I think that's a really intelligent question, but it's also impossible to answer because it assumes that there is some fixed point of judgment that we can steer by and the rest of it will somehow make sense in the light of that.
When a writer is putting everything on the line and has decided that literature is necessary to survival in some sense, then you feel it immediately in the prose, and there's no faking it. It just contains three of four different long stretches of writing that were beyond anything he had done before.
I say that as somebody who knows his work fairly well.
Titled "For me, the effect of gathering Wallace's tennis-themed nonfiction under one cover is a bit like assembling a mirror, one of those segmented mirrors they build and position in space, only this one is pointed at a writer's mind," Sullivan writes. What do you remember about experiencing Wallace's writing for the first time?
I just remember feeling the power, first encountering his work.
In 2005 it was named one of the best English-language novels since 1923 by Time.
Below we’ve gathered some of our favorite quotes from David Foster Wallace, including selections from his fiction, essays and This Is Water, the commencement address he delivered at Kenyon College in 2005. “The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. His assignment was to cover Roger Federer, the virtuosic three-time defending champion of tennis's most prestigious event.Though Wallace was able to finagle only 20 minutes with his subject, he turned in a dazzling meditation on the nature of Federer's kinetic genius and its context within the evolution of the sport.There's the way our tastes evolve as readers over our lives. There are different periods."If you want to write great fiction, if you want to write ambitious fiction, one of the braveries involved in that is that all of your weaknesses and bad habits are going to be on display."When I read [William] Faulkner…there was a great critic, Clifton Fadiman, who hated Faulkner. Did you realize anything or discover anything new about Wallace as you went through all of his tennis writing at once?There are some books that sort of belong to young people, you know? I remember for this introduction I had to write one time, I read all of this guy's negative criticism about Faulkner, and I remember thinking that it was all kind of right. He called "the most consistently boring novel by a reputable writer to come my way during the last decade." I remember reading him and thinking he was totally right about all this stuff. But somehow Faulkner's greatness wasn't touched by it. The thing that struck me first off was how much of it there was.The way you might feel after you turned on some machine that was a little more powerful than you were ready for.I think that's what [Jonathan] Franzen means when he talks about Wallace as a great rhetorical writer.“I do things like get in a taxi and say, ‘The library, and step on it.’” - Infinite Jest (1996) 13. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.” – Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (1999) 14. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting.In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.” - “Up, Simba!’ ‘I give.’ ‘You get someone who stays up all night torturing himself mentally over the question of whether or not there’s a dog.’” - Infinite Jest (1996) 11. where the State is not a team or a code, but a sort of sloppy intersection of desires and fears, where the only public consensus a boy must surrender to is the acknowledged primacy of straight-line pursuing this flat and short-sighted idea of personal happiness.” – Infinite Jest (1996) 15.“You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” – Infinite Jest (1996 12. “If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day.