David Foster Wallace

David Foster

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

Author Quotes

What TV is extremely good at?and realize that this is all it does?is discerning what large numbers of people think they want, and supplying it.

The so-called ?psychotically depressed? person who tries to kill herself doesn?t do so out of quote ?hopelessness? or any abstract conviction that life?s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire?s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It?s not desiring the fall; it?s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ?Don?t!? and ?Hang on!?, can understand the jump. Not really. You?d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.

There are, apparently, persons who are deeply afraid of their own emotions, particularly the painful ones. Grief, regret, sadness. Sadness especially, perhaps. Dolores describes these persons as afraid of obliteration, emotional engulfment. As if something truly and thoroughly felt would have no end or bottom. Would become infinite and engulf them.? ?Engulf means obliterate.

These kids should be out drinking beer and seeing films and having panty raids and losing virginities and writhing to suggestive music, not making up long, sad, convoluted stories.

This story [The Depressed Person] was the most painful thing I ever wrote. It's about narcissism, which is a part of depression. The character has traits of myself. I really lost friends while writing on that story, I became ugly and unhappy and just yelled at people. The cruel thing with depression is that it's such a self-centered illness - Dostoevsky shows that pretty good in his Notes from Underground. The depression is painful, you're sapped/consumed by yourself; the worse the depression, the more you just think about yourself and the stranger and repellent you appear to others.

To repeat what I heard for years and years and suspect you?ve been hearing over and over, yourself, something?s meaning is nothing more or less than its function. Et cetera et cetera et cetera. Has she done the thing with the broom with you? No? What does she use now? No. What she did with me--I must have been eight, or twelve, who remembers--was to sit me down in the kitchen and take a straw broom and start furiously sweeping the floor, and she asked me which part of the broom was more elemental, more fundamental, in my opinion, the bristles or the handle. The bristles or the handle. And I hemmed and hawed, and she swept more and more violently, and I got nervous, and finally when I said I supposed the bristles, because you could after a fashion sweep without the handle, by just holding on to the bristles, but couldn?t sweep with just the handle, she tackled me, and knocked me out of my chair, and yelled into my ear something like, ?Aha, that?s because you want to sweep with the broom, isn?t it? It?s because of what you want the broom for, isn?t it?? Et cetera. And that if what we wanted a broom for was to break windows, then the handle was clearly the fundamental essence of the broom, and she illustrated with the kitchen window, and a crowd of the domestics gathered; but that if we wanted the broom to sweep with, see for example the broken glass, sweep sweep, the bristles were the thing?s essence. No? What now, then? With pencils? No matter. Meaning as fundamentalness. Fundamentalness as use. Meaning as use. Meaning as fundamentalness.

Um um um um um. This business of?this business about marketing yourself, there?s nothing wrong with that. Unless we?re allowed to think that that?s?that that?s it. That that?s the point, that that?s the goal, you know? And that?s the reason we?re here?because that?s so empty. And you as a writer know that it?s?if you as a writer think that your job is to get as many people to like your stuff and think well of you as possible ? And I could, we could both, name writers that it?s pretty obvious that?s their motivation? It kills the work. Each time. That that?s maybe 50 percent of it, but it misses all the magic. And it misses, it doesn?t let you be afraid. Or it doesn?t, like, let you like make yourself be, be vulnerable. Or ? nah, see, I?m not ? Anyway, anyway.

We're all deeply alone. It is what we have in common, loneliness.

Whatever you get paid attention for is never what you think is most important about yourself.

The Sophists had this idea: Forget this idea of what's true or not?what you want to do is rhetoric; you want to be able to persuade the audience and have the audience think you're smart and cool. And Socrates and Plato, basically their whole idea is, Bullshit. There is such a thing as truth, and it's not all just how to say what you say so that you get a good job or get laid, or whatever it is people think they want.

The whole issue was almost unbelievably meaningless and small. He thought about the word meaning and tried to summon up his baby?s face without looking at the photo, but all he could get was the heft of a full diaper and the plastic mobile over his crib turning in the breeze that the box fan in the doorway made. He imagined that the clock?s second hand possessed awareness and knew that it was a second hand and that its job was to go around and around inside a circle of numbers forever at the same slow, unvarying machinelike rate, going no place it hadn?t already been a million times before, and imagining the second hand was so awful it made his breath catch in his throat, and he looked quickly around to see if any of the examiners near him had heard it or were looking at him.

There is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.

These worst mornings with cold floors and hot windows and merciless light - the soul's certainty that the day will have to be not traversed but sort of climbed, vertically, and then that going to sleep again at the end of it will be like falling, again, off something tall and sheet.

This terror of silence with nothing diverting to do. I can?t think anyone really believes that today?s so-called ?information society? is just about information. Everyone knows it?s about something else, way down.

Today's sub-40s have different horrors, prominent among which are anomie and solipsism and a peculiarly American loneliness: the prospect of dying without once having loved something more than yourself.

Under fun?s new administration, writing fiction becomes a way to go deep inside yourself and illuminate precisely the stuff you don?t want to see or let anyone else see, and this stuff usually turns out (paradoxically) to be precisely the stuff all writers and readers share and respond to, feel. Fiction becomes a weird way to countenance yourself and to tell the truth instead of being a way to escape yourself or to present yourself in a way you figure you will be maximally likable. This process is complicated and confusing and scary, and also hard work, but it turns out to be the best fun there is. The fact that you can now sustain the fun of writing only by confronting the very same unfun parts of yourself you?d first used writing to avoid or disguise is another paradox, but this one isn?t any kind of bind at all. What it is is a gift, a kind of miracle, and compared to it the reward of strangers? affection is as dust, lint.

We're all lonely for something we don't know we're lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we've never even met?

When a solipsist dies... everything goes with him.

-the soul's certainty that the day will have to be not traversed but sort of climbed, vertically, and then that going to sleep again at the end of it will be like falling, again, off something tall and sheer.

The world divides into those who like the managed induction of terror and those who don?t. I do not find terror exciting. I find it terrifying.

There is an ending [to Infinite Jest] as far as I'm concerned. Certain kind of parallel lines are supposed to start converging in such a way that an end can be projected by the reader somewhere beyond the right frame. If no such convergence or projection occurred to you, then the book's failed for you.

These worst mornings with cold floors and hot windows and merciless light... with certainty in the soul of that day will not be crossed but rather scaled vertically when the end will go to sleep again as if falling from somewhere high and steep.

This was depressing, much the way discovering that somebody is easy to manipulate is always a little depressing.

Todd, trust math. As in Matics, Math E. First-order predicate logic. Never fail you. Quantities and their relation. Rates of change. The vital statistics of God or equivalent. When all else fails. When the boulder's slid all the way back to the bottom. When the headless are blaming. When you do not know your way about. You can fall back and regroup around math. Whose truth is deductive truth. Independent of sense or emotionality. The syllogism. The identity. Modus Tollens. Transitivity. Heaven's theme song. The night light on life's dark wall, late at night. Heaven's recipe book. The hydrogen spiral. The methane, ammonia, H2O. Nucleic acids. A and G, T and C. The creeping inevibatility. Caius is mortal. Math is not mortal. What it is is: listen: it's true.

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