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Conversations with David Foster Wallace (Literary Conversations Series) [Kindle Edition]

Stephen J. Burn
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Across two decades of intense creativity, David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) crafted a remarkable body of work that ranged from unclassifiable essays, to a book about transfinite mathematics, to vertiginous fictions. Whether through essay volumes (A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, Consider the Lobster), short story collections (Girl with Curious Hair, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Oblivion), or his novels (Infinite Jest, The Broom of the System), the luminous qualities of Wallace's work recalibrated our measures of modern literary achievement. Conversations with David Foster Wallace gathers twenty-two interviews and profiles that trace the arc of Wallace's career, shedding light on his omnivorous talent.

Jonathan Franzen has argued that, for Wallace, an interview provided a formal enclosure in which the writer "could safely draw on his enormous native store of kindness and wisdom and expertise." Wallace's interviews create a wormhole in which an author's private theorizing about art spill into the public record. Wallace's best interviews are vital extra-literary documents, in which we catch him thinking aloud about his signature concerns--irony's magnetic hold on contemporary language, the pale last days of postmodernism, the delicate exchange that exists between reader and writer. At the same time, his acute focus moves across MFA programs, his negotiations with religious belief, the role of footnotes in his writing, and his multifaceted conception of his work's architecture. Conversations with David Foster Wallace includes a previously unpublished interview from 2005, and a version of Larry McCaffery's influential Review of Contemporary Fiction interview with Wallace that has been expanded with new material drawn from the original raw transcript.

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Conversations with the author of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Infinite Jest

About the Author

Stephen J. Burn is associate professor of modern and contemporary literature at Northern Michigan University--Marquette. He is the author of Jonathan Franzen at the End of Postmodernism; Intersections: Essays on Richard Powers; and David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest": A Reader's Guide.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1924 KB
  • Print Length: 209 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1617032263
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (March 8, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,749 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Food April 18, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm unsure why the hardcover edition is so fantastically expensive; this book must have seen a very narrow printing. Buy the paperback.
Despite the $ though, this is a nice little addition to the slip stream of Wallace Studies slowly growing since '09. DFW could talk. The conversations in here are lucid, on point, honest, and laden with an urgency rarely found in authorial chats. Plus it's nice to have all of the important interviews and talks bound in a single volume.
But mostly this book is bittersweet. It helps us understand the individual better, but mostly adds to the Cult of Personality surrounding him post-mortem. I imagine this collection will become another valued citation at the end of theses about Infinite Jest or The Pale King. There seems like a lot of critical stuff on Wallace out there right now that tries to link his personal and interview material to explications of his fiction, as if somehow Wallace was the sole carrier of his works' meaning and import.
Still, it's interesting to read what he had to say about lit theory and reading culture in America. There are little details throughout that offer up some good thought food (e.g. it's written that Wallace was raised an atheist, which flies in the face of his emphasis on personal religious moorings in IJ and TPK). But in the end it all starts to feel a little like desperation on the reader's side. Another volume to help us understand Him, but if I'm not mistaken we enjoy Wallace because of his fiction and essays, and that's exactly where the focus ought to remain.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Compilation of Interviews April 2, 2012
By R Smith
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had previously read Lipsky's DFW book and thought that gave me plenty of insight into DFW. I was wrong.

Mr Burn does a wonderful job with this compilation of interviews of DFW. They are in chronological order so you can somewhat see his thoughts evolve.

Before I bought this book, one night my wife and I played the "who would you invite to dinner?" game. Of course I said DFW. This book made him come alive as if he was talking to me. His insights and ways of thinking were phenomenal. And what a sense of humor! Several of his lines would be great titles for short stories. In fact, I plan on using one of them.

