February 21, 2013

Book Club: David Foster Wallace

Today would have been David Foster Wallace 51st birthday. Today is my 25th birthday. So what then is better to talk about than some of DFW's books?

DFW was a talented writer who sadly took his own life a few years ago. DFW was famous for both his fiction, non-fiction, and footnote writing. Now I will say I don't like all of DFW's writing. I've read Infinite Jest with mixed feelings and thought The Pale King was a little too boring. But instead of talking about books I didn't care for, I want to talk about books of DFW's I have read and liked.

The first DFW book I read was his essay collection Consider the Lobster. This is a good book as a starting point for DFW's work if you're not a fiction fan. In this collection Wallace writes about porn, conservative talk show hosts, a review of Tracy Austin's book, and his profile of John McCain during the 2000 primaries.

With this collection you get a taste of how DFW writes. There are super long profiles with many footnotes or there are quick reviews of Updike's book and Tracy Austin's autobiography. DFW's look at Tracy Austin's autobiography is still a great read today even though he first wrote that essay 21 years ago. I've read one too many athlete autobiography's in recent years and DFW's scathing comments on ghost written athlete books still holds true today.

DFW's profile on the 1996 "porn awards" might be one of the funniest profiles I've read because if you have read anything about DFW then you can only imagine how uncomfortable he must have been interviewing these people.

There's something in there for everyone. Interested in politics? Check. Interested in book reviews? Check. Interested in Porn? Check. I highly recommend Consider the Lobster if you're interested in well written essay's.

From DFW's fictional side I highly recommend Girl with Curious Hair. This is a collection of short stories that is infused with pop culture references and scathing attacks on nihilist writers like Bret Easton Ellis.

The pop culture references are really a big part of a couple of the stories. The first story in the collection is about a woman on a incredible winning streak in the game show "Jeopardy!" who is then all of a sudden defeated by her insane brother. We learn later in the story that the producers of the show set her up to lose because of her lesbian relationship.

Another good story to read was "My Appearance" which focuses on an aging actress set to appear on 'Late Night with David Letterman'. Right away you can tell these stories were written in the 80's. This story deals with the aging actress and her husband who is worried Letterman will embarrass her because she appears in "wiener commercials". 

My personnel favorite story is also the title of the book Girl with Curious Hair. In this story DFW savages the nihilist writers of that time like Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney. If you have ever read a Easton Ellis book, like American Psycho, you'll see why this story is so entertaining. DFW flat out puts a clown suit on the nihilist writers.

DFW in so many different styles: novels, essay's, short stories that he can be enjoyed by anyone. As I stated I wasn't a big fan of his novels but his short stories and essays are highly entertaining to read and have so much emotional depth that they pull into whatever world he's working in.

Happy birthday David Foster Wallace.

1 comment:

  1. I've always thought "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" is a better collection than "Consider the Lobster."