characterized as "playing ...
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David Foster Wallace and

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Overview

Of the twelve books David Foster Wallace published both during his lifetime and posthumously, only three were novels. Nevertheless, Wallace always thought of himself primarily as a novelist. From his college years at Amherst, when he wrote his first novel as part of a creative honors thesis, to his final days, Wallace was buried in a novel project, which he often referred to as "the Long Thing." Meanwhile, the short stories and journalistic assignments he worked on during those years he characterized as "playing hooky from a certain Larger Thing." Wallace was also a specific kind of novelist, devoted to producing a specific kind of novel, namely the omnivorous, culture-consuming "encyclopedic" novel, as described in 1976 by Edward Mendelson in a ground-breaking essay on Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.

David Foster Wallace and "The Long Thing" is a state-of-the art guide through Wallace's three major works, including the generation-defining Infinite Jest. These essays provide fresh new readings of each of Wallace's novels as well as thematic essays that trace out patterns and connections across the three works. Most importantly, the collection includes six chapters on Wallace's unfinished novel, The Pale King, which will prove to be foundational for future scholars of this important text.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
06/09/2014
Collecting essays that originally appeared in two special issues of Studies in the Novel, this volume from editor Boswell (Understanding David Foster Wallace) showcases scholarly writing on Wallace’s (1962–2008) three novels: The Broom of the System, Infinite Jest, and The Pale King. Boswell divides the book into sections on the novels themselves along with a chapter titled “Wallace as Novelist.” The collection is weighted somewhat toward The Pale King, the author’s posthumously published, unfinished “long thing,” but offers a good mix of essays on all three books. Adam Kelly examines Wallace’s career as a whole and argues convincingly the he should be considered a “novelist of ideas.” Ralph Clare shows how Wallace uses the theme of boredom in The Pale King with great complexity, and Philip Sayers’s work on “representing entertainment” in Infinite Jest will also be important to the emerging field of Wallace studies. Although most essays are accessible and straightforward, the contributors occasionally indulge in jargon (“the Free Indirect Wraith Model,” “heteroglossic space”). Several chapters shed light on Wallace’s political philosophy and how The Pale King, in particular, “wrestles directly with matters of real world politics.” The book succeeds because the essays are not only substantial and provocative, but also because they are, like Wallace’s novels, in conversation with each other. It will lead the conversation about Wallace in exciting new directions. (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781628924534
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 7/31/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 938,149
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Marshall Boswell is Professor and Chair of English at Rhodes College, USA. He is the author of John Updike's Rabbit Tetralogy: Mastered Irony in Motion and Understanding David Foster Wallace. He is the co-editor, with Stephen Burban, of A Companion to David Foster Wallace Studies and served as Guest Editor for a two-part Special Issue of Studies in the Novel devoted to David Foster Wallace's novels. He is also the the author of two works of fiction, Trouble with Girls and the novel Alternative Atlanta.

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

Preface: “David Foster Wallace and the Long Thing”
Marshall Boswell

Part I:
Wallace as Novelist

David Foster Wallace and the Novel of Ideas
Adam Kelly

Wallace and Empathy: A Narrative Approach
Toon Staes

Boredom, Irony, and Anxiety: Wallace and the Kierkegaardian View of the Self
Allard den Dulk

Modelling Community and Narrative in Infinite Jest and The Pale King
Andrew Warren

Part II:
The Novels

The Broom of the System (1989)

“Then Out of the Rubble”: David Foster Wallace’s Early Fiction
Bradley J. Fest

Infinite Jest (1996)

Representing Entertainment in Infinite Jest
Philip Sayers

Encyclopedic Novels and the Cruft of Fiction: Infinite Jest’s Endnotes
David Letzler

The Pale King (2011)

“A Paradigm for the Life of Consciousness”: The Pale King
Stephen Burban

“What Am I, a Machine?”: Humans and Information in The Pale King
Conley Wouters

The Politics of Boredom and the Boredom of Politics in The Pale King
Ralph Clare

Trickle-Down Citizenship: Taxes and Civic Responsibility in The Pale King
Marshall Boswell

Works Cited

Notes on Contributors

Index

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