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17 August 2009

In memoriam: David Foster Wallace

A fine tribute to a great American writer.

By Sam Kinchin-Smith

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace died a year ago this September. In memory of the author, a group of “endurance bibliophiles” has dedicated its summer to reading Wallace’s masterpiece Infinite Jest. Group members have been recording their experiences on a blog, Infinite Summer.

It’s probably a little late to try to catch up with them now – they began their three-month “summer” on 21 June (“a thousand pages ÷ 92 days = 75 pages a week. No sweat”). But their efforts are a fine tribute to Wallace’s ability to create perception-altering work. It is a poignant project: last year the New Statesman described Infinite Jest as the novel “that sealed Wallace’s reputation as the most exciting and ambitious American novelist of his generation”, but also one that “bears the scars of Wallace’s parricidal struggle with his influences. He insisted that he had wanted it to be an ‘extraordinarily sad’ book about loneliness and addiction, rather than a postmodern one.”

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