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Whether it is fair to the author or not, the experience of reading David Foster Wallace after he took his own life in 2008 inevitably involves reading between the lines to find the suicide note. Of no book is this more true than his nonfiction entry in the Great Discoveries series (were any other volumes ever published?), Everything and More : A Compact History of Infinity. One quickly despairs of following the idiosyncratic format, abstruse proofs, and--if the experts are to be believed--seriously flawed attempts to explain the history of our understanding of infinity. What remains is the discussion of the madness that often plagued those who studied the infinite, or, as Wallace argues in the Preface, abstractness--men like Godel and Georg Cantor. As the author keeps chasing infinity down the rabbit hole and trying to get it to succumb to logical proof and analysis, one is reminded of the scene in Darren Aronofsky's Pi where the hero, Max Cohen, takes a power drill to his own brain to get the numbers to stop dancing through his head. We hear the echo of this scene in Wallace's Kenyon Commencement Address where he says that:
It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master.

And the disturbing final sentences of this book read as follows:
Godel and Cantor both died in confinement, bequeathing a world with no finite circumference. One that spins, now, in a new kind of all-formal Void. Mathematics continues to get out of bed.

Mr. Wallace, of course, does not.


Grade: (C)


See also:

David Wallace Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: David Foster Wallace
    -FAN SITE: The Howling Fantods
    -GOOGLE BOOK: Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity by David Foster Wallace
    -INFO: David Foster Wallace (NNDB)
    -APPRECIATION: Exuberant Riffs on a Land Run Amok (MICHIKO KAKUTANI, September 14, 2008, NY Times)
    -OBIT: David Foster Wallace, Influential Writer, Dies at 46 (BRUCE WEBER, September 14, 2008, NY Times)
    -APPRECIATION: On David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) (Dustin Luke Nelson, September 14, 2008, Guernica)
    -APPRECIATION: David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008: An author of infinite erudition who found artistic and moral value in simply registering his dread. (David Gates, 9/13/08, Newsweek)
    -TRIBUTE: Considering David Foster Wallace< (Michael Silverblatt, 9/16/08, KCRW Bookworm)
    -TRIBUTE: David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008 (John Seery, 9/13/08, Huffington Post)
    -TRIBUTE: D.F.W., R.I.P. (Scott McLemee, 9/17/08, Inside Higher Ed)
    -OBIT: David Foster Wallace found dead (JONATHAN GIBBS, 14 SEPTEMBER 2008, Independent)
    -TRIBUTE: Infinite Loss: David Foster Wallace and the Troublesome, Inescapable "I": "Was he a good writer?" asked the young sales clerk at Borders (Gendy Alimurung, Sep 17 2008, LA Weekly)
    -AUDIO ESSAY: Character Assassination (David Foster Wallace, MAY 19, 2000, NPR: This American Life)
    -ADDRESS: This is Water (David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College Commencement Address)
    -ESSAY: Just Asking (DAVID FOSTER WALLACE, NOV 1 2007, The Atlantic)
    -STORY: The Depressed Person (David Foster Wallace, January 1998, Harpers) [pdf]
    -ESSAY: Shipping out: On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise (David Foster Wallace, July 1996, Harpers)
    -LINKS: 30 Free Essays & Stories by David Foster Wallace on the Web (Open Culture)
    -INTERVIEW: David Foster Wallace: The Big, Uncut Interview (2003) (Open Culture)
    -ESSAY: Federer as Religious Experience (David Foster Wallace, 8/20/06, NY Times: Play
    -ESSAY: Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage (David Foster Wallace, April 2001, Harpers) (pdf)
    -ESSAY: Host (DAVID FOSTER WALLACE, APR 1 2005, The Atlantic)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: David Foster Wallace (NPR: Talk of the Nation, 10/13/13)
    -INTERVIEW: with David Foster Wallace (David Eggers, November 2011, The Believer)
    -INTERVIEW: Approaching infinity: David Foster Wallace talks about writing novels, riding the Green Line, and his new book on higher math (Caleb Crain, 10/26/2003, Boston Globe)
    -ESSAY: The Best of David Foster Wallace: When the novelist learned to escape his own mind, he got a little closer to the greatness he sought. (RYAN BLOOM, NOVEMBER 26, 2012, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: Capacities of Spirit: The life and work of David Foster Wallace. (DAVID J. MICHAEL, FEBRUARY 2013, Christianity Today)
    -ESSAY: Everlasting Speech (Elizabeth Lopatto, Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin)
