My Favorite Words — David Foster Wallace

atkins-bookshelf-wordsDavid Foster Wallace (1962-2008) was an American author of novels (characterized as being cerebral, nuanced, and encyclopedic; rich in irony and ridicule) and professor of English and creative writing at Emerson College, Illinois State University, and Pomona College. Although he wrote many essays and award-winning short stories, he is best known for his three novels: The Broom of the System (1987), Infinite Jest (1996), and The Pale King (posthumously in 2011). Despite its intimidating length (1,000 pages with 388 endnotes), Time magazine included Infinite Jest in its list of All-TIME 100 Novels (100 of the best English-language novels published since 1923). In an interview, Wallace expressed that the function of fiction was to express what it was like to be a human being; he strived to write “morally passionate” fiction to help readers feel less alone. Wallace suffered from depression most of his life and committed suicide in 2008, at the age of 46. It is ironic and prescient that he chose the word “troubled” when asked about his favorite word many years earlier:

“That’s an interesting question. Sometimes a word will come up over and over again when I’m enthralled with the word. The word ‘troubled,’ meaning emotionally unstable, or unhappy, came up over a hundred times when I wrote The Broom of the System, and I wrote that when I was in high school.”

Read related posts: My Favorite Words – Robert Ludlum
My Favorite Words – Simon Winchester
My Favorite Words – Steven Pinker

For further reading: Favorite Words of Famous People by Lewis Frumkes, Marion Street Press (2011)

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