Episode Description

The Great Concavity (https://twitter.com/ConcavityShow) is inspired by the debate in David
Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.
In this initial episode, we introduce ourselves and talk a little about what a DFW podcast might
entail.

Matt Bucher (https://twitter.com/mattbucher) and David Laird (https://twitter.com/DaveLaird2)
scholars and fans of David Foster Wallace have created the first regular Podcast devoted to
Wallace.

Show Notes
(00:00) - Intro
(01:08) - Matt’s Background
(01:10) - wallace-l (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Pynchon)
(01:55) - Howling Fantods (http://www.thehowlingfantods.com/dfw/)
(02:50) - Thomas Pynchon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Pynchon)
(05:04) - Sideshow Media Group (http://sideshowmediagroup.com)
(05:12) - Elegant Complexity
(05:12) - Nature’s Nightmare (http://www.amazon.com/Natures-Nightmare-Analyzing-WallacesOblivion/dp/098893051X/)
(13:02) - Academic Papers
(14:21) - Dave’s Background
(14:55) - The Ogopogo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogopogo)
(15:10) - Infinite Jest/Molly Notkin/Joelle van Dyne
(17.30) - Roberto Bolano (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Bolaño)
(18:51) - Don DeLillo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_DeLillo)
(20:00) - Chris Adrian/McSweeney’s (http://www.mcsweeneys.net)
(21:45) - Cormac McCarthy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cormac_McCarthy)
(24:00) - The Pale King/ Chris Fogel
(26:48) - Jonathan Lethem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Lethem)
(29:34) - First Annual DFW conference
(36:48) - Special Thanks

People Mentioned
David Foster Wallace (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Foster_Wallace)
Nick Maniatis (https://twitter.com/nick_maniatis)
Thomas Pynchon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Pynchon)
John Bucher (http://johnbucher.org/)
Greg Carlisle (http://www.amazon.com/Natures-Nightmare-Analyzing-WallacesOblivion/dp/098893051X/)
David Hering (http://www.amazon.com/Consider-David-Foster-Wallace-Critical/dp/0976146576/)
Cormac Mcarthy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cormac_McCarthy)

Don DeLillo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_DeLillo)
Roberto Bolano (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Bolaño)
Jonathan Franzen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Franzen)
George Saunders (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Saunders)
Jeffrey Eugenides (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Eugenides)
William T. Vollmann (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_T._Vollmann)
Rick Moody (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Moody)
Chris Adrian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Adrian)
Adam Levin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Levin)
Beth Nugent (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beth_Nugent)
Larry McCaffery (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_McCaffery)
Jonathan Lethem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Lethem)
William Faulkner (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Faulkner)
John Updike (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Updike)
DAVE
Well, Welcome everybody to the first episode of The Great Concavity. So, were talking about
conversations around David Foster Wallace - that is - his literature, biography stuff, interesting
news, and things like that. So, the plan, hopefully, is to have some kind of bi-weekly or monthly
podcast with news, current events, topics, and interviews with all kinds of fascinating people
(like academics, writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers). Who else, Matt?
MATT
That’s a pretty good start. I mean there is, like, a David Foster Wallace community, right? Like,
at least to me there is, like a group of people that consistently still talk about this stuff and post
about it. And, I think there’ll be a lot of interest about Wallace in the near future because of this
film. So, maybe that will be a topic we will discuss.
DAVE
So Matt, Who are you? For our listeners at home, what’s a bit about Matt Bucher and what are
some of your interests in Wallace?
MATT
My biography is (I feel not that interesting, but) how I am somewhat involved in this is that I am
the administrator of the David Foster list serve, called wallace-l
(https://waste.org/mailman/listinfo/wallace-l) And, I’ve been in that role since 2002. When I first
discovered the David Foster Wallace list serve there wasn’t a lot out there online about Wallace.
It was about 1999/1998 that I discovered this email list and I joined and I loved it. And the other
thing that existed at the time was Howling Fantods (http://www.thehowlingfantods.com/dfw/),
Nick’s site in Australia. So, those two things have been around for a long time, but list serve is
coming up on twenty years, next year, of existing. So, it will be twenty years of those email lists
and some of the same people have been on the list for 20 years. Like I said, I’ve been on it
about fifteen/sixteen years - something like that.
DAVE

