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David Foster Wallace

According to D.T. Max, ‘At the time of his tragic death by suicide in September 2008, David Foster Wallace was the foremost writer of his generation, the one who had forged the newest path and from whom the others, directly or indirectly, took their cues.’ Indeed, for someone desperate to escape the confines of self and wary of literary celebrity, Wallace endured more than his share of hype and admiration. This paradox is unsurprising when we consider Wallace’s repeated depictions of bleak coincidence in his fiction. Early in Infinite Jest (1996), footballer Orin Incandenza – the elder brother of physically deformed Mario and hyper-intelligent Hal – suffers a nightmare of being smothered by his mother’s disembodied head; when Orin wakes, his latest ‘Subject’ (sexual conquest) is watching a documentary about schizophrenia. Mediated by Orin, the voice-over describes its subject:

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In David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, set half at a tennis academy and half at a rehab centre, one of the characters says that junior athletics is about sacrificing the ‘hot narrow imperatives of the Self’ to ‘the larger imperatives of the team (OK, the State) and a set of delimiting rules (OK, the Law)’. Meanwhile, the rehab inmates are learning, with the help of the twel ...