David Foster Wallace

‘Infinite Jest,’ Recreated in Lego by an 11-Year-Old

This might be the best thing you’ll see on the internet all day. Earlier this year, English professor Kevin Griffith and his 11-year-old son Sebastian started Brickjest, a project in which they aimed to “translate” David Foster Wallace’s postmodernist classic Infinite Jest into Lego form. The final product has some 100 images, each of Lego scenes created by Sebastian based on his father’s descriptions. According to their website, the pair “first envisioned translating David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest into Lego after reading The Brick Bible, by Brendan Powell Smith. Wallace’s novel is probably the only contemporary text to offer a similar challenge to artists working in the medium of Lego.” Well, they certainly met the challenge. After the jump, check out a few of the best scenes, and then head on over to Brickjest to see the whole project. … Read More

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50 Essays Guaranteed to Make You a Better Person

It’s hard to be a person in the world today — or, really, any day, but today’s what we’ve got. Humans are striving creatures, and also empathetic ones, so most of us are always looking for an opportunity to improve ourselves, even in tiny, literary ways. We’ve already established that novels can make you a better person, but of course, novels also take you down a long winding road to get there. If you’re looking for a more direct shot to the heart, try an essay. After the jump, you’ll find 50 essays more or less guaranteed to make you a better person — or at least a better-read one — some recommended by notables of the literary and literary nonfiction world, some recommended by yours truly, incessant consumer of the written word. Don’t see the essay that changed your life? Please do add it to the list. … Read More

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As Film and TV Steal Its Narrative Thunder, Literature Has to Do What Only Literature Can Do

This morning at The Guardian, Thomas McMullan wrote about how “challenging writing” is growing in popularity, at least if the prizes being awarded to experimental novels — like Eimar McBride’s debut novel A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing — are any indication. This, obviously, is heartening news for anyone who bemoans the general dumbing-down of so much pop culture, or just anyone who loves weird, difficult writing and wants to read more of it. … Read More

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25 Great Pieces of Life Advice From Literature

Everyone could use a bit of advice now and then. But what if you’re the type who eschews all human contact and prefers to converse only with characters in your books? Well, er, then even they might not be able to help you. All kidding aside, as any avid reader will know, many of the great works of literature are filled with wisdom, which you could do worse than to take to heart — especially in these back-to-school weeks, a time when a little extra advice can always help. Here, you’ll find a few nuggets of humanhood as doled out by literary (read: fictional!) characters who know a thing or… Read More

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50 Great Books You’ll Never Read in School

Back-to-school time is upon us, and for many, that means reading for pleasure will give way to burning through that syllabus. Classrooms, especially high school classrooms (college classes are becoming so weird and specific nowadays that you could read just about anything in them), suffer from the “classic effect” — which is exactly what it sounds like. Not that there’s anything wrong with literary classics, and they definitely should be read, but there’s so much more out there. And when you consider the fact that one-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives — well, it would be nice if they had a little more to go on than The Great Gatsby. After the jump, find a selection of books you’ll (probably) never read in high school, but should still read, and add your own favorite anti-schoolbooks to the list in the comments. … Read More

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Where Is Today’s Literary Brat Pack?

Thirty years ago today, Vintage Books published Bright Lights, Big City, a semi-autobiographical, cocaine-fueled journey through ‘80s New York written by a 29-year-old Jay McInerney. Three years later, McInerney was famously anointed (or condemned) by the Village Voice as part of the “literary brat pack,” alongside Bret Easton Ellis and Tama Janowitz and a selection of other orbiting talents. … Read More

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Stereotyping Your College Roommate by Their Favorite Book

As we approach the time of the year when students start trickling in to college campuses, decorating their dorm rooms with stuff from IKEA and Target and trying really hard to sound like they know what they’re talking about, many incoming freshmen are surely wondering what their new roommates will be like. And although the surveys schools use to match night owls and messy kids with others who share their habits may cover the basics, you can tell a lot more about a person by looking at the prized books they lug along with them to make sure their classmates can tell how cultured they are. Here are a few common picks, and what they say about the 18-year-old who loves them. … Read More

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50 Essential Cult Novels

Just what is a cult novel? Well, like so many literary terms, the edges blur whenever you try to look right at them, but in the end, you sort of know one when you read one. Sometimes a cult novel is one that the critics panned but the fans love, or sometimes it’s one that both readers and critics love, but a certain contingent of readers really love. Any book with a squadron of rabid fans swearing that it changed their lives quickly seems cultish. Cult novels often come from the fringes, they often represent countercultural perspectives, they often experiment with form. Here are 50 of the… Read More

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A New David Foster Wallace ‘Infinite Jest’ Interview Reveals the Book’s Boston Influences

“I like things about Boston, but I am not wired for the East Coast. For one thing it’s loud here,”… Read More

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Do Copy Editors Know the Meaning of Life? The Radical Power of David Zweig’s ‘Invisibles’

What gives your work meaning? For the people profiled in David Zweig’s absorbing, quietly radical new book Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion, meaning comes from within. Whether you’re a perfumer jumping through hoops to create the latest scent for P. Diddy, an interpreter at the UN, or Radiohead’s guitar tech, all the “invisibles” profiled in Zweig’s precise and insightful book share an enviable ethos — the joy that comes from a job well done, without the need to look for validation through attention. … Read More

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