Dave Eggers Waffles

November 28, 2006 | 3

coverDave Eggers, as you may have heard, was tapped to write a new introduction to the 10th anniversary edition of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. The piece glows with praise for the gigantic novel, as one might expect (since such intros are, in many cases, packaging to sell the novel.) However, as The Rake has discovered, this isn’t the only time that Eggers has written about Infinite Jest. He was, in a 1996 review, very disparaging of the book. Perhaps Eggers has changed his mind about Infinite Jest, or perhaps the offer to write the intro was simply too tempting to turn down. As ever, I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, but this smacks of opportunism.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.


  1. On the other hand…

    There is no doubt some opportunism in an author taking advantage of an opportunity to look wise in hindsight, but Eggers also has a record of publishing Wallace stories–most notably the EXTREMELY recondite "Mr. Squishy," printed 5 years ago, pseudonymously, when there was no suggestion that any back-scratching would take place in return.

    More generally, I think that Eggers' mediocre 1996 review is exactly what happens to great books in our hyperspeed culture. It is nearly impossible for a reviewer to tell how something is going to look in six months…not with respect to its strengths and weaknesses, but with respect to its staying power. I think I wrote a fairly glowing review of The Known World when it came out and I didn't know anything about EPJ, but I had little inkling that, in retrospect, it would appear monumental. Conversely, I really liked Aleksandar Hemon's "Nowhere Man" when I read it, but I don't think I'll be telling my grandkids about it.

    This point is particularly relevant because certain blowhards who have had about three weeks to read the new Pynchon in advance readers' copies are now spouting off about it, both positively and negatively. How can one seriously evaluate something so big so quickly?

    Though people do want to know about a book immediately, in order to decide whether to read it, it seems to me that the seriousness with which we take the insta-poll reactions to contemporary fiction should be in inverse proportion to the ambition of the work, or at least the page count.

  2. Good points here guys. People should have a right to change their minds, and an introduction to the book probably isn't the right place for Eggers to explain that initially he didn't like the book, but now he does (although it would be interesting to see him write about this somewhere.) For the record, I termed this as "opportunistic" because having his name attached to DFW in such a high profile way helps further burnish Eggers' cred in the world of contemporary fiction… But it's true, piling on Eggers here is probably unfair and just a little too easy… For more on why this isn't a big deal, check out Matthew Tiffany's thoughts on the subject.

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