Author Archives: Mike

Straight Outta Normal: Six Thoughts on the David Foster Wallace Movie

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Last Friday, the New York Times Sunday Styles page published “A Brief History of the Tough Star Profile,” reviewing notable celebrity press takedowns from Lillian Ross’ 1950 New Yorker piece on Ernest Hemingway, to Tiger Woods telling “puerile and sexist jokes” in GQ in 1997, to the most recent (and orders of magnitude less interesting) Esquire piece on Miles Teller. I don’t know who Teller is or why he’s famous, but he was quoted this month comparing his penis to a highball glass and being generally dickish. He’s probably more famous now because of it.

These kinds of profiles represent the extreme version of what David Foster Wallace was fixated on and deeply fearful of during five days he spent with Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky in 1996. The possibility that Lipsky could pick and choose from hours of conversation to portray pretty much any Dave Wallace Rolling Stone wanted came up again and again while the two men were together. We know because, while Lipsky never ended up writing a profile, he ultimately chose to publish the vast majority of the conversation as Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. The book has since been made into the movie The End of the Tourwhich I had a chance to see this weekend. Rather than add to the many straightforward reviews done by people who do that better than I can, here’s what I want you to know:

The movie is really good. It’s especially good if Continue reading


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Crowd Cover

Infinite Jest turns 20 in 2016, and to mark the anniversary, the book’s publisher Little, Brown is asking readers to give the book a facelift by submitting a new cover design.

IJ Cover

Submissions will be accepted starting tomorrow and running through September 15, with the winner to be chosen by the Wallace Literary Trust (meaning they probably won’t choose your design featuring  Jason Segel as Wallace). The winner will get a $1,000 American Express gift card and “the opportunity for your original cover to be used as the front cover of the 20th Anniversary edition” of the book.

Wallace himself was ambivalent about the book’s cover, according to his interviews with David Lipsky in Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself:

[Closes it, looks at cover. Clouds and sky.]

This was my major complaint about the cover of the book. …Is that it looks — on American Airlines flights? The cloud system, it’s almost identical.

[On safety booklet for 757]

Oh, that’s funny. What did you want instead?

Oh, I had a number of — there’s a great photo of Fritz Lang directing Metropolis. Do you know this one? Where he’s standing there, and there are about a thousand shaven-headed men in kind of rows and phalanxes, and he’s standing there with a megaphone? It wouldn’t have been…Michael [Pietsch, Wallace’s editor at Little Brown] said it was too busy and too like conceptual, it required too much brain work on the part of the audience….

Because you were making a metaphor on the cover?

No, I just thought it was cool —

There has been some truly great artwork created to honor Infinite Jest over the years, and it should be really cool to see what people come up with for this contest.

And if you’re interested in what’s inside the cover, check out our Infinite Jest Liveblog.

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Why I Will Be Watching the David Foster Wallace Movie

92Y Ticket

This Friday, nerds and friends of nerds in the vicinity of “select theaters” will finally have to decide whether or not they are willing to go see The End of the Tour, the movie covering the days David Foster Wallace spent with Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky at the close of the promotional tour for Infinite Jest. The movie has been controversial, from the casting of comedic actor Jason Segel as Wallace to the disavowal of the project from the Wallace estate. Good people (again, mostly nerds) are wrestling with the question of whether they should go see it.

Until last night, I myself was one of those people/nerds.  Continue reading


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A Horse is at Least Human, for God’s Sake


J.D. Salinger made an appearance on BoJack Horseman. He was working in a tandem bike shop.

Read more at A.V. Club.

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Great Moments from the Sunday Book Review

FA Gilbert

David Gilbert’s opening line in his review of Aleksandar Hemon’s The Making of the Zombie Wars:

The Summer of Love rolled into town and left behind an S.T.D. otherwise known as 1968.

Read the rest of the review at the New York Times online.

David Gilbert is the author of & Sons, which we reviewed (with fewer great lines).


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The Beginning of The End of the Tour

Watch the first preview for “The End of the Tour,” starring Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace…

…then tell us what you think.

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A Cartography of Carcasses

Given that Google co-founder Sergey Brin has the name of someone you would run into in Braavos, it’s a wonder that it took so long for someone to do this: A Google map of the Seven Kingdoms.

Click below to explore the large version, or buy your own high quality print on Etsy.



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Fiction Advocate of the Day: United Airlines


Maybe you really want a mediocre crossword puzzle to pass the time. Or you need a map of your destination airport to find the best route to the Chili’s Too. But for the most part, the in-flight magazine hasn’t typically ranked a lot higher than the barf bag as something you ever want to remove from your seat-back pocket.

Well those were the old days — before Rhapsody.

Actually, those are still the current days if you’re not flying first class on United Airlines. But if you are, you will find what the New York Times calls a “lofty literary journal” that publishes “original works by literary stars like Joyce Carol Oates, Rick Moody, Amy Bloom, Emma Straub and [Anthony] Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction two weeks ago.”

This is undoubtedly a cool, if weird, thing. Great writers are getting solid audience exposure and, presumably, actual paychecks from a major company. For United, Rhapsody “brings a patina of sophistication to its first-class service, along with other opulent touches like mood lighting, soft music and a branded scent,” according to the airline’s managing director of marketing and product development.

Also this: “Two of the magazine’s seven staff members hold graduate degrees in creative writing.” So it also means that at least two people with graduate degrees in creative writing have gotten actual jobs.

Read the full story “Rhapsody, a Lofty Literary Journal, Perused at 39,000 Feet”

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