Navigate / search

Fellows Find: Infinite Jest at 20

By Daniel Sinykin

Dan Sinykin, a visiting assistant professor at Grinnell College, visited the Ransom Center during the summer of 2014 to research his dissertation After the Boom: Apocalypse and Economics in American Literature of the Neoliberal Period. Sinykin was the recipient of a dissertation fellowship.

 

On February 23, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest turns 20. The novel was an instant hit and made Wallace a literary superstar—a winning reception that began with an innovative hype campaign on the part of the publisher, Little, Brown, which sent a series of postcards to thousands of reviewers and booksellers promising, among other things, “infinite pleasure.”

Read more

Fellows Find: Revelations hidden on post-its, in book flaps, and in the margins of the papers in David Foster Wallace’s archive

By Stephen Burn

Stephen J. Burn, a Reader in American Literature after 1945 at the University of Glasgow, visited the Ransom Center during the spring of 2011 to research his book-in-progress, Neurofiction: the Contemporary American Novel and the Brain (Don DeLillo/ David Foster Wallace). Burn’s research was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Research Fellowship Endowment.

 

When I first visited the Harry Ransom Center in August of 2008, I wasn’t looking for David Foster Wallace. I’d just finished revising a book that read Wallace alongside his contemporaries Jonathan Franzen and Richard Powers (Jonathan Franzen at the End of Postmodernism), and was putting together a blueprint for a new book that I planned to build out of the Center’s archive of Don DeLillo’s assorted drafts and research materials. Read more

David Foster Wallace and 20 years of Infinite Jest

By Megan Barnard

Twenty years ago, in February of 1996, Little, Brown and Company published David Foster Wallace’s (1962–2008) novel Infinite Jest. It was a bold undertaking for the firm to publish a complex, challenging novel that spans over 1,000 pages and contains hundreds of endnotes, many quite lengthy and all printed in very small type. The sheer size of the book required that it be sold for $30, an unorthodox price for any novel, let alone a second novel by a young, up-and-coming author. Read more

Accessing David Foster Wallace’s “other selves” through the archive

By Heather Houser

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, Heather Houser, an Associate Professor of English at The University of Texas at Austin, will be one of the readers sharing their favorite passages from the novel on Wednesday, February 3, at noon. Undergraduates Dylan Davidson, Kendall DeBoer, Michael Esparza, and Deborah Lin will also be reading at the free event, Prose on the Plaza.

Past seminars Houser has taught on David Foster Wallace’s work have included class visits to the Ransom Center to view materials from the archive.

 

Read more

Materials in McSweeney’s archive offer behind-the-scenes glimpse at “The Believer” magazine

By Amy Armstrong

The McSweeney’s archive, which the Ransom Center acquired in 2013, is now open for research. Founded in 1998 by Dave Eggers, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern is considered one of the most influential literary journals and publishing houses of its time. McSweeney’s publishes books, Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Believer magazine, the food journal Lucky Peach and the DVD-journal Wholphin. This is the third in a four-part series highlighting items from this dynamic and diverse collection.

 

In 2002, Heidi Julavits, Vendela Vida, and Ed Park began planning a long-format magazine featuring essays, interviews, and reviews. With the assistance of Dave Eggers and the McSweeney’s staff, The Believer was launched in 2003. The same year, Andrew Leland, former intern at McSweeney’s, was offered the job of managing editor to create the second issue of The Believer magazine. Leland dropped out of Oberlin College to take the job, and he continued in the post for eight years and 75 issues. The Believer, easily identified by its iconic cover template designed by Eggers and illustrated with drawings by Charles Burns, has become a monthly art and culture magazine featuring content unimpeded by arbitrary word limits and highlighting schematic drawings, illustrations by Tony Millionaire, and regular columns by Nick Hornby, Greil Marcus, and Jack Pendarvis. The Believer is also home to the “Sedaratives” advice column founded by Amy Sedaris and featuring guest contributors from Janeane Garafolo to Weird Al Yankovich. The magazine also puts out three special issues a year dedicated to art, film, and music.

 

Two notebooks filed in box 98, folders 3 and 4 were kept by Believer editor Andrew Leland and are among the most revealing items in the archive. One has a clean, earnest design, with a simple soft-yellow cover. The other is a NASCAR spiral with the image of Tony Stewart emblazed on the front. The notebooks begin in the summer of 2003 and contain daily “to-do” lists, editorial checklists, and other jottings. On one particular day, the numbered list reads:

1) Phillips images

2) Format letters

3) Rest of articles à Tony

4) Call Boy George

 

Numbers one through four are all crossed out, giving a brief glimpse into the creative, interesting, and mundane aspects of being a Believer editor.

 

The Believer attracts remarkable writers and remarkable readers. David Foster Wallace’s subscription postcard for The Believer is evidence that they’re sometimes both. It’s humorous and prized—the tape still adhered to the card with flecks of wall paint suggests it was hanging on Leland’s wall.

 

Related content:

Unpacking the McSweeney’s archive

When is a Comb not a Comb? McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 16 (May 2005)

Oodles of Doodles: McSweeney’s first novel

Keep Austin Weird: McSweeney’s McMullens and everything else

Meet the Staff: Q&A with archivist Amy Armstrong

 

Please click on thumbnails below to view larger images.

Unpublished David Foster Wallace story donated to the Ransom Center

By Megan Barnard

The Ransom Center’s extensive David Foster Wallace collection was recently enriched by a donation of the original manuscript of a little-known, unpublished story, titled “Shorn.” Wallace wrote the two-page story, about a boy having his hair cut by his mother, while a graduate student at the University of Arizona. The manuscript was donated by Karen Green, who was married to Wallace and now heads the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust.

 

The typed manuscript now resides at the Ransom Center alongside drafts of Infinite Jest, The Pale King, and Wallace’s other celebrated works; his childhood writings; correspondence; teaching materials; and his library of annotated books. The Ransom Center acquired David Foster Wallace’s archive in 2010 and has supplemented the archive in the years since with materials from Wallace’s literary agent, his publisher, and others.

 

These materials offer an unparalleled opportunity for researchers to gain deeper insight into Wallace’s work and his creative process, and they are among the Center’s most frequently researched collections. Biographers, literary scholars, students, and teachers have all studied the collection to learn more about Wallace’s writing. Since the Wallace archive became accessible in 2010, the Ransom Center has extended more than 14 research fellowships to support scholarly projects related to Wallace’s archive. The recent gift of Wallace’s story “Shorn” makes the archive an even richer resource.

 

The story is now accessible in the Ransom Center’s reading room.

 

Image: First page of unpublished short story manuscript of “Shorn” by David Foster Wallace. © David Foster Wallace Literary Trust. Harry Ransom Center.