David Foster Wallace on the Web


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Of course, the best way to remember a writer is through his writing. Harper’s has posted free PDF versions of the articles David Foster Wallace wrote for the magazine online, including ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,’ published in 1996 as ‘Shipping Out.’ It begins:

I have now seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with red lapels. I have smelled suntan lotion spread over 2,100 pounds of hot flesh. I have been addressed as ‘Mon’ in three different nations. I have seen 500 upscale Americans dance the Electric Slide. I have seen sunsets that look computer-enhanced. I have (very briefly) joined a conga line.


The piece that Wallace wrote for Rolling Stone on John McCain in 2000 -- ‘The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and the Shrub’ -- is also available online. Both it and ‘Shipping Out’ are long for magazine pieces, so if you’re trying to squeeze the read into a coffee break, you might get closer with ‘Federer as Religious Experience,’ a piece Wallace wrote for the New York Times in 2006.

As reluctant a public figure as he may have been, many people crossed paths with him. If you knew or even briefly met David Foster Wallace, McSweeney’s invites you to send in for posting on its site ‘memories, anecdotes, and encounters. . . . Nothing’s too small.’

From time to time, David Foster Wallace consented to being filmed. Our Web Scout has tracked down the best of DFW on YouTube, embedding a few videos and linking to others. (The Charlie Rose interview is particularly good.)

In its obituary, the New York Times spoke to Wallace’s family. His father, James Donald Wallace, noted that although the writer hadn’t spoken publicly about it, he’d long battled depression. ‘Everything had been tried,’ his father told the paper, ‘and he just couldn’t stand it anymore.’

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Marion Ettlinger