22 Feb
A BBC radio documentary of the lost American literary talent

As the world prepares for the posthumous publication of David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel The Pale King, BBC reporter and professor Geoff Ward visits Wallaces birthplace in rural Illnois and interviews a coterie of his closest friends (agent Bonnie Nadell), family (sister Amy Wallace), contemporaries (Rick Moody and former roommate Mark Costello) and professional colleagues (editor of his masterpiece, Infinite Jest, Michael Pietsch) for the first major documentary since the writer’s death in 2008. Ward also manages to interview the brilliant Don DeLillo for the piece, who many saw Wallace as the successor to in the esteemed short circle of Great American Literary Minds. If you haven’t had a chance to read any of Wallace’s longer prose, you can get a taste of his more analytical work via articles such as Consider the Lobster for Gourmet magazine (replete with 3 pages of endnotes), or Federer As Religious Experience — arguably one of the best pieces of sports writing ever. In the 6,500 word essay for the New York Times, Wallace deconstructs one of the best athletes of the millennium across all sports with the hyper-analytical depth and alacrity of financial analysts dissecting a Forbes 500 company’s year end report. As for the radio documentary itself, the aptly titled Endnotes (in tribute to Wallace’s penchant for voluminous endnote usage), the BBC writes:

When David Foster Wallace hanged himself in 2008, at the age of 46, he was considered by many to be the most gifted and linguistically exuberant American novelist and short story writer of his generation. His books include the 1,000-page Infinite Jest, a novel of grand ambition and stylistic experiment that came complete with 388 endnotes. (Footnotes, digressions, constant second guessing of every thought are features of Wallace’s signature style).

On April 15th, 2011 The Pale King, Wallace’s final, unfinished novel will be published. Few literary novels have been more eagerly anticipated in recent years. Its great subject is Boredom. Wallace set himself big challenges. Infinite Jest attacked the entertainment industry while trying to entertain and The Pale King engages with boredom as a path toward transcendence.

This Sunday Feature is presented by Professor Geoff Ward, author of a literary history of America. He, like many, was convinced Wallace would be the preeminent American writer to reckon with in the years ahead, and was shocked by his tragic early death. He assesses Wallace’s legacy, themes and preoccupations, talking to the precursor Wallace admired most, Don DeLillo, and to friends, collaborators and contemporaries such as Mark Costello and Rick Moody. In the company of the writer’s sister, Amy Wallace, Ward travels to the Midwest of America where the writer grew up, and considers the impact of place on his imagination. He also talks to Wallace’s publisher and editor Michael Pietsch about the difficult task of assembling Wallace’s final fragments into The Pale King.

The program also contains some rare archive reflections by a young David Foster Wallace, recorded a year before the publication of Infinite Jest, on the role of the writer in an age of media saturation.”

The the radio documentary first aired on February 6th on the BBC. It’s 45 minutes long, but well worth the listen for any appreciator of American literature. Do the dishes, mop the floor, or just brew some coffee, sit back, and have a considered listen…

Endnotes: David Foster Wallace from george lazenby on Vimeo via 424 W 23rd St

No Responses to “Endnotes: David Foster Wallace”

  1. Largus says:

    How much of an exciting piece of writing, keep posting lover

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