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Best Essays Of 2007

25 Great Articles and Essays by David Foster Wallace

A complete collection of DFW's nonfiction articles and essays

Words and Writing

Tense Present

Perhaps the finest review of an English usage dictionary - this classic essay touches on everything from race bias in academia and the evolution of language to the pros and cons on non-standard English.

Deciderization 2007

Why just about every important word on The Best American Essays 2007's front cover turns out to be vague, debatable, slippery, disingenuous, or else 'true' only in certain contexts.

Laughing With Kafka

"For me, a signal frustration in trying to read Kafka with students is that it is next to impossible to get them to see that Kafka is funny."

The Nature of the Fun

"A book-in-progress is a kind of hideously damaged infant that follows the writer around wanting love, wanting the very thing its hideousness guarantees it'll get: the writer's complete attention."

Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young

"The honeymoon's end between the literary Establishment and the contemporary young writer was an inevitable and foreseeable consequence of the same shameless hype that led to many journeyman writers' premature elevation in the first place."

E unibus pluram: television and U.S. fiction

"Fiction writers as a species tend to be oglers. They tend to lurk and to stare. The minute fiction writers stop moving, they start lurking, and stare. They are born watchers."

Grammar Lessons

The late great DFW on Grammar

What Words Really Mean

An excerpt from Twenty Four Word Notes

Films, Music and The Media

FX Porn

A fascintating reflection on the inverse relationship between the amount of special effects used in a film and the quality of the story.

David Lynch Keeps His Head

DFW hangs around on the set of Lost Highway and dissects the greatness of America's most distinctive director.


Riding shotgun with a political talk radio shock jock.

Signifying Rappers

"Rap, whether fecund or sterile, is today's pop music's lone cutting edge, the new, the unfamiliar, the brain- resisted-while-body-boogies. And that alien, exhilarating cutting edge has always been black."

Big Red Son

Each year, between one and two dozen adult US males are admitted to ERs after having castrated themselves...

See also...

15 Great Essays by Joan Didion

Essential essays from the master of the form

15 Great Articles by Tom Wolfe

Classic reads from a journalistic pioneer

12 Great Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan

Essays by one of the best in the business

7 Great Essays by Zadie Smith

Amazing reads by a great essayist/novelist


Shipping Out

"On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise"

Ticket to the Fair

Gorge yourself on corn dogs, gape at terrifying rides, savor the odor of pigs, trade unpleasantries with tattooed carnies, and admire the loveliness of cows.

Consider the Lobster

A trip to the Maine Lobster Festival raises some unnerving questions about the relationship between people and animals.


The Capital T Truth

Wallace's 2005 Kenyon College commencement address: a stark but hopeful perspective on life's fundamental questions.

Hail the Returning Dragon, Clothed in New Fire

On sex, AIDS, love, danger and romance.

Why Didn't Video Phones Take Off?

Technically this extract from Infinite Jest is fiction, but it still says a lot about the real world.


The String Theory

"An obsessive inquiry into the physics and metaphysics of tennis."

Federer as Religious Experience

Wallace's hypnotic prose opens up the world of top-flight tennis, and arguably its greatest exponent.

Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes

I grew up inside vectors, lines and lines athwart lines, grids - and, on the scale of horizons, broad curving lines of geographic force.


The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and The Shrub

Slumming it with the press corps as they follow John McCain during his failed bid for the republican presidential nomination.

9/11: The View From the Midwest

"Suddenly everbody has flags out; big flags, small flags, regular flag-size flags."

Just Asking

Are some things still worth dying for?


A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

Between them, these collections cover all of DFW's best nonfiction, including a lots of classic essays that are unavailable online.

How do series work?

To create a series or add a work to it, go to a "work" page. The "Common Knowledge" section now includes a "Series" field. Enter the name of the series to add the book to it.

Works can belong to more than one series. In some cases, as with Chronicles of Narnia, disagreements about order necessitate the creation of more than one series.

Tip: If the series has an order, add a number or other descriptor in parenthesis after the series title (eg., "Chronicles of Prydain (book 1)"). By default, it sorts by the number, or alphabetically if there is no number. If you want to force a particular order, use the | character to divide the number and the descriptor. So, "(0|prequel)" sorts by 0 under the label "prequel."

What isn't a series?

Series was designed to cover groups of books generally understood as such (see Wikipedia: Book series). Like many concepts in the book world, "series" is a somewhat fluid and contested notion. A good rule of thumb is that series have a conventional name and are intentional creations, on the part of the author or publisher. For now, avoid forcing the issue with mere "lists" of works possessing an arbitrary shared characteristic, such as relating to a particular place. Avoid series that cross authors, unless the authors were or became aware of the series identification (eg., avoid lumping Jane Austen with her continuators).

Also avoid publisher series, unless the publisher has a true monopoly over the "works" in question. So, the Dummies guides are a series of works. But the Loeb Classical Library is a series of editions, not of works.