In 1989, Playboy was preparing to publish a story from a new collection by a young writer named David Foster Wallace when some editors happened to catch a two-year-old episode of Late Night with David Letterman. There, onscreen, were Letterman and his guest, the actress Susan St. James, speaking dialogue from Wallace’s story, verbatim.
Happy New Year! Apparently a fun new year activity for many Gawker readers is uploading pictures of famous people from their yearbooks or Google Images. Therefore, we have compiled yet another compendium of all-star yearbook photos for you to peruse. Look at all these shining little faces before they made it big. Some of them look the same because they only graduated high school two years ago. Lol.
Ever since David Foster Wallace committed suicide in 2008, the late novelist's friends and literary executors have been exploring the intersection of canonization, exploitation, and vengeance. His publishing house chopped and shuffled his unfinished and unfinishable final manuscript into a "posthumous novel." Jonathan Franzen, loser of their head-to-head trial of literary merit in life, set about relitigating it through underminer-y ostensibly memorial essay-writing. Elizabeth Wurtzel used him as a reference point for her crush on David Boies ("David Boies makes David Wallace look like, well, some other lesser David, maybe David Remnick"). He's become the lit-martyr equivalent of Bruce Lee in Game of Death, with everything he ever said or wrote available for potential repackaging as a holy relic. (A phoner I did with him in 1998 has made it into two different volumes.)
ONE WEIRD TRICK to Being a Good Person: Here's a newly-conceived and filmed version of David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon commencement speech "This Is Water" (using an abridged version of the original audio), for visual learners among you.
I've dicked around on Twitter long enough to be able to have a composite persona of it in my head. If Twitter were a person, it would look like a hipster and it would like hipster music, but it would fucking HATE hipsters. It would be socially liberal, but it would totally respect Ron Paul for being genuine about his nutjob views. It would constantly be arguing with itself as to whether or not it liked watching "Girls." And it would come after you with a claw hammer to the face if you dared to rail against the following subjects.
Mike Daisey has been roundly and justly castigated for selling his bullshit stories about visiting the Foxconn complex in Shenzhen, China, to This American Life. But even some of his harshest critics are buying into the idea that, in some contexts—just not "journalistic ones"—it's OK to tell little lies in service of a "larger truth."
Graduation season always brings with it entertaining tales of lazy, desperate, or just plain dumb graduation speakers, who chose to plagiarize their speeches. Already this year we've had a medical school dean ripping off Atul Gawande, and a law school graduate pleading ignorance about the fact that plagiarism is frowned upon. But now, I think we've found our official Dumbest Speech Plagiarism of the 2011 Graduation Season.
So yesterday we showed you "Why Obama Won", the website about how Obama voters are all imbeciles. There was a poll and stuff. 538's Nate Silver had a friendly interview with that site's mastermind, former radio talk show host John Ziegler. By "friendly" we mean it ends with "go fuck yourself" and a click. Related: back in 2005, the late David Foster Wallace wrote a really great profile of a nutty right-wing talk radio host for The Atlantic. Hey, you can read the whole thing online. Who was this host? Why, John Ziegler! Let's peek into his tortured mind!
This month's Rolling Stone cover story details the circumstances of David Foster Wallace's death. That article was written before Wallace's autopsy report was publicly released, and new details have emerged that can't help but color our understanding of his last days. Click to find out what's new.The most striking new detail in the autopsy report is that Wallace bound his wrists together with duct tape to prevent an aborted attempt. Yes, this note is on the macabre side, but the Rolling Stone portrait makes Wallace's act all the more considered choice, one echoed by Wallace years earlier when he said after a friend's suicide attempt, "I just, just - I knew that if anybody was fated to screw up a suicide attempt, it was me." To prevent that, he went all the way.
We knew roughly that David Foster Wallace's lifelong struggle with depression pushed him to take his own life at 46 last month, but the details haven't been put together as comprehensively as they are in David Lipsky's feature in the Nov. 30th issue of Rolling Stone. Yes, Wallace hung himself in a dark room while his wife left the house for a few hours, but as Lipsky tells us, he was already dead.Excerpts detailing Wallace's difficult time fitting in at Amherst were already released, but the longer print version reveals that Wallace had a similar reaction to pretty much everything that happened in his life. His instructors at The University of Arizona MFA program didn't help:
Rolling Stone is doing a profile of David Foster Wallace for its next issue, talking with family members and friends of the author, who committed suicide last month. The first segment available online details Wallace's early internal struggles while a student at Amherst College in the early 1980's. His good friend and roommate Mark Costello, also a novelist, talks about the Infinite Jest author's practiced and strict routine, his brief stint back home in Illinois where he sought psychiatric care, and his return the next year, with a new purpose towards writing. A passage from the article about his The Broom Of The System, a work first published in Amherst's literary magazine, offers a sadly prescient dissection of the tragedy that would occur some 25 years later: