David Foster Wallace

David Foster
Wallace
1962
2008

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

Author Quotes

We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately - the object seemed incidental to this will to give ourselves away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging-into. Flight from exactly what? These rooms, blandly filled with excrement and heat? To what purpose?

What happens when sometimes there is no choice about what they love? What if the temple come to Mohammed? And if you just love? Without I decide? You just do it: see it and at that moment you forget about accounting and all you can choose is to love her...

The sun, when the eye can see flickering albeit obliquely, the blinding blue and red as a focus. Why not? Why not? Why not 'no' then, if the best you can do is reasoning why not?

Their handshake looked, for the first split-second he looked, like C.T. was jacking off and the little girl was going Sieg Heil.

There is something about a mass-market Luxury Cruise that's unbearably sad. Like most unbearably sad things, it seems incredibly elusive and complex in its causes and simple in its effect: on board the Nadir?especially at night?I felt despair. The wor's overused and banalified now, despair, but it's a serious word, and I'm using it seriously.

This American penchant for absolution via irony is foreign to them.

This, according to the fellows who saw me as fit for a Service career, put me ahead of the curve, to understand this truth at an age when most guys are starting only to suspect the basics of adulthood--that life owes you nothing; that suffering takes many forms; that no one will ever care for you as your mother did; that the human heart is a chump.

Trite though it (used to) sound, real sexuality is about our struggles to connect with one another, to erect bridges across the chasms that separate selves. Sexuality is, finally, about imagination. Thanks to brave people's recognition of AIDS as a fact of life, we are beginning to realize that highly charged sex can take place in all sorts of ways we'd forgotten or neglected?in a conversational nuance; in a body's posture, a certain pressure in a held hand. Sex can be everywhere we are, all the time.

We are not dead but asleep, dreaming of ourselves.

What he'd do, he'd never go out to the length of the chain. He'd never even get out to where the chain got tight. Even if the mailman pulled up, or a salesman. Out of dignity, this dog pretended like he chose this one area to stay in that just happened to be inside the length of the chain. Nothing outside of that area right there interested him. He just had zero interest. So he never noticed the chain. He didn't hate it. The chain. He just up and made it not relevant. maybe he wasn't pretending--maybe he really up and chose that little circle for his own world. He had a power to him. All of his life on that chain.

The rankings are used to make you understand where you are, not who you are. Store your monthly placement, then forget it.

The teeth of the smile evidenced a clinical depressive?s classic inattention to oral hygiene.

Then he looked up, despite all best prior intentions. In four minutes, it would be another hour; a half hour after that was the ten-minute break. Lane Dean imagined himself running around on the break, waving his arms and shouting gibberish and holding ten cigarettes at once in his mouth, like a panpipe. Year after year, a face the same color as your desk. Lord Jesus. Coffee wasn't allowed because of spills on the files, but on the break he'd have a big cup of coffee in each hand while he pictured himself running around the outside grounds, shouting. He knew what he'd really do on the break was sit facing the wall clock in the lounge and, despite prayers and effort, count the seconds tick off until he had to come back and do this again. And again and again and again.

There is something deeply surreal about standing behind a female performer in hotpink peau de soie, a woman whose clitoris and perineum you have priorly seen, and watching her try to get a microwaved egg roll onto her plate with a cocktail fork.

This appetite to choose death by pleasure if it is available to choose - this appetite of your people unable to choose appetites, this is the death.

This, of course, is because today?s post-feminist era is also today?s postmodern era, in which supposedly everybody now knows everything about what?s really going on underneath all the semiotic codes and cultural conventions, and everybody supposedly knows what paradigms everybody is operating out of, and so we?re all as individuals held to be far more responsible for our sexuality, since everything we do is now unprecedentedly conscious and informed.

True Democratic Spirit is up there with religious faith and emotional maturity and all those other top-of-the-Maslow-Pyramid-type qualities that people spend their whole lives working on. A Democratic Spirit?s constituent rigor and humility and self-honesty are, in fact, so hard to maintain on certain issues that it?s almost irresistibly tempting to fall in with some established dogmatic camp and to follow that camp?s line on the issue and to let your position harden within the camp and become inflexible and to believe that the other camps 9 are either evil or insane and to spend all your time and energy trying to shout over them.

We are what we walk between two points.

What I know about auto racing could be inscribed with a dry Magic Marker on the lip of a Coke bottle.

The reality is that dying isn?t bad, but it takes forever. And that forever is no time at all. I know that sounds like a contradiction, or maybe just wordplay. What it really is, it turns out, is a matter of perspective.

The thing about people who are truly and malignantly crazy: their real genius is for making the people around them think they themselves are crazy. In military science this is called Psy-Ops, for your info.

Then more Losses, with the Substance seeming like the only consolation against the pain of the mounting Losses, and of course you're in Denial about it being the Substance that's causing the very Losses it's consoling you about -

There was actually nothing, and /you/ were nothing, and it was all a delusion. And that you were better than everyone else because you saw that it was a delusion, and yet you were worse because you couldn't function.

This is another paradox, that many of the most important impressions and thoughts in a person's life are ones that flash through your head so fast that fast isn't even the right word, they seem totally different from or outside of the regular sequential clock time we all live by, and they have so little relation to the sort of linear, one-word-after-another word English we all communicate with each other with that it could easily take a whole lifetime just to spell out the contents of one split-second's flash of thoughts and connections, etc. -- and yet we all seem to go around trying to use English (or whatever language our native country happens to use, it goes without saying) to try to convey to other people what we're thinking and to find out what they're thinking, when in fact deep down everybody knows it's a charade and they're just going through the motions. What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny part of it at any given instant.

To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience, It is to impose yourself on places that in all non-economic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.

Author Picture
First Name
David Foster
Last Name
Wallace
Birth Date
1962
Death Date
2008
Bio

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