    -ESSAY: THE UNFINISHED: David Foster Wallace’s struggle to surpass “Infinite Jest.” (D. T. MAX, 3/09/09, The New Yorker)
    -ESSAY: EVERYTHING & MORE: The Work of David Foster Wallace (Malcolm Knox, November, 2008, The Monthly)
    -ESSAY: David Foster Wallace and the Velveteen Rabbit (James Warner, August 12, 2011, Identity Theory)
    -ESSAY: Suicide and Self-Obsession (James Warner, March 31, 2010, Identity Theory)
    -ESSAY: A Puritan’s Dilemma: Religion, politics and the agony of David Foster Wallace. (THEO ANDERSON, 2/08/12, In These Times)
    -ARTICLE: Bret Easton Ellis launches broadside against David Foster Wallace: American Psycho author says Foster Wallace was 'the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation' (Alison Flood, 6 September 2012,
    -ESSAY: The shadow over David Foster Wallace's The Pale King : Many mainstream critics misunderstood Foster Wallace while he was alive – will publication of his final novel just see them trying to work out its relation to his life story? (Gabriel Brownstein, 5 April 2011, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: The Best of David Foster Wallace: When the novelist learned to escape his own mind, he got a little closer to the greatness he sought. (RYAN BLOOM NOVEMBER 26, 2012, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: The Blagger's Guide to David Foster Wallace (CATH MURPHY, OCTOBER 4, 2012, Lit Reactor)
    -ESSAY: Wait, David Foster Wallace Didn't Like AC/DC? This Changes Everything (Amos Barshad, February 22, 2012, Grantland)
    -ESSAY: The Afterlife of David Foster Wallace (Jennifer Howard, 1/06/11, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ARCHIVES: "foster wallace" (Rolling Stone)
    -ARCHIVES: David Foster Wallace (ABC News)
    -ARCHIVES: David Foster Wallace (The Guardian)
    -VIDEO ARCHIVES: Charlie Rose interviews David Foster Wallace
    -ARCHIVES: David Foster Wallace (Harpers)
    -ARCHIVES: David Foster Wallace (NY Times)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: King of Pain (Algis Valiunas, Claremont Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More : a Compact History of Infinity by David Foster Wallace (David Papineau, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Michael Harris, Notices of AMS) [pdf]
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Adam Mars-Jones, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Anne K. Yoder, Pop Matters)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Andy Battaglia, AV Club)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (A. W. Moore, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Kyle McCarthy, LA Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (George Johnson, Discover)
    -REVIEW: of everything and More (Rudy Rucker, Science) [pdf]
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (James Ley, Sydney Morning Herald)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Polly Shulman, National Book Critics' Circle)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Dennis Lim, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Quarterly Conversation)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Dick Teresi, NY Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Everthing and More (Hansjörg Geiges , Times Higher Ed Supplement)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Jeffrey Severs, Texas Monthly)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Chris Cowell Shah, Slashdot)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Chad Orzel, Science Blogs)
    -REVIEW: of Everything and More (Angie Drobnic Holan, Metro Times)
    -REVIEW: of everything and More (Matt Ramirez, Pulp)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Divine Drudgery (Jonathan Raban, MAY 12, 2011, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: David Foster Wallace, Traditionalist? Considering ‘Both Flesh and Not: Essays’ : The writer’s posthumous collection of essays might be stylistically experimental, but it betrays a traditionalist at heart. (Daily Beast
    -REVIEW: of The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (Adam Plunkett, N+1)
    -REVIEW: of Pale King (Michael Sayeau, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Pale King (James Lasdun, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Pale King (Paul Constant, The Stranger)
    -REVIEW: of Pale King (Tim Martin, The Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Both Flesh and Not Flesh by David Foster Wallace (Mark O'Connell, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by DT Max (Benjamin Markovits, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Every Story (ZSUZSI GARTNER, The Globe and Mail)
    -REVIEW: of Every Story (Christian Lorentzen, London Review of Books)

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