Tuesday, August 25, 2009



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David Foster Wallace may have understood the modern American better than any writer of our time. His suicide in September of 2008 stunned his friends and fans. Wallace was a master at capturing the way we think, feel and live, and his books and essays conveyed an intimacy that made a lot of people feel like Wallace was a friend they'd never met. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge we celebrate the life and work of the late David Foster Wallace.


Salon book critic Laura Miller explains why David Foster Wallace was the most important writer of his generation. Wallace became a literary rock star in his thirties for the novel "Infinite Jest." Time Magazine later included it on its list of "All Time 100 Greatest Novels." When Wallace committed suicide in September 2008 his fans grieved, wrote tributes, and began to speculate about rumors of an unfinished novel. Journalist DT Max tells Steve Paulson about the novel's discovery, Wallace's creative struggles with "The Pale King," and the novel's subject - boredom. Also, an interview with David Foster Wallace with Steve Paulson from 2004, just after the publication of his short story collection "Oblivion."


Time magazine's book critic Lev Grossman remembers David Foster Wallace, and we present another interview with Wallace in 1996, right after "Infinite Jest" was published. Rolling Stone contributing editor David Lipsky spent a week with Wallace after "Infinite Jest" came out, and was later assigned to cover the writer's life and death. He tells Jim Fleming that Wallace's emotional struggles began again after graduate school. Michael Pietsch was Wallace's editor at Little, Brown starting in the 90s and is currently at work editing the unfinished novel "The Pale King." Pietsch has given us exclusive rights to a passage from the novel, which is read by Chicago actress Carrie Coon.


One of David Foster Wallace's most popular essays is "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," which ran originally in Harper's Magazine. In 1997 he read a bit of the article for us, and talked with Steve Paulson about it. Wallace's Sister Amy Wallace-Havens describes her brother as immensely bright, funny and courageous. She tells Anne Strainchamps about growing up with him, and about life without him. Also we have an excerpt from the commencement speech David Foster Wallace gave at Kenyon College in 2005. It was eventually published under the title "This is Water," but it has never before been broadcast.

CD copies are available at 1-800-747-7444. Ask for program number 09-05-24-A.


Books & CDs:

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (Little Brown)

David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (Back Bay Books)

David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster: and Other Essays (Back Bay Books)

Audio Extras:



  • -Everywhere You Turn/ The Bad Plus/ "These are the Vistas"/ Sony
  • -Comfortably Numb/ The Bad Plus/ "For All I Care"/ Head's Up
  • -Reciting the Airships/ Eluvium/ "Copia"/ Temporary Resistance
  • -The Pacifist/ DJ Vadim/" USSR"/ Ninja Tune
  • -Souvenirs; Danced All Night; The Pall Bearers/ "Circus Songs"/ The Tiger Lilies/ Misery Guts Music
  • -Five String Serenade/ Mazzy Star/ So Tonight That I Might See/ Capitol Records
  • -Edge of the World/ Josh Ritter/ "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter"/ Sony BMG
  • - The Long Road/Eddie Vedder/ Sony Entertainment
  • -Dirty Blonde/ The Bad Plus/ "Give"/ Sony Music

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