What his sister said about imagining DFW before the fateful moment will stick with me and my two dogs forever

For me, there are four people that left this life too soon: John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Freddie Mercury and David Foster Wallace. I miss all of you!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interviews are always good. June 15, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have read nearly almost everything David Foster Wallace has published. If you enjoy DFW, then I suggest you read this collection and the David Lipsky book. David Lipsky shows you DFW the person, but this book shows you his ideas about what fiction is or should be. A great read and a necessity for DFW fans. Well worth the money. What you don't learn from Lipsky you will find here.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's no very easy to talk about the significate of the Wallace work and about his role in the actual literature.
This book has the form of dialogues, but the importance of those interviews is related to particular aspects of the Wallace intelligence.
There are many possible keys of lecture whom can be read here, but I prefer to select only some characteristics.
One is the particular attention for the mathematics, which is utilized as model but also as reference.
Therefore we can remember the interesting role of Wallace into the movement of Post-modern,as we can find in the pages of the author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Insight into Wallace May 29, 2013
The other reviews on this book have already captured its essence. I'm just appending my own 5-star rating in agreement with them. This collection is superb - only one or two of the essays/interviews were dry. The last sentence had me crying for a good half-hour. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revealing interviews August 18, 2013
By steve A
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This collection of interviews answers a lot of questions about the elusive Wallace that certainly occur to readers of Infinite Jest. It illuminates the background and personality that underlie the brilliance that characterizes his novels. It also induces regret that nothing new will come forth from this great talent.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Warning about the hardcover edition March 24, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The rating is for the binding, not the content. I paid the *$58* for the hardcover edition, because I collect books, I value quality bindings, and I reread my books. (But, then again, what reader of DFW's works *doesn't* reread him?). I foolishly assumed that the extremely high price for this slim volume was at least partially due to the high cost of a small production run of a well-bound book from a respected University press. Silly me.

You literally cannot open the book without cracking it open like a walnut. The book will not stay open unless you place a heavy object on it (I suggest a boulder). Picture a mass-market paperback, but with less flexible glue. A more trivial issue (but indicative of the publisher's attitude toward quality): rather than a cloth binding with a dust jacket, the book cover is plastic-coated cardboard, like--well, remember those books that used to be published for the remainder table at Crown Books? With public-domain titles like "Well-Loved Sherlock Holmes Stories"? Like that. I know that University presses are accustomed to charging the Weimar Germany-level prices typical of today's college textbooks, but could they not have devoted a few pennies of that money to producing a decent quality product?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for understanding the mind of DFW
I have read the biography of David Foster Wallace, but got really very little insight into the mind of DFW from it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Matrixunloaded
5.0 out of 5 stars It was a treasure to read this
But the end was so, so sad - among the saddest things I've ever read. I would certainly recommend this to a person unfamiliar with Mr. Wallace - this is a lovely introduction. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jay McLaughlin
5.0 out of 5 stars After this, I'll probably re-read all the DFW books I've read in the...
The last chapter in this book will never leave me. I read this in parallel to Infinite Jest and I think this would have been a good, albeit a long forward for that work.
Published 10 months ago by Bob Wachholder
5.0 out of 5 stars DFW is amazing and hearing his discourse is thoroughly enjoyable
This book is thoroughly enjoyable for the DFW nerd. The choice to make it chronological was brilliant and I enjoyed seeing how his view points changed throughout his life. Read more
Published 22 months ago by ConcupusAl
5.0 out of 5 stars From the Mouth of a Genius
Facinating stuff, as is anything involving DFW. The McCaffery interview is particularly engrossing. Good to read after reading the D.T. Max biography.
Published on January 28, 2013 by Daniel Reddig
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic for devoted fans and newcomers alike
I highlighted the heck out of this book. It's just full of beautiful thoughts and incredible insights.

Devoted fans of DFW will find much to feed their souls. Read more
Published on December 23, 2012 by Matt Slaybaugh
5.0 out of 5 stars No-nonsense interviews collected
Okay I'm a rabid fan of DFW, having read everything he's ever written, and I'll try my best to stay objective. Read more
Published on December 18, 2012 by Nuri K
4.0 out of 5 stars Heart Breaking Last Chapter
This book is for devoted fans of DFW. The interviews serve to highlight several of DFW's books over the course of his career. Read more
Published on November 14, 2012 by jeepers
4.0 out of 5 stars Wallace bio
A very interesting summary of Wallace's tragic life and great genius. Touching from a family standpoint. Read more
Published on October 14, 2012 by Fred
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