David Foster Wallace Resurrected in Print

David Foster Wallace (image courtesy Steve Rhodes via Wikicommons)

David Foster Wallace (image courtesy Steve Rhodes via Wikicommons)

For fans of late great American novelist David Foster Wallace 2011 is all about the posthumous release of his final novel The Pale King.

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an essay anticipating the release of the book and looking at how the cult author is remembered by scholars. Stephen Burn, author of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest: A Reader’s Guide, observes that Wallace has become part of a the modern canon. “Wallace’s status has rapidly evolved from marginal writer, noted for long, experimental work, to indispensable reference point for people writing about almost anything - from college football to WikiLeaks.”

Burns is concerned that Wallace’s suicide in 2008 colours readings of his work. He thinks “there’s a real danger, when references to Wallace seem to be everywhere, that his name will begin to float free of his substantive literary context and become an index for larger cultural fantasies about the tortured artist. His name glows in the dark.”

The New Yorker reports that the University of Texas has acquired Wallace’s archive, a resource which will encourage deeper discussion and criticism of his work. The collection includes novels read which are heavily annotated, including an edition of Cormac MCCarthy’s Sutree that features some playful doodling over the author’s photo. The collection also features an index of words Wallace circled such as hypocorism (a pet name or baby talk) and rebus (representing words with pictures or a piece of writing that uses this technique).

One piece of the puzzle is missing, however, as the papers related to The Pale King are in the hands of publisher Little, Brown. The university reports that “After the book’s release, the papers, notes, and computer disks related to this novel Wallace never fully completed will be reunited with his archive

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