David Foster Wallace

David Foster

American Novelist, Short Story Writer, Essayist and Professor of English and Creative Writing

Author Quotes

When people call it that I always get pissed off because I always think depression sounds like you just get like really sad, you get quiet and melancholy and just like sit quietly by the window sighing or just lying around. A state of not caring about anything. A kind of blue kind of peaceful state.

Words and a book and a belief that the world is words.

You know, the whole thing about perfectionism. The perfectionism is very dangerous. Because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. Because doing anything results in... it's actually kind of tragic because you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is. And there were a couple of years where I really struggled with that.

When they say I am my own person, I do not need a man, I am responsible for my own sexuality, they are actually telling you just what they want you to make them forget.

Workshop Hermeticism, fiction for which the highest praise involves the words 'competent,' 'finished,' 'problem-free,' fiction over which Writing-Program pre- and proscriptions loom with the enclosing force of horizons: no character without Freudian trauma in accessible past, without near-diagnostic physical description; no image undissolved into regulation Updikean metaphor; no overture without a dramatized scene to 'show' what's 'told'; no denouement prior to an epiphany whose approach can be charted by and Freitag on any Macintosh.

You might consider how to escape from a cage must surely require, foremost, awareness of the fact of the cage.

When they were introduced, he made a witticism, hoping to be liked. She laughed extremely hard, hoping to be liked. Then each drove home alone, staring straight ahead, with the very same twist to their faces. The man who'd introduced them didn't much like either of them, though he acted as if he did, anxious as he was to preserve good relations at all times. One never knew, after all, now did one now did one now did one.

Worship your body, beauty, and sexual allure and you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.

You must have been traumatized beyond fucking belief.

When you?re meeting a whole lot of new people and having to do things you?re in?I?m in a constant low-level state of anxiety. Which produces adrenaline, and kind of shuts down?there?s a difference between short-term, people-based anxiety. And sort of deep, existential, you know, fear, that you feel all the way down to your butthole. And that, I, that?s?that?s what I?ll have when I?m alone.

Writing fiction takes me out of time. I sit down and the clock will not exist for me for a few hours. That?s probably as close to immortal as we?ll ever get.

You see parents as kind or unkind or happy or miserable or drunk or sober or great or near-great or failed the way you see a table square or a Montclair lip-read. Kids today... you kids today somehow don't know how to feel, much less love, to say nothing of respect. We're just bodies to you. We're just bodies and shoulders and scarred knees and big bellies and empty wallets and flasks to you. I'm not saying something clich? like you take us for granted so much as I'm saying you cannot... imagine our absence. We're so present it's ceased to mean. We're environmental. Furniture of the world.

Where do they get these giant flags? What happens to them when there's no campaign? Where do they go? Where do you even store flags that size? Or is there maybe just one, which McCain2000's advance team has to take down afterward and hurtle with to the next THM to get it put up before McCain and the cameras arrive? Do Gore and the Shrub and all the other candidates each have their own giant flag?)

Writing well in the sense of writing something interesting and urgent and alive, that actually has calories in it for the reader?the reader walks away having benefited from the 45 minutes she put into reading the thing?maybe isn?t hard for a certain few. I mean, maybe John Updike?s first drafts are these incredible... Apparently Bertrand Russell could just simply sit down and do this. I don?t know anyone who can do that. For me, the clich? that ?Writing that appears effortless takes the most work? has been borne out through very unpleasant experience.

You teach the reader that he?s way smarter than he thought he was. I think one of the insidious lessons about TV is the meta-lesson that you?re dumb. This is all you can do. This is easy, and you?re the sort of person who really just wants to sit in a chair and have it easy. When in fact there are parts of us, in a way, that are a lot more ambitious than that. And what we need? is seriously engaged art that can teach again that we?re smart. And that?s the stuff that TV and movies ? although they?re great at certain things ? cannot give us. But that have to create the motivations for us to want to do the extra work, to get those other kinds of art? Which is tricky, because you want to seduce the reader, but you don?t want to pander or manipulate them. I mean, a good book teaches the reader how to read it.

Which he said was the big lie they all bought that made doctors and standard therapy such a waste of time for people like us -- they thought that diagnosis was the same as cure. That if you knew why, it would stop. Which is bullshit. You only stop if you stop.

Yes, I?m paranoid?but am I paranoid enough?

