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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Review: The Legacy of David Foster Wallace

The Legacy of David Foster WallaceSamuel Cohen and Lee Konstantinou, editors
University Of Iowa Press
Herein lie a scatter-shot of essays that try to limn the legacy of David Foster Wallace, from the personal to the academic.  The strongest pieces shoot between those lines.  Josh Roiland gives insight into not only what makes Wallace's journalism unique, but also where it fits in the canon*.  Ira B. Nadel traces Wallace's use of the footnote from his college essays** to Infinite Jest and later stories.  Both are fascinating and informative.***  

Interviews with Wallace and with Moody**** fill in details of Wallace's accomplishments.  Don Delillo, Jonathan Franzen, Rick Moody, and George Saunders offer personal anecdotes on Wallace.  Dave Eggers extols the virtues of IJ.

Two essays were laced with twice the recommended daily allowance of academic fiber*****.  No doubt, I will return to these on rereading Wallace.  A few pieces are too heavily polemical in their demands that readers read in one way, but they did point me to this website which reads through IJ in a summer, Infinite Summer

While not as strong as the David Foster Wallace interview volume (reviewed here), this volume has essays sure to intrigue writers, academics, and fans of Wallace.

* Finding contradiction is always a pleasure as it shows our humanity.  Roiland points out that Wallace's journalism, contrary to other essayists, did sprout from Zeus's head.  See also note****.
** noting how the style is similar to Infinite Jest
*** Buried in an essay on collecting DFW's literary remains, the writer briefly discusses DFW's marginalia habits.
**** In Rick Moody's interview on editing IJ, in which we learn that certain anecdotes about editing IJ were myths.  See also note*.
***** Being incontinent, some readers may want this.

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