David Foster Wallace at Harper’s

I’m not trying to make this blog into a David Foster Wallace memorial wall; this will probably be my last post on the subject. But I did want to publicize the fact that Harper’s has now made all their DFW material publicly readable in .pdf, including one of his finest stories, “The Depressed Person,” and one of his finest pieces of comic reportage, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” listed here under its original title, “Shipping Out.”

And via Cosmic Variance, this quote from DFW’s book Everything and More:

n modern medical terms, it’s fairly clear that G. F. L. P. Cantor suffered from manic-depressive illness at a time when nobody knew what this was, and that his polar cycles were aggravated by professional stresses and disappointments, of which Cantor had more than his share. Of course, this makes for less interesting flap copy than Genius Driven Mad By Attempts To Grapple With ∞. The truth, though, is that Cantor’s work and its context are so totally interesting and beautiful that there’s no need for breathless Prometheusizing of the poor guy’s life. The real irony is that the view of ∞ as some forbidden zone or road to insanity — which view was very old and powerful and haunted math for 2000+ years — is precisely what Cantor’s own work overturned. Saying that ∞ drove Cantor mad is sort of like mourning St. George’s loss to the dragon; it’s not only wrong but insulting.

This is an important and correct thing to say about math, and about what happened to David Foster Wallace last weekend.

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7 thoughts on “David Foster Wallace at Harper’s

  1. It’s been almost a decade since I read “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, but is “Shipping Out” really the same as what’s in the book, or is it a shortened version? Reading through “Shipping Out”, I didn’t see some bits that I seem to remember, like a very detailed account of his playing ping-pong with the shipboard pro. Obviously, I should just wander over to the bookstore and actually purchase a copy of they book, which I think is my favorite thing by DFW. But if bloggable is a low threshold, blog-commentable is even lower…

  2. JSE says:

    Oh yeah, I should have said — as with many of DFW’s magazine pieces, the Harper’s version is significantly shorter than the book version.

  3. Em says:

    Gonna read “The Depressed Person” immediately. Thanks.

  4. Jay says:

    It appears that these have been somewhat poorly OCRed, making them look sort of Dadaist and painful to read, and eliminating most of the references to footnotes. This is unfortunate, and odd, because if they were going to use PDFs why not just give us the original magazine pages, which seems to be what their subscribers get?

    Oh well, guess I’ll have to get the books.

  5. JSE says:

    Weird. “The Depressed Person,” at any rate, is scanned from the magazine.

  6. k. tanudjaja-smith says:

    …i indeed am grateful for his very conscious and conscientious time spent in this frangible realm. i consistently receive solace, mirth, insight and education from his words. he deserves all the irreverent reverence we can muster!

    …dfw died so that we may live …what would dfw do?

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