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The Rewriting of David Foster Wallace

Nobody owns David Foster Wallace anymore. In the seven years since his suicide, he’s slipped out of the hands of those who knew him, and those who read him in his lifetime, and into the cultural maelstrom, which has flattened him. He has become a character, an icon, and in some circles a saint. A writer who courted contradiction and paradox, who could come on as a curmudgeon and a scold, who emerged from an avant-garde tradition and never retreated into conventional realism, he has been reduced to a wisdom-dispensing sage on the one hand and shorthand for the Writer As Tortured Soul on the other. 

For someone who has long loved Wallace’s writing, as I have, one of the ironies of this shift is that, whether he intended to or not, Wallace started the process himself. First, he embarked on a series of publicity campaigns in which he performed his self-conscious disdain and fear of publicity campaigns, a martyr to the market culture and entertainment industry he was satirizing in his books. Then there was a treacly commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005 that became a viral sensation and later, a few months after his death, a cute, one-sentence-per-page inspirational pamphlet, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, About Living a Compassionate Life. And now comes a bromantic biopic, The End of the Tour, starring Jason Segel as Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as David Lipsky, the novelist Rolling Stone sent to write a (later abandoned) profile of Wallace in 1996. The movie’s theme is the bullshit-ness of literary fame — which Wallace, the permanently unsatisfied overachiever, nonetheless craved (not to mention it might get him laid, which he also thought would be a phony achievement). The movie is based on Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, the book of transcripts Lipsky published in 2010. And since much of its dialogue is transferred directly from the tapes, it does have a claim on the authentic Wallace.

None of this is entirely new; Wallace has always been an unstable commodity. »

E.L. James Encounters Twitter Users’ Singular Taste for Trolling

Like many a celeb before her, E.L. James launched a promotional Twitter Q&A on Monday without quite realizing how many people there dislike her work. James likely intended #AskELJames as publicity for her new Fifty Shades of Grey spinoff, but the hashtag was quickly overtaken by accusations that her books promoted stalking and sexual abuse and were poorly written, to boot. It's almost like, deep within James's psyche, was an unspoken desire to be ... punished.

How the Back to the Future Cast and Crew Knew Eric Stoltz Would Be Fired

As any true Back to the Future fan knows, Michael J. Fox was not the first actor cast as Marty McFly. That honor went to Eric Stoltz, at the time an up-and-coming young method actor with significant buzz. Only a few weeks into filming, director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale realized something was wrong: Stoltz was a fine dramatic actor, but he wasn't bringing the screwball energy the film needed. They came to the studio head Sid Sheinberg with a proposition: Let them fire Stoltz, and replace him with Fox, whom they had wanted all along. Sheinberg agreed, but the transition couldn't take place right away — Stoltz was forced to labor on, unaware his days as Marty were numbered. In this exclusive excerpt from Caseen Gaines's new book, We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy, the people behind the film reveal what those odd few weeks on set were like.


Uh-oh, Here’s Chuck Palahniuk Reading a Children’s Version of Fight Club

In the hopes of introducing Fight Club to a younger generation of readers and viewers, the crew at Mashable teamed up with the always-sinewy Chuck Palahniuk to make Fight Club Horsing Around Club 4 Kids. In the video here, the author gives a reading of the punchy children's book and gets really into it. (We are all now Joe's/Jack's Ruined Childhood.) The book's unfortunately not real, per se, but if you need a Palahniuk fix, he did help make Fight Club 2 in comic form, and he has a book of short stories out — which features the wonderful and equally decadent "Zombies."

  • Posted 6/21/15 at 10:49 PM
  • Ama

Here Are the Best Answers From Aziz Ansari’s Reddit AMA

Aziz Ansari really wants you to buy his new book, Modern Romance, so he did the only reasonable thing there was to do and participated this weekend in a heavily anecdotal Reddit AMA session. There was lots to talk about, including dating, little Aziz, his new Netflix show, pasta, his cousin, his dad, and Parks and Recreation (RIP). Unfortunately, the online powwow was cut a little short, but Ansari didn't disappoint. Here are some of his best AMA gems:

Check 'em out. »

  • Posted 6/20/15 at 12:01 PM
  • Obits

Acclaimed Writer James Salter Is Dead at 90

James Salter, the highly acclaimed but never commercially popular writer, has died at 90, the New York Times reports. Salter chronicled the ennui of postwar America and the often toxic nature of masculinity, from his debut novel The Hunters (1956) to his controversial classic A Sport and a Pastime (1967), a sensuous sylph of a novel that Salter’s publishers viewed as being akin to “a pair of dirty socks,” to the Salter-scripted Robert Redford film Downhill Racer (1969) and the PEN/Faulkner-winning collection Dusk and Other Stories.


