David Foster Wallace's best quotes

Jason Segal is set to play the iconic writer – but we doubt he'll come up with any lines as good as these ones

David Foster Wallace

Last week, production company Anonymous Content announced plans for a David Foster Wallace based on Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky’s conversation-transcript-cum-book, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, with How I Met Your Mother actor Jason Segal playing Wallace. The book documents the pair’s conversations over the last days of Wallace’s Infinite Jest tour and is fascinating and necessary; it humanises Wallace at a time when his cult status could veer into the wildly hyperbolic. But a movie? We’re sceptical.

That Jason Segal is an eyebrow-raisingly aw-shucks kind of actor to play such an intellectual giant is not that important right now. Wouldn’t the idea of a biopic, regardless of leading actor, send DFW spiraling into a complexly sub-clauséd paragraph of emotions thoroughly analysed? It seems almost vulgar to reduce one of history’s most dynamic written communicators to what he said out loud.

So we compiled a list of our fave DFW moments, by which we mean: "Check out the ten DFW quotes we picked of the might-as-well-be-infinite number from which to choose."

From Infinite Jest

"Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation [...] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone."

Eerie premonitions of the Apple Empire have come from many sides – even, most dystopically, from the company itself. DFW hits the nail on the FaceTime. 

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

From "Authority and American Usage", Consider the Lobster

"Did you know that probing the seamy underbelly of US lexicography reveals ideological strife and controversy and intrigue and nastiness and fervor on a near-Lewinskian scale?"

Oh, that he could have truly known Twitter. 

Consider the Lobster
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace

From "Forever Overhead", Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

"You have grown into a new fragility." 

Wallace captures the intense feels – both physical and emotional – of puberty in one of his more accessible stories. 

From ‘David Lynch Keeps His Head’, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

"For me, though, a more interesting question ended up being whether David Lynch really gives a shit about whether his reputation is rehabilitated or not. The impression I get from rewatching his movies and from hanging around his latest production is that he really doesn’t. This attitude – like Lynch himself, like his work – seems to me to be both grandly admirable and sort of nuts."

Though he didn’t so much foresee Lynch’s cult status as allow for it to go either way, Wallace’s essay on the filmmaker is just as relevant now as it was in 1996. Read it here

 A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again David Wallace
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace

From ‘Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way’, Girl With Curious Hair 

"…a song of tough love for a generation whose eyes have moved fish-like to the side of its head, forward vision usurped by the numb need to survive the now, side-placed eyes scanning for any garde of which to be avant."

 We can’t help but feel a little guilty as the rise of self-promotional social media continues to create a numb need to survive the now. 

Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace

From ‘Incarnations of Burned Children’, Oblivion

"The Daddy was around the side of the house hanging a door for the tenant when he heard the child's screams and the Mommy's voice gone high between them.

Read the rest of the story – intense, heart-breaking and just over 1,000 words – here.

Oblivion by David Foster Wallace
Oblivion by David Foster Wallace

From ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again’, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll ever Do Again

"An ad that pretends to be art is – at absolute best – like somebody who smiles warmly at you only because he wants something from you."

See: everything? Read what’s often called his best work.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again David Wallace
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace

From Broom of the System:

"The emptier one’s universe is, the worse it is... Weight Watchers perceives the problem as one involving the need to have as much Other around as possible, so that the relation is one of minimum Self to maximum Other."

What Wallace did best was relate high philosophy to the here-and-now(/then) and he did it from his first novel. text-16

Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace
Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace

From Although Of Course:

"…the face I’d put on the terror is the dawning realization that nothing’s enough, you know? That no pleasure is enough, that no achievement is enough. That there’s a kind of queer dissatisfaction or emptiness at the core of the self that is unassuageable by outside stuff."

It seems inappropriate to comment on this with anything besides :(

Although-Of-Course-You-End-Up-Becoming-Yourself-bo
Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace
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