David Foster Wallace

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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20 Great Biographies of Famous Authors

There’s always something exciting about reading a literary figure’s memoir, learning the details of their personal life (those they’re willing to share, anyway) and getting a glimpse into their creative process. But it’s perhaps more illuminating to read an outsider’s account of a literary great, assembled from years of reporting and sifting through private papers. A literary biography might not be as sensational as, say, the life story of a doomed Hollywood starlet (although certainly a fair number of novelists, playwrights, and poets have lived turbulent lives), but they do offer a complete picture that shatters the fourth walls of our favorite writers’ work. Here’s a collection of great bios that accomplish just… Read More

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Famous Authors’ Most Dramatic Breakups

Former schoolmates and lifelong besties Charlotte Brontë and Ellen Nussey traded more than 500 letters during their friendship. In 1839, nearly a decade before Brontë’s Jane Eyre was published, Nussey’s brother Henry proposed marriage to the author. She rejected him in a letter, which the website Brain Pickings perfectly describes as “a bold defiance of oppressive gender ideals, packaged as the ultimate it’s-not-you-it’s-me gentle letdown.” Leave it to the wildly creative literary types to pen the best breakup letters. This got us wondering about the most dramatic breakups authors have faced, so we explored the juicy, and sometimes tragic, love lives of writers throughout… Read More

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30 Writers’ Invaluable Advice to Graduates

Graduation season is fast approaching, the time of the year when some of our favorite writers are tasked with summing up the wisdom to be accrued from the process of growing up in ten succinct minutes of witty truth. These days, a successful graduation speech has the very real chance of going viral, and then living forever as a book: from David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, About Living a Compassionate Life to Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art, the best graduation speeches are finding a new life. This crop includes the brand-new Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders, a pretty-in-print encapsulation of his 2013 Syracuse Graduation speech. It’s reason enough to collect 30 of the best, wisest, and pithiest pieces of advice from the greatest writers to attempt the graduation… Read More

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Flavorwire Interview: The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn on Writing for Middle-Aged Bros, Slogging Through ‘Infinite Jest,’ and the ‘Fargo Rock City’ Movie

There are few bands left quite like the Hold Steady, and even fewer frontmen like Craig Finn. He’s the Hemingway of modern indie rock bros, known for his quick turns of phrase and his drawn-out tales about nights that are hard to remember (and the substances that fueled them). At 42 and with six Hold Steady albums under his belt, these days Finn comes across more as the Springsteen everyman when it comes to chronicling a distinctly American life. This week, as the Hold Steady release Teeth Dreams, we spoke to Finn, discussing writing about troubled women for large crowds of rowdy men, what he wish he’d known about tour buses when he was young, how long it took him to read Infinite Jest, his favorite rock bios and new albums, and what’s going on (or rather, what’s not going on) with his screenplay adaptation of Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City. … Read More

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What Would Plato and David Foster Wallace Talk About? A Conversation With Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

In Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, Plato comes screaming into the 21st century. What Goldstein does in this college course of a book is quite audacious and charmingly goofy; she imagines what it would be like if Plato were on a book tour, today, in our modern world — and it would be quite a journey: sparring with fake Tiger Moms at the 92nd St. Y, fake Bill O’Reillys on Fox News, and giving out agony aunt advice to the lovelorn. … Read More

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Listen to 15 Literary Icons Reading Their Own Work

One of the most important experiences you can have with your favorite author is to hear them read aloud from their works. But many of us will never get the chance to see our most beloved writer in the flesh. So, after the jump is a collection of 15 writers — some alive, some long gone — reading their own words (all fiction, with the exception of William Faulkner, whose Nobel Prize speech is included because it’s now often taught alongside his novels and stories, and Joan Didion’s memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking).  … Read More

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Toni Morrison, Wallace Stegner, and 10 Other Fiction Writing Teachers

The discussion on whether or not it’s any help to give a university your money, or funds you don’t have that you end up borrowing, so you can sharpen your skills as a writer will no doubt be reignited in the coming days and weeks with the release of the book MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction. In truth, it’s a discussion that was going on long before the publication of the book, and one that will probably continue for years after the book comes out. Yet the one thing that is difficult to look past is how much studying with a teacher whose books or articles you respect can actually be a boost to your own work. … Read More

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