david foster wallace

2005 at Kenyon College – this is water

awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: this is water.

video link in case it embed goes down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI

transcript: http://web.archive.org/web/20080213082423/http://www.marginalia.org/dfw_kenyon_commencement.html


David Foster Wallace (February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008) was an award-winning American novelist, short story writer,essayist, and professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Wallace is widely known for his 1996 novel Infinite Jest, which was cited as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005 by Time magazine.

Los Angeles Times book editor David Ulin called Wallace “one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last 20 years”. With his suicide, he left behind an unfinished novel, The Pale King, which was subsequently published in 2011, and in 2012 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A biography of Wallace by D. T. Max, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, was published in September 2012.





David Foster Wallace (February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008) was an American author of novels, short stories and essays, as well as a professor of English and creative writing. Wallace is widely known for his 1996 novel Infinite Jest, which was cited by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.

Wallace’s last, unfinished novel, The Pale King, was published in 2011 and was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A biography of Wallace was published in September 2012, and an extensive critical literature on his work has developed in the past decade.

Los Angeles Times book editor David Ulin has called Wallace “one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last 20 years.”


Wallace died by suicide on September 12, 2008, at age 46. Wallace’s father reported in an interview that his son had suffered from depression for more than 20 years and that antidepressant medication had allowed him to be productive.[40] When Wallace experienced severe side effects from the medication, he attempted to wean himself from his primary antidepressant, phenelzine. On his doctor’s advice, Wallace stopped taking the medication in June 2007, and the depression returned. Wallace received other treatments, including electroconvulsive therapy. When he returned to phenelzine, he found that it had lost its effectiveness.[41] His wife kept a watchful eye on him in the following days, but on September 12, Wallace went into the garage, wrote a two-page note, and arranged part of the manuscript for The Pale King before hanging himself from a patio rafter.


revisit while reading – the boy who could change the world – Aaron Swartz‘ writings..

5\ books/culture

p 251-2 – he was obsessed with a lot of things… that was aaron. … even when he loved a book, he argued with it, or told the author about the book she should have written… aaron would have bee the perfect subject for a david foster wallace profile. as it was, aaron found a literary lodestar in the wordy moody warmhearted maddening saddening uplifting brilliant dfw. as a writer; aaron played with imitating wallace’s digressive footnote-freckled voice, but he quickly fell back into his own. as a read, though, aaron latched on to this grandmaster of seeing people as they really are and loving them nonetheless.. .. aaron maintained comprehensive wikipedia bibliographies of dfws works……later aaron would write: ‘dfw’s suicide hit me very hard, i ended up coping by reading every piece of nonfiction he’d ever published. he was a brilliant, tortured man and i see so much of myself in him. ‘ … i would say that aaron was the dfw of his generation, … – james grimmelmann


the end of the tour movie/trailer..



he wants something better than he has.. i want precisely what he has already..

if a book is about anything it’s about why..

reading you is another way of meeting you…

the more people think you’re great.. the bigger the fear of being a fraud

david thought books existed to stop you from being lonely..



David Foster Wallace on the really important kind of freedom (from THIS IS WATER) amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS thx @polanpic.twitter.com/s9oHoDRVSO

freedom from d f wallace


via Maria


I submit that this is what the real, no-bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.


If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options.

a nother way.. for (blank)’s sake… let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

hosting life bits… via self talk as data et al

It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.


The real value of a real education [has] almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

‘This is water.’

‘This is water.’

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime.


Big Think (@bigthink) tweeted at 3:57 PM on Sat, Jul 08, 2017:
A David Foster Wallace speech from 2005 could end political polarization in America in 2017:

Wallace says, “The point of the fish story is merely that the most important, obvious realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.”


