DFW Rides Again?

January 10, 2008 | 1 book mentioned 5

For those of us wondering whether David Foster Wallace will ever publish another novel, the February issue of Harper’s seems to augur something good. The magazine’s “Readings” section features an excerpt from a “work in progress” Wallace first read at last year’s Le Conversazioni festival (heretofore notable mainly for its photo-ops of writers in short pants.) The excerpt itself concerns an Illinois-based IRS auditor, and, though it’s not a radical semantic departure from the stories in Oblivion, DFW is always good on bureaucracies, and on Illinois. A crackerjack ending had me eager to read more.

Video from the Le Conversazioni reading is available.

is the author of City on Fire and A Field Guide to the North American Family. In 2017, he was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists.


  1. I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but Mr. Wallace was working on a novel back in 2000 when he spoke to a few of us at Illinois State.

    I'll be the first to offer an over/under: A new novel from wallace = +/- 2014?

  2. Mr. Wallace got 250 pages into that novel and then, deciding that it wasn't working, stripped it for parts–his words, ca. 2003, also at ISU, where I was a student of his in a couple of grad classes. I'm as eager as anyone to see another long-form thing, but whatever he was working on in 2000, I don't think this is it.

  3. "The Suffering Channel," in Oblivion, felt like it might have been a novel that didn't work out. I can only imagine the difficulty of trying to follow up Infinite Jest – witness, e.g., the ontological self-laceration of "Octet," from Brief Interviews (some kind of line's end's end indeed.) What I liked about the Harper's excerpt this month is how relaxed it seemed. Wallace seemed to have found room to breathe again. Interestingly, one of the core competencies returned to here – one that I had never really thought about – was meticulous, journalistic inhabitation of a subcultural milieu. In IJ, it was AA; here, it was the IRS. Maybe the time doing the essay books has really been nurturing some of the fiction muscles. More optimistic than zk, I'm remembering that Wallace wrote IJ in something like 3 years. Once he catches the right wave…

  4. The clip in Harper's was so wonderful not only because of signature control of language (check out the two sentence paragraph just before the child speaks) but also because of how many metaphors one can draw from this element: a child taking on the characteristics of his father's govermental agency.

  5. William Gaddis let twenty years slip by between Recognitions and JR. If we have to wait until 2014 for DFW's next novel, that's just fine with me.

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