David Foster Wallace won a cult following for his dark humor and ironic wit, which was on display in “The Broom of the System,” his 1987 debut novel; “Girl With Curious Hair,” a 1989 collection of short stories; and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments” (1997). The writer was found dead Friday night in Claremont, reportedly a suicide. He was 46. (Marion Ettlinger)
Los Angeles Times Book Editor David L. Ulin on the death of David Foster Wallace:
“He is one of the main writers who brought ambition, a sense of play, a joy in storytelling and an exuberant experimentalism of form back to the novel in the late ‘80s and early 1990s. And he really restored the notion of the novel as a kind of canvas on which a writer can do anything.” (Gary Hannabarger)
A talented tennis player as a youngster, David Foster Wallace attended Amherst College and majored in philosophy before switching his focus to writing fiction. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1985 and turned his senior thesis into the basis for “The Broom of the System.”
After earning a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Arizona, Wallace began teaching writing at Illinois State University in Normal in 1993. In 2002 he was named the first Roy E. Disney professor of creative writing at Pomona College in Claremont. (Keith Bedford / Getty Images)
In a 1996 profile in the New York Times Magazine, Frank Bruni wrote: “Wallace is to literature what Robin Williams or perhaps Jim Carrey is to live comedy: a creator so maniacally energetic and amused with himself that he often follows his riffs out into the stratosphere, where he orbits all alone.” (Eric Chu)
In a book review dated Feb. 7, 1997, Los Angeles Times staff writer Susan Salter Reynolds wrote:
[I]t’s nice to see young folks having fun with language, and I think that after his famed 1,000-page novel, “Infinite Jest,” there is no question that David Foster Wallace has fun with language.
He trounces words; he pivots on commas; he drops in and out of styles like a vaudevillian who lets the audience watch him change costumes right there on stage.... It’s the dress-up quality of Wallace’s prose that is both disconcerting and charming. (Handout photo)
Scott M. Morris reviewed “Oblivion” for the L.A. Times on June 13, 2004. Here are some excerpts:
David Foster Wallace has earned a place as one of America’s most daring and talented young writers. His use of language is pyrotechnic, and he is impatient with traditional narrative forms. In his new collection, “Oblivion,” he is up to his customary tricks, but he has also plumbed a little deeper in matters of the heart.
Those who are familiar with Wallace’s inventive wordplay will not be disappointed. In “Another Pioneer,” a passenger on an airplane relates a conversation he overheard about a Third World village that has produced a gifted child able to answer any question put to him. In Wallace’s hands, the story itself is questioned: "[A]t certain points it became unclear what was part of the cycle’s narrative Ding an sich and what were the passenger’s own editorial interpolations and commentary....” Which, not incidentally, is a good way of describing Wallace’s writing....
Of course, these being Wallace stories, such plot summaries are to some degree beside the point. There are stories within these stories, along with Wallace’s trademark footnotes, parenthetical comments and bracketed observations. His eye for cultural detail is ever sharp, his humor ever dry. (Michael Morgenstern / For The Times)
Steve Almond reviewed “Consider the Lobster” for the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 18, 2005. Here are some excerpts:
There is no writer alive to whom I would more happily entrust the task of covering the Adult Video News Awards (the porn industry’s Oscars) than David Foster Wallace. There is no writer alive more incisive and hilarious, more ruthlessly tender, when it comes to documenting the perversities of modern American life.
As wittily as Wallace records the moral horrors on display, he never loses sight of the genre’s essential pathos. The most fascinating subject he encounters at the Adult Video News Awards is an elderly police detective -- a gentle, soft-spoken grandfather -- who watches porn “for those rare moments in orgasm or accidental tenderness when the starlets drop their stylized ... sneer and become, suddenly, real people.”
This is what makes Wallace so effective as a correspondent: his emotional curiosity about the world. For all his nimble phrasing and postmodern tomfoolery, he’s something of an innocent. (Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times)