Eminent Americans
Eminent Americans
Where Be Your DFW Lit-Bros Now?
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Where Be Your DFW Lit-Bros Now?

The world's #1 David Foster Wallace fan and I discuss DFW Bros, Lauren Oyler, Patricia Lockwood, and the community of hardcore DFW fans that orients around the Wallace-L listserv.
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Reading list:

"On Not Reading DFW," by Amy Hungerford
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"We’ve learned from D. T. Max’s biography of David Foster Wallace, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, that the author of Infinite Jest enjoyed 'audience pussy. That was his friend and sometime lover Mary Karr’s term for the hookups that Wallace’s Infinite Jest book tour made possible. This chapter’s argument is inspired by this admittedly prurient detail of Wallace’s life."
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My guest on this episode of the podcast is Matt Bucher. Matt is the founding president of the International David Foster Wallace Society and the managing editor of the Journal of David Foster Wallace Studies. Since 2002, he's been in charge of the David Foster Wallace listserv, Wallace-L. He's organizing the 2024 David Foster Wallace Conference, which is being hosted in Austin, Texas, where we both live. And he’s the co-host of The Concavity Show, a podcast about literature that often touches on Wallace and Wallace-related themes.

His writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Electric Literature, the Dublin Review of Books, the Austin Chronicle, and other places. His first novel, The Belan Deck, is out now.

He’s on the show to talk about—wait for it—David Foster Wallace (DFW) related matters. In particular, I wanted to talk about two things. One is the world of hardcore DFW enthusiasts, the people who populate the listerv, attend the conferences, read and contribute to the journal, etc. What are the contours of this world, who are the major players, what are the key themes? And is there a certain kind of person who Wallace has an especially intense effect on?

The other thing I wanted to talk about is the discourse around so-called DFW Bros, and the connected discourse around Wallace’s personal history of exploitative and in some cases abusive treatment of women. Is the DFW Bro a real thing? If so, is Matt not just a bro but the ultimate bro? If not, why has the concept become a real thing? What is it standing in for? Also, how much should we care, as readers of Wallace, about his record of treating women badly?

You may notice that this episode of the podcast is considerably longer than previous episodes. This is because after we’d recorded what I thought was the episode, a new and much buzzed-about essay about Wallace was published in the London Review of Books, and I felt like I would remiss in my podcasterly duties if I didn’t hop back on the line with Matt to discuss it. So we did, which pushed the length of the podcast to over 2 hours, which would be too long except that it’s all pretty so interesting (scout’s honor).

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Eminent Americans
Eminent Americans
Eminent Americans is a newsletter and occasional podcast about the writers and public intellectuals who either are key players in the American intellectual scene or who typify an important aspect of it. So people like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Wesley Yang, Elizabeth Bruenig, Ross Douthat, Nikole Hannah Jones, Jia Tolentino, Freddie Deboer, Rod Dreher, Ibram Kendi, Ezra Klein, Bari Weiss, the Red Scare podcast hosts, Andrew Sullivan, etc.
Although the newsletter will touch on the political and intellectual issues that concern these folks, the focus is less the topics than the people — their backstories, what drives them, how they’ve evolved, who cares the most about them, what role they play in the larger ecosystem, and what trends do they embody or influence.
In one sense, then, it’s a rather meta concept. It’s an intellectual (me) talking about other intellectuals in their roles as intellectuals, and occasionally doing in conversation with yet more intellectuals. From another angle, it’s simply an attempt to investigate and describe the contemporary American scene through and with the people who constitute it.