Wallace warns against “Blind certainty,” in our position, which he defines as, “A closed-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.”  Instead, we should have some “critical awareness” about our certainties.


when we think we’re threatened, we tend to devolve into our ideological default setting, and to discredit our perceived opponent’s. Choosing what to think about means, “Do(ing) the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default-setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centered, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.”


if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options.

a nother way via 2 convos.. as the day


fb share via john hagel


“Talent is its own expectation,” Wallace wrote in Infinite Jest, and he was, of course, correct: There’s a canny tautology to all of this. Genius, a means to godliness and its best evidence, cannot be argued with. Genius cannot be reasoned with. Genius is the answer and the question. It will be heard. It will be respected. Even when it kicks and stalks and climbs up the side of the house at night.

genius ness


the end of the tour (doc)


david lipsky: wallace offered his alive self in our sleepy aquarium

dfw: reading was just a fund .. sort of weird thing i did on the side

(interviewing starts 12 yrs before dfw’s death)

dl: reading you is another way of meeting you

dfw: why do we (so well off) feel so bad/unhappy

22 min – dfw: it’s going to get easier and easier and more and more pleasurable for us to sit alone.. by people who want our money.. that’s fine (sitting in front of screen) in low doses.. but if it’s the main staple of your diet.. you’re going to die.. in a very meaningful way.. you’re going to die

26 min – dfw: i think writing books is a little like raising children.. don’t want glory back on you

dfw: it would be nice to have someone you shared your life with.. when you’re happy.. confused..

28 min – dfw: i think if you dedicate yourself to anything.. one facet of that is it makes you very very self conscious.. and you end up using people..just wanting them around when you want them around.. then sending them away

38 min – dfw: i’m a kind of strange kind of forger.. i can kinda sound like anybody

44 min – (dfw responds to dl on doing this famous tour/interview): this is nice david.. but this is not real

1:15 – dl: what are you afraid of.. what’s the worst that could happen

dfw: the worst..? that i would get to like it

dl: the attention?

dfw: yeah

1:16 – dfw: what if i become a parody of that very thing (to have written a book about how easy it is to be seduced).. tomorrow you drive away and i go back to knowing like 20 people.. i’m going to have to decompress from all this attention.. it’s like getting heroin injected into your cortex.. and where i’m going to need real balls is to sit and go thru that and try to remind myself of what the reality is .. that i’m 34 yrs old and i’m alone in a room w a piece of paper

1:21 – dfw: i am also aware that some addictions are sexier than others.. my primary addiction my entire life has been to tv.. now tv addiction is of far less interest to your readers

i am telling you that this was not a lost weekend sort of thing.. nor was it some lurid romantic ‘writer as alcoholic’ sort of thing.. what it was was a 28 yr old person who had really exhausted a couple other ways to live, had really taken them to their conclusions.. which for me was a pink room w a drain in the center of the floor.. which is where they put me for an entire day when they thought that i was gonna kill myself.. where i got nothin on .. i got someone observing me thru a slot in the wall..  and when that happens to you, you become tremendously, just unprecedentedly willing to examine some other alts for how to live

1:23 – dfw: it wasn’t a chemical imbalance and it wasn’t drugs and alcohol.. i think it was much more that i had lived an incredibly american life, this idea that if i could just achieve x and y and z, that everything would be ok

dfw: what could be so awful that leaping to your death could be an escape from it.. and i don’t know.. but it’s worse than any kind of physical injury.. it may be in the old days what was known as a spiritual crisis.. feeling as though every axiom in your life turned out to be false.. and that there was actually nothing and that you were nothing

dfw: and that it’s all a delusion.. and you’re so much better than everybody because you can see how this is just a delusion and you’re so much worse because you can’t fucking function.. it’s really horrible

costello screen service law

1:23 – dfw: i don’t think that we ever change.. i’m sure that i still have those same parts in me.. guess i’m trying really hard to find a way not to let them drive

1:38 – dl: he wants something better than he has.. i want precisely what he has already.. neither of us know where our lives are going to go.. and the convo is the best one i ever had

1:39 – dl: david thought books existed to stop you from feeling lonely.. if i could .. i’d say to david that living those days w him reminded me of what life is like.. instead of being a relief from it.. and i’d tell him it made me feel much less alone