An essay about author David Foster Wallace by James Bonner

David Foster Wallace: A Masterful Writer Exploring the Human Condition

Consider the Lobster is a collection of sometimes uncomfortable, always thought-provoking essays by the late David Foster Wallace. The book was my introduction to the author. I have since read most of his titles; some but not all, partially because his writing style demands strict concentration and rereads. Reading David Foster Wallace can be a process. Wallace was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and English and creative writing professor. I was drawn to him as a writer because he writes in the same way that I write albeit he’s the product of two parents who were college professors, bachelor's degrees in English and philosophy (summa cum laude), and a master's in creative writing—and I’m not.

            David Foster Wallace’s writing explores complex themes of isolation, addiction, and the challenges of modern life. He was known for his philosophical musings and deep introspection, which reflected his belief in the importance of empathy and human connection. Wallace himself struggled with mental health issues and like many who struggle with depression and anxiety, he was deeply empathetic towards others, and he had a unique ability to capture the human experience in his writing. I only just learned that he has a history of misogyny, and I didn’t want to write and post this without acknowledging that. I was surprised and saddened to have come across the side of him.

David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus is the novel, Infinite Jest, considered one of the 100 best English-language novels, since 1923. It is a monster of a book, with more than 1,000 pages (including endnotes), the novel is one of my greatest literary influences, and reading it has always challenged me to be a better person and writer. I am presently rereading having not yet read The Pale King, Wallace’s unfinished, posthumous novel—a book about loneliness, depression, and finding meaning in that emptiness, told through the eyes of an IRS agent.

Wallace’s works include,

Novels:

  • The Broom of the System, 1987 (Thesis)
  • Infinite Jest, 1996 (Magnum Opus)
  • The Pale King, 2011 (Posthumous)

Short Story Collections:

  • Girl with Curious Hair, 1989
  • Brief Interview with Hideous Men, 1999
  • Oblivion: Stories, 2004

Nonfiction Collections:

  • A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, 1997
  • Consider the Lobster, 2005
  • Both Flesh and Not, 2012 (Posthumous)

          David Foster Wallace passed away on September 12, 2008, succumbing to his battle with depression. His death was a profound loss to the literary world, but his legacy—his writing legacy—does live on through his groundbreaking work and his impact on readers and writers alike. David Foster Wallace was a masterful writer who blurred the lines between fiction and philosophy, using his unique blend of humor, empathy, and intellectual curiosity to explore the human condition, revealing the complexities and contradictions of modern life with unflinching honesty and profound insight. If you are interested in learning more about David Foster Wallace, besides reading his books, there was a great movie adapted from David Lipsky’s memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself about the time Lipsky spent with Wallace on the last leg of Wallace’s Infinite Jest tour, the movie is titled The End of the Tour starring Jason Segal as Wallace and Jessie Eisenberg as Lipsky. The movie is available to stream on Kanopy. If you are unfamiliar with the writing of David Foster Wallace, the best debut to his writing is A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. The title essay is a piece written by Wallace after being commissioned to write a story about spending a week on a cruise. The essay was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.