The 12 Best Stories, From Stephen Colbert to Amy Schumer, in Judd Apatow’s Book Sick in the Head

Judd Apatow has been interviewing comedians since his days as a Syosset High School sophomore, when he had his own radio show and got to sit down with budding legends like Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, and Sandra Bernhard. Sick in the Head, out today, is a collection of the interviews he’s been doing since his days as an insecure high school student to his present as a (probably still insecure) comedy mogul. Some interviews were previously published, but there’s a little something for everyone: an oral history of Freaks and Geeks, anecdotes of how he chickened out during an AFI tribute to Mel Brooks, and deep-dives with comedy greats. 


Game of Thrones Season 5 Marks the Point When the Adaptation Debate Consumed the Show

George R.R. Martin wants you to stop emailing him. The Game of Thrones author has been so overwhelmed by fans asking him about the HBO series' changes from his books that this week he posted a missive on his LiveJournal asking everyone to not include him in those discussions. "Wars are breaking out [over the changes]," Martin wrote. "It is not my intention to get involved in those, nor to allow them to take over my blog and website, so please stop emailing me about them, or posting off-topic comments here ... I cannot control what anyone else says or does." 

It was an echo of comments he'd made weeks before when he begged fans to stop talking to him about the way showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were adapting his story. It's hard to blame Martin for feeling exhausted by the topic — from the onset, the fifth season of Game of Thrones has been dominated by meta-discussions over what Benioff and Weiss kept from the books, what they changed, and why. This year, how the writers were adapting the story became the story.


  • Posted 6/12/15 at 1:36 PM
  • Slurs

John Green Knows He Shouldn’t Have Used the ‘R-word’ in Paper Towns

At Vulture Festival last month, author John Green told us that, if he had to do it over again, he'd rely a little less on Walt Whitman's influence for Paper Towns. But that's nothing compared to the regret he feels for using a particular slur in the same book.

A fan on Twitter recently expressed her disappointment that Green deployed the word "retard" in a line in the aforementioned book ("sometimes he’s so retarded that he becomes kind of brilliant," one character says). Green responded:

Ranking All 16 Michael Crichton Novels

When Jurassic World finally roars to life on June 12, it’ll mark the latest emergence of the dinos-run-amok scenario created by Michael Crichton in his 1990 novel Jurassic Park. While that book is probably the author’s most famous work, it’s also just the tip of his high-tech, high-concept, popular-thriller iceberg.


  • Posted 6/10/15 at 9:39 AM
  • Crime

E.L. James’s Christian Grey Manuscript Stolen by Person With Singular Tastes

In a transparent move to be punished as severely as possible, an unknown thief has stolen the manuscript for E.L. James's upcoming Fifty Shades book, Grey, Random House announced Tuesday. According to the BBC, the publisher discovered that a copy of James's manuscript had disappeared and promptly notified the police. The book, a retelling of Fifty Shades of Grey from the perspective of Christian Grey, is out June 18 — Grey's birthday — and Random House reportedly fears the thief will leak the manuscript online before then. Naughty.

Naya Rivera Is Definitely Not Sorry About This ‘Juicy’ Book She Has Coming Out

Glee alumna Naya Rivera has been tweeting the last few days about a book she's not sorry she has coming out. It's aptly called Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up, and it promises to be a page-turner. "So many juicy stories about my life," Rivera tweeted at the beginning of the week. "Glee, guys, growing up & much more." Included among that catchy trio of Gs will be the details of her riches-to-rags-to-riches life story, as well as the challenges of being a mixed-race actress in Hollywood, according to Publishers Weekly. The book will also probably (specifically) discuss what happened behind all her drama involving Big Sean, Lea Michele, and Kim Kardashian, among others. And not in a nice way. The book is one big non-apology, after all — hopefully it will make a little more noise than her similarly non-apologetic single — so the ghostwriter, if there is one, will be in for a treat. Sorry Not Sorry's due out next spring. Start gearing up for the controversy now.

J.K. Rowling Hints at an American Hogwarts

Although she's long finished writing the series, J.K. Rowling seems to delight in dropping ad hoc Harry Potter clues on Twitter. Most recently, the author tweeted about a key plot point in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Main character Newt Scamander will meet American wizards who were educated at an American school of wizardry. In other words, there's an American Hogwarts.


