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This posthumous volume, appearing in the wake of D. T. Max's much-discussed biography of Wallace, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story (2012), gathers 15 previously uncollected essays. Six are book reviews, 3 discuss the contemporary state or art of writing, 2 address tennis, and 1 is about Terminator 2. The remainder cover a range of Wallace's wide-eyed, isn't it weird we take things like ad space at the U.S. Open for granted subjects and scarily astute criticism. Published originally between 1988 and 2007, these essays demonstrate Wallace's interdisciplinary approach to both pop culture and abstruse academic discourse. For instance, his formal training in symbolic logic informs his opinion of two, in-his-opinion awful, math novels, Philibert Schogt's The Wild Numbers (2000) and Apostolos Doxiadis' Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture (2000), while his familiarity with the actual life and cranium-crunching philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein lends perspective to his appreciation of David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress (1988). For Wallace devotees, these essays are required reading. For everyone else, they're sometimes tough to get into but entirely worth the exertion.--Baez, Diego Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Each essay in this volume of previously uncollected nonfiction is a gem in its own DFW way. The topics are diverse yet representative of Wallace's primary interests, ranging from an entry titled "The (as it were) Seminal Importance of Terminator 2" to "Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young," a piece written in the eighties about American youth culture, television, and an emergent generation of pop-obsessed American novelists. Like so much of Wallace's work, "Conspicuously Young" picks apart an ephemeral cultural moment with great discernment, yet still manages to stand up well decades after publication. There are, of course, deeply informed-yet still deeply pleasurable-nods to theoretical math, Wittgenstein as literature, and tennis as well as Wallace's concerns regarding the perils of consumer culture. The overall effect of this collection is to remind us again just how expansive and talented a writer Wallace was, an author capable of producing profound essays around seemingly mundane details scattered amid the American cultural fabric. VERDICT This book is for all readers of contemporary nonfiction as well as serious fans of Wallace's work.-Jim Hahn, Univ. of Illinois Lib., Urbana (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Now that Wallace's unfinished novel The Pale King has been published posthumously, the inevitable trawl of his uncollected writings may begin in earnest and, as is the case here, it will inevitably yield both dingers and duds. His writings on subjects ranging from the U.S. Open to Zbigniew Herbert, the AIDS virus to Terminator 2, display, yet again, Wallace's genuine and infectious love for obsessive human endeavors as disparate as pro tennis, analytic philosophy, and pure math. However, for all the gems, a few essays are simply too slight to merit inclusion, while others such as "Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young" have the sort of precociously earnest tone that makes one wonder how happy Wallace would have been about their inclusion. Despite this, the opening essay "Federer Both Flesh And Not" by itself is worth the price of admission. If to that one adds "The Nature of the Fun" (his essay on writing fiction) and "Deciderization 2007-A Special Report" (his introduction to The Best American Essays 2007), the collection already beats most competitors hands down. There is a rare pleasure in reading Wallace at his best. As he writes of Roger Federer: "Genius is not replicable. Inspiration, though, is contagious and multiform." (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.