Tag Archives: David Foster Wallace

MFA vs NYC: The Free Stuff

MFA vs NYC

And now it’s a book. Chad Harbach’s essay from n+1 about “the two cultures of American fiction”—the MFA mill and the NYC establishment—has grown into a collection of 19 essays, including pieces by George Saunders, Emily Gould, and Elif Batuman, all of them addressing the question of how, exactly, a person becomes a writer in this day and age.

One lesson of MFA vs NYC is that writers are almost always broke. Luckily for broke writers, 9 of the book’s essays are currently available online. So if you don’t want to buy MFA vs NYC—perhaps because you’re writing a novel about Moldavian zookeepers—here is half of it for free.

“MFA vs NYC” by Chad Harbach

“A Mini-Manifesto” by George Saunders

“The Fictional Future” by David Foster Wallace

“How To Be Popular” by Melissa Flashman

“People Wear Khakis” by Lorin Stein with Astri von Arbin Ahlander

“Money (2006)” by Keith Gessen

“The Invisible Vocation” by Elif Batuman

“Dirty Little Secret” by Fredric Jameson

“Reality Publishing” by Darryl Lorenzo Wellington

And some extra tidbits.

A few of these pieces were edited—shortened and/or given a different title–for the book. We’re using the titles from the book itself.

UPDATE:

Three more essays have been published online. Thanks to Michael Bourne at The Millions for pointing them out.

“The Pyramid Scheme” by Eric Bennett

“Into the Woods” by Emily Gould

“Seduce the Whole World” by Carla Blumenkranz

- Brian Hurley

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Critical Hit Awards!

Critical-Hit-Awards

The Critical Hit Awards are back!

Emily St. John Mandel of The Millions tells us how she got her absolutely badass middle name, and why Franzen, DFW’s ex-wife, and a wrongfully murdered black teenager are the subjects of her favorite recent book reviews.

See all the winners here.

- Brian Hurley

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Book of Today: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

IJ CoverBecause:

October 5, 1953: The first documented meeting of Narcotics Anonymous.

October 5, 1970: A British trade minister in Montreal is kidnapped by the Front de liberation du Quebec, a violent separatist group seeking sovereignty for Quebec.

The day also saw the debut of the Beatles’ first single “Love Me Do” (1962); the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969); and the founding of the Public Broadcasting System (1970). McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was born on October 5, 1902, and Apple founder Steve Jobs died on October 5, 2011, making it a big day for two of America’s most iconic business leaders. And because of the implementation of the Gregorian Calendar, October 5, 1582 doesn’t technically exist in Italy, Portugal, Spain and Poland.

- Michael Moats

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Fiction Advocate of the Day

FA Science Mag Cover

It’s science — the magazine, and the method.

Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd from the New School for Social Research published a study in this month’s Science magazine showing the emotional-intuitive benefits of reading literary fiction. According to the New York Times, the study revealed that:

after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.

In other words, science has proven David Foster Wallace’s theory that “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.” Continue reading

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Be Kind. You Never Know.


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In the tradition of odd writers giving great commencement speeches, George Saunders offered some wisdom to the class of 2013 recently. It’s been going around the internet, so you may have already come across it. But like most great speeches, it won’t hurt you to go through it again.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. 

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly.  Reservedly.  Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:  Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Read the remarks here.

Be excellent to each other.

- Michael Moats

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Non-Fiction Advocate of the Day

SRDFW

Alexander Nazaryan at the Atlantic Wire says you should read Signifying Rappers, David Foster Wallace’s recently re-released collaboration with Mark Costello about the emergence of hip hop in America.

A book about rap written a quarter century ago by two very white guys has tremendous potential to be embarrassing. I am happy to report that Signifying Rappers did not make me cringe a single time, though I did have to look up both cultural references (Schooly D) and words from DFW’s famously capacious lexicon (epiclesis; seriously, Dave?). It is also probably the only book about popular music to seriously discuss the origins of synecdochal imagery.

At heart, this book has heart. Its message is simple and humane. “Rap is poetry”…

This is part of the Wallace collection I have not gotten to, but Nazaryan gives it a healthy endorsement. My recommendation is to go buy Signifying Rappers, then get yourself copies of “Yeezus,” “Magna Carta Holy Grail” and Questlove’s Mo’ Meta Blues and make a summer out of it.

And if this Dave Wallace and Mark Costello collaboration isn’t grabbing you, maybe the new track from Elvis Costello and The Roots is more your speed:

- Michael Moats

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Not Your Tom Cruise’s Oblivion

For everyone who was disappointed that the Tom Cruise vehicle “Oblivion” was not based on the David Foster Wallace story and/or collection of the same name, now is your chance to turn that frown upside down! That is, until you see the new “Oblivion” movie, which, as the recently launched Kickstarter campaign describes it, is “story of marital strife, sleep deprivation, and hallucination” and is not likely to be very uplifting.

The only way to find out for sure is to support the campaign and help crowd-fund the movie. There are a few perks to giving, beyond seeing the film completed. Depending on your pledge level, you can get a copy of the movie — which is good since “there are no plans for a digital or online release” — or an edition of the shooting script, an “Oblivion” poster with original artwork by Alex Passapera, or some other goodies.

More details here.

While we’re pretty sure Tom Cruise is not in the movie, we can make no guarantees that there won’t be some weird correlation or fewer than six degrees of separation.

Again, the only way to find out for sure is to throw the guys a few bucks and see what happens.

- Michael Moats

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David Foster Wallace on Ambition

PBS Digital Studios, with Blank on Blank, does another great video. This time it’s an interview with David Foster Wallace, who speaks softly on ambition, perfection, and limitations:


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For more, PBS Digital Studios remixes Reading Rainbow here.

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