20 Great Essays by
20 classic articles and essays by DFW, all free to read online
David Foster Wallace
On Words and Writing
Perhaps the finest review of an English usage dictionary - this classic essay touches on everything from
race bias in academia and the evolution of language to the pros and cons on non-standard English.
Why just about every important word on The Best American Essays 2007’s front cover turns out to be vague,
debatable, slippery, disingenuous, or else ‘true’ only in certain contexts…
"For me, a signal frustration in trying to read Kafka with students is that it is next to impossible to get
them to see that Kafka is funny…"
"A book-in-progress is a kind of hideously damaged infant that follows the writer around wanting love, wanting the very thing its hideousness guarantees it’ll get: the writer’s complete attention."
"The honeymoon’s end between the literary Establishment and the contemporary young writer was an inevitable and foreseeable consequence of the same shameless hype that led to many journeyman writers’ premature elevation in the first place…"
"Fiction writers as a species tend to be oglers. They tend to lurk and to stare. The minute fiction writers stop moving, they start lurking, and stare. They are born watchers."
Wallace's 2005 Kenyon College commencement address: a stark but hopeful perspective on life’s fundamental
On sex, AIDS, love, danger and romance.
Technically this extract from Infinite Jest is fiction, but it still says a lot about the real world.
On Films, Music and The Media
A fascintating reflection on the inverse relationship between the amount of special effects used in a film and the
quality of the story.
DFW hangs around on the set of Lost Highway and dissects the greatness of America's most distinctive director.
Riding shotgun with a political talk radio shock jock.
"Rap, whether fecund or sterile, is today's pop music's lone cutting edge, the new, the unfamiliar, the brain-
resisted-while-body-boogies. And that alien, exhilarating cutting edge has always been black."
"On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise"
Gorge yourself on corn dogs, gape at terrifying rides, savor the odor of pigs, trade unpleasantries with tattooed
carnies, and admire the loveliness of cows.
A trip to the Maine Lobster Festival raises some unnerving questions about the relationship between people and
"An obsessive inquiry into the physics and metaphysics of tennis."
Wallace's hypnotic prose opens up the world of top-flight tennis, and arguably its greatest exponent.
Memories of a midwestern boyhood
Slumming it with the press corps as they follow John McCain during his failed bid for the republican presidential
"Suddenly everbody has flags out – big flags, small flags, regular flag-size flags."
Between them, these collections cover all of DFW's best nonfiction, including a lots of classic essays that are