New David Foster Wallace story in March 7 New Yorker


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A new story from David Foster Wallace, who died in 2008, appears in the March 7 issue of the New Yorker.

Titled ‘Backbone,’ the story is online now. It begins:


Every whole person has ambitions, objectives, initiatives, goals. This one particular boy’s goal was to be able to press his lips to every square inch of his own body.His arms to the shoulders and most of his legs beneath the knee were child’s play. After these areas of his body, however, the difficulty increased with the abruptness of a coastal shelf. The boy came to understand that unimaginable challenges lay ahead of him. He was six.

Wallace’s massive and heavily footnoted 1996 novel ‘Infinite Jest’ marked him as one of the most influential and innovative writers of his generation.

In 2008, Wallace, who had been teaching at Pomona College in Claremont, committed suicide. After his death, the Times’ David L. Ulin wrote that ‘Infinite Jest’ was ‘a clear bid to create that mythical monster, the Great American Novel, albeit entirely on his own terms. That he may or may not have believed in such a monster only added to the achievement; this was a writer who clearly saw through the elusiveness, the futility, of his own striving and yet continued to strive all the same.... [i]n fact, it was Wallace’s odd sense of double vision that most defined his sensibility. He was a humanist who could not help but see both sides of the story, who imagined himself into the gray middle areas of his writing.’

At the time of his death, Wallace had been at work on a novel, ‘The Pale King.’ It will be published on April 15 by Little, Brown.

-- Carolyn Kellogg