Consider the Legacy of David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace would have been 50 years old on Tuesday, had he not taken his life in 2008. The esteemed writer penned three novels and three short story collections in his short lifetime, Infinite Jest, being the most famous. He was a MacArthur Fellow and won a boatload of prizes including Time Magazines’ Best Book of the Year and the O. Henry Prize.

Jonathan Lethem said of his friend and colleague (they both taught at Panoma College): “His footprint as a colleague, the extraordinary impression he left on the whole series of English majors who’ve now floated out into the world. … The idea that I might be part of the moving-on seemed very like an honor.”

Wallace was an alumni of the MFA program at the University of Arizona, where I earned the same degree, While I’ve never been nearly as successful as Wallace  (or even successful at all as a writer), I’ve always felt an affinity to him for that reason.

McSweeney’s reprinted an old interview with him while he had a teaching fellowship at the U of A.  In the piece, he gives the undergraduate class he’s teaching a memorable piece of advice:

When you write fiction, you are telling a lie. It’s a game, but you must get the facts straight. The reader doesn’t want to reminded that it’s a lie. It must be convincing, or the story will never take off in the reader’s mind.

He obviously took his own advice considering his stories have taken off in readers’ minds all over the world.

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One Comment to “Consider the Legacy of David Foster Wallace”

  1. Really enjoyed the interview – thanks!
    Did somewhat confirm my sense that I am really playing at writing though – the depth of academic background and thought that seems to have gone into his stories is really impressive.

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