You want to know the story? I'd be happy to tell you. I think I have just enough caloric energy stored up to make it through the telling of the tale. It's short. I am monstrously fat. I am a glutton. My wife was disgusted and repulsed. She gave me six months to lose one hundred pounds. I joined Weight Watchers? See it there, right across the street, that gaunt storefront? This afternoon was the big six-month weigh-in. So to speak. I had gained almost seventy pounds in the six months. An errant Snickers bar fell out of the cuff of my pants and rolled against my wife's foot as I stepped on the scale. The scale over there across the street is truly an ingenious device. One preprograms the desired new weight into it, and if one has achieved or gone below that new low weight, the scale bursts into recorded whistles and cheers and some lively marching-band tune. Apparently, tiny flags protrude from the top and wave mechanically back and forth. A failure--see for instance mine--results in a flatulent dirge of disappointed and contemptuous tuba. To the strains of the latter my wife left, the establishment, me, on the arm of a svelte yogurt distributor whom I am even now planning to crush, financially speaking, first thing tomorrow morning. Ms. Beadsman, you will find an eclair on the floor to the left of your chair. Could you perhaps manipulate it onto this plate with minimal chocolate loss and pass it to me.

Who are we to say getting incested or abused or violated or any of those things can?t have their positive aspects in the long run?? You have to be careful of taking a knee-jerk attitude. Having a knee-jerk attitude to anything is a mistake, especially in the case of women, where it adds up to this very limited and condescending thing of saying they?re fragile, breakable things that can be destroyed easily. Everybody gets hurt and violated and broken sometimes. Why are women so special? Not that anybody ought to be raped or abused, nobody?s saying that, but that?s what is going on. What about afterwards? All I?m saying is there are certain cases where it can enlarge you or make you more of a complete human being, like Viktor Frankl. Think about the Holocaust. Was the Holocaust a good thing? No way. Does anybody think it was good that it happened? No, of course not. But did you read Viktor Frankl? Viktor Frankl?s Man?s Search for Meaning? It?s a great, great book, but it comes out of his experience. It?s about his experience in the human dark side. Now think about it, if there was no Holocaust, there?d be no Man?s Search for Meaning? Think about it. Think about being degraded and brought within an inch of your life, for example. No one?s gonna say the sick bastards who did it shouldn?t be put in jail, but let?s put two things into perspective here. One is, afterwards she knows something about herself that she never knew before. What she knows is that the most totally terrible terrifying thing that she could ever have imagined happening to her has now happened, and she survived. She?s still here, and now she knows something. I mean she really, really knows. Look, totally terrible things happen? . Existence in life breaks people in all kinds of awful fucking ways all the time, trust me I know. I?ve been there. And this is the big difference, you and me here, cause this isn?t about politics or feminism or whatever, for you this is just ideas, you?ve never been there. I?m not saying nothing bad has ever happened to you, you?re not bad looking, I?m sure there?s been some sort of degradation or whatever come your way in life, but I?m talking Viktor Frankl?s Man?s Search for Meaning type violation and terror and suffering here. The real dark side. I can tell from just looking at you, you never. You wouldn?t even wear what you?re wearing, trust me.

You are excused from doing the work of constructing the fantasy. The ads do it for you. The ads, therefore, don?t flatter your adult agency, or even ignore it?they supplant it.

You want your art to be hip and seem cool to people, but a great deal of what passes for hip or cool is now highly commercially driven. And some if it is important art. I think 'The Simpsons' is important art. On the other hand, it's also, in my opinion, relentlessly corrosive to the soul and everything is parodied and everything is ridiculous. Maybe I'm old but for my part I can be steeped in about an hour of it and then I have to walk away and look at a flower. If there's something to be talked about, that thing is this weird conflict between what my girlfriend calls the 'inner sap,' the part of us that can really wholeheartedly weep at stuff and the part of us that has to live in a world of smart, jaded, sophisticated people and wants very much to be taken seriously by those people.

Who teaches your U.S.A. children how to choose their temple? What to love enough not to think two times?

You are what you love. No? You are, completely and only, what you would die for without, as you say, the thinking twice.

You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.

?Who would die for this chance to be fed this death of pleasure with spoons, in their warm homes, alone, unmoving?

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David Foster
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American Novelist, Short Story Writer, Essayist and Professor of English and Creative Writing