cover image David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing”: New Essays on the Novels

David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing”: New Essays on the Novels

Edited by Marshall Boswell. Bloomsbury, $29.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-6289-2453-4

Collecting essays that originally appeared in two special issues of Studies in the Novel, this volume from editor Boswell (Understanding David Foster Wallace) showcases scholarly writing on Wallace’s (1962–2008) three novels: The Broom of the System, Infinite Jest, and The Pale King. Boswell divides the book into sections on the novels themselves along with a chapter titled “Wallace as Novelist.” The collection is weighted somewhat toward The Pale King, the author’s posthumously published, unfinished “long thing,” but offers a good mix of essays on all three books. Adam Kelly examines Wallace’s career as a whole and argues convincingly the he should be considered a “novelist of ideas.” Ralph Clare shows how Wallace uses the theme of boredom in The Pale King with great complexity, and Philip Sayers’s work on “representing entertainment” in Infinite Jest will also be important to the emerging field of Wallace studies. Although most essays are accessible and straightforward, the contributors occasionally indulge in jargon (“the Free Indirect Wraith Model,” “heteroglossic space”). Several chapters shed light on Wallace’s political philosophy and how The Pale King, in particular, “wrestles directly with matters of real world politics.” The book succeeds because the essays are not only substantial and provocative, but also because they are, like Wallace’s novels, in conversation with each other. It will lead the conversation about Wallace in exciting new directions. (July)