  • Posted 6/9/15 at 2:05 PM
  • Books

See Howard Schatz’s Limited-Edition Photography Collection

Howard Schatz has reached the elite level in an elite field twice over. In his Act One, “I was a retina specialist,” he explains. An M.D. who trained at Johns Hopkins, he published a hundred or so research papers and seven textbooks. It was a career he loved, but one project in 1978 began to tug him in a new direction. “There’s a test called fundus fluorescein” — essentially, a fluorescent dye is injected into the bloodstream, making the capillaries in the eye sharply visible with a filter under UV light — “and I wrote an 800-page book with 1,200 photos about its interpretation. I have a memory for photographic objects, for visual things, and I knew every picture in it, could describe it.” He found that he really took to the technical side of photography, and as an eye doctor may have had a preturnatural affinity for lenses and optics. He also, he says, reveled in the ability to screw up and learn from the experience to improve his art: “In surgery, a mistake could result in a lost eye. Whereas I need to make mistakes as a photographer.”


8 New Offerings From Dead Authors

What Pet Should I Get?, by Dr. Seuss (1904–1991)
Oh, who knows the places you’ll go! The publishers, anyway, are planning a bank trip — Random House ordered a first printing of a million copies for WPSIG, believed to have been created by Seuss between 1958 and 1962 and then discovered, lost, and rediscovered by his widow. It features the kids from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and couplets that — you bet — rhyme pet with get.
July 28, Random House; 48 pages; $18

You’re Finally Going to Learn What Christian’s Inner Goddess Was Doing During Fifty Shades of Grey

There are two sides to every story and every spanking paddle, so E.L. James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, has announced a new version of the first installment in her series, written from the perspective of sexual narcissist Christian Grey; naturally,  it'll be released on his birthday, June 18. Grey, she writes on its first page, is "dedicated to those readers who asked ... and asked ... and asked ... and asked for this." And all we're asking for is that its audio book be recorded by Linda Belcher

Judy Blume Talks Sex and Her New Novel for Adults at BookCon

Jennifer Weiner began her interview with Judy Blume, one of the most anticipated events of this weekend’s BookCon, by telling the children’s author and national sex-explaining treasure, “In big huge letters at the top of my notes it says DON’T CRY. And I’m gonna cry.” But by the end of the talk it was Judy Blume who cried, telling a story that she’d actually left out of her new novel, In the Unlikely Event (her first for adults in 16 years).


  • Posted 5/31/15 at 5:19 PM

Jason Segel Reveals His David Foster Wallace Syllabus at BookCon

When Jason Segel found himself in front of an audience of book-lovers at New York’s BookCon on Sunday, he took the opportunity to discuss his two most bookish projects, which are aimed at very different groups of readers: his YA series Nightmares!, the second book of which will be published in September, and his role as David Foster Wallace in the upcoming biopic The End of the Tour, out in July. 

"Reading Infinite Jest really changed how I view books." »

Aziz Ansari Is Worried About the Sex Lives of Young Japanese and Argentinian Men

Aziz Ansari’s book, Modern Romance (due out in June), will explore how technology — smartphones, texting, social media, online dating, and more — is affecting today’s dating landscape. It’s a topic he’s already explored extensively in his stand-up comedy. So for his book, he decided to come at it from a different angle, partnering with a trained sociologist and consulting studies, holding focus groups, and doing the kind of serious research that’s certainly not present in most books by famous comics. His co-author, Eric Klinenberg, was also on hand for a talk at BookCon this Saturday. Klinenberg is a professor at NYU and the author of Going Solo, a book about the phenomenon of people living alone. The two were matched by their shared publisher, and Klinenberg was pleased to find that working with Ansari had certain advantages over his usual research methods.


The Best Jokes From Nick Offerman and John Hodgman’s BookCon Appearance

BookCon's Nick Offerman–John Hodgman discussion (with special guest Paul Rudd) was a total bro-fest, in the best possible way. The men sat on wooden stumps (or end tables) instead of the nice white couches that were provided and proceeded to joke and joke. After Offerman played two songs ("The Rainbow Song" and "Paddle Your Own Canoe"), Hodgman asked him about his new book, Gumption, which is composed of 21 profiles of people who embody the titular characteristic.

"Sometimes they do that by giving us incredible masturbation techniques which actually got cut from the Eleanor Roosevelt chapter." »


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