David Foster Wallace

David Foster

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

Author Quotes

You get to decide what to worship.

When he thinks of the starry-eyed puerility and narcissism of these fantasies now, a rough decade later, Schmidt experiences a kind of full-framed internal wince, that type of embarrassment-before-self that makes our most mortifying memories objects of fascination and repulsion at once, though in Terry Schmidt's case a certain amount of introspection and psychotherapy had enabled him to understand that his professional fantasies were not in the main all that unique, that a large percentage I bright young men and women locate the impetus behind their career choice in the belief that they are fundamentally different from the common run of man, unique and in certain crucial ways superior, more as it were central, meaningful--what else could explain the fact that they can and will make a difference in their chosen field simply by the fact that thy themselves have been at the exact center of all they've experienced for the whole 20 years of their conscious lives?

With still, underneath, the old respectable-girl-versus-slut thing. It?s OK to fuck around if you?re a feminist but it?s also not OK to fuck around because most guys aren?t feminists and won?t respect you and won?t call you again if you fuck around.

You have a great deal of yourself on the line, writing? your vanity is at stake. You discover a tricky thing about fiction writing; a certain amount of vanity is necessary to be able to do it all, but any vanity above that certain amount is lethal.

When I say or write something, there are actually a whole lot of different things I am communicating. The propositional content (i.e., the verbal information I'm trying to convey) is only one part of it. Another part is stuff about me, the communicator. Everyone knows this. It's a function of the fact there are so many different well-formed ways to say the same basic thing, from e.g. I was attacked by a bear! to Goddamn bear tried to kill me! to That ursine juggernaut did essay to sup upon my person! and so on.

Wolf-Spiders Ruleth the Land

You have decided being scared is caused mostly by thinking.

When I was drunk I wanted to get sober and when I was sober I wanted to get drunk,' John L. says; 'I lived that way for years, and I submit to you that's not livin that's a fuckin death-in-life.

Word inflation... Bigger and better. Good greater greatest totally great. Hyperbolic and hyperbolicker. Like grade-inflation.

You have wondered perhaps, why all real accountants wear hats? They are today?s cowboys.

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.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention ad awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad, petty, unsexy ways every day.

The trick to this solution is that you?d have to be 100% honest. Meaning not just sincere but almost naked. Worse than naked - more like unarmed. Defenseless. ?This thing I feel, I can?t name it straight out but it seems important, do you feel it too?? This sort of direct question is not for the squeamish. For one thing, it?s perilously close to Do you like me? Please like me, which you know quite well that 99% of all inter-human manipulation and bullshit gamesmanship that goes on goes on precisely because the idea of saying this sort of thing straight out is regarded as somehow obscene. In fact one of the very last few inter-personal taboos we have is kind of obscenely naked direct interrogation of somebody else. It looks pathetic and desperate. That?s how it?ll look to the reader. And it will have to. There?s no way around it.

There are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving... The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

Author Picture
First Name
David Foster
Last Name
Birth Date
Death Date

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