So you didn't actually start it?
MATT
That’s correct. I didn’t actually start it. I wrote, like, a little history of it if you would like to read
more about this online. But, it was started by a spin-off group of the Pynchon list (Thomas
Pynchon) and Pynchon just doesn’t write that many books, right? So every few years there
would be some other new novelist that comes along; gets compared to Pynchon and they would
talk about him on the email list. And, when Wallace came out with Infinite Jest there was so
much chatter about Infinite Jest they said, “Why don't you go out and start your own list?” This is
in 1996. So, that’s sort of how that came about.
But me, just a little more about me and I want to get your kind of background in here Dave
because I don't know if a lot of people know anything about either one of us.
DAVE
Yeah. I’m a nobody. So..
MATT
So am I. It’s at waste.org I was gonna say if you want to go and sign up. Good luck finding it.
DAVE
And, also it’s a lower-case ‘L’ not an upper-case ‘L’. So, I’ve always not been sure if it's wallace
‘i’ (capital ‘i’) or lower-case ‘L’. So, thats good to know.
MATT
It’s a rookie mistake, Dave.
It’s Wallace ‘L’. I did the same thing when I first joined. I think I tried to send it to wallace-1; I
wasn’t sure if it was an ‘i’. It didn't work. But, the ‘L’ is for literature. It’s a spinoff of old news
groups that would have literature categories.
DAVE
Right.
Speaking of Thomas Pynchon. I went to the infinite Wallace Conference in Paris at the
Sorbonne and one of the guys gave a talk called Covered in P. And, it was about David Foster
Wallace and Thomas Pynchon. So, like, capital ‘p’ and it was, you know, the funniest title of all
the papers at the conference and everyone got all kinds of laughs out of it.
MATT
That’s a great very provocative title. I’m not sure what it has to do with Pynchon.
DAVE
Well the P is standing for Pynchon. Wallace is covered in Pynchon.

MATT
Oh. OK.
DAVE
Not Urine. I’m not talking about urine. So the word play is quite funny.

MATT
Totally misunderstood that.
DAVE
Yeah, it's easier if you see it in writing versus hear it audibly.
MATT
Ok. Covered in P. Got it
So, I was just gonna say a little more about my background. I also have some involvement in
this community with my kind of side business with my older brother John and our company
Sideshow Media Group (http://sideshowmediagroup.com). And, we’ve published several books
on Wallace - including Greg Carlisle’s Elegant Complexity and his book on Oblivion called
Nature’s Nightmare. And the book edited by David Hering called Consider David Foster
Wallace.
DAVE
Yes. I have that on my book table.
MATT
I got involved in that because we had done some books before but I had always wanted to do
something on Wallace and Greg had already written this book in 2005/2006 and really couldn't
find a publisher for it. And, at the time - ten years ago - there was not the same market for, you
know, kind of ancillary critical works on David Foster Wallace. And, Greg was ready to just give
up and not publish it. And, I said, “Woah. Woah. Woah. We’ll find a way to make this work
because I think there’ll be an audience for it.” And, since then as a reader’s guide to Infinite Jest
it's been, you know, very successful. And, when his book on Oblivion came out I wrote an
interview on Nick’s site (thehowlingfantods.com) kind of, like, trashing the traditional publishers
who I think should have embraced this idea ten years about. And now Bloomsbury has, like,
fifteen books on Wallace out. And, Bloomsbury I felt like would have done it ten years ago.

DAVE
Right. Interesting. That book, Elegant Complexity, is, like, practically the size of Infinite Jest, eh?

MATT
It’s 500 and something pages.
DAVE
It is so, so big. I haven’t had a chance to read it.
MATT
We’re talking about, right now, maybe in the next year or two we’re going to do a new edition of
it. And, we might try to slim it down a little bit, but I think that’s actually as selling point of it. It’s
as long as it needs to be.
DAVE
Yeah. And, like, this is a comprehensive book.
And, you're located where, Matt?
MATT
I live in Austin, TX
DAVE
That’s a nice little detail for Wallace fans because of the Ransom Center archive.
MATT
Yeah, lucky for me I moved here before that Wallace archive existed.
DAVE
So, you're one of the cool kids
MATT
It sounds bad, right
DAVE
Yeah, thats great. The hipster Wallace fan.
MATT
Right.
DAVE

I have not had the chance to get there, yet. But, in the very near future I’d like to.
There was kind of, like, (at the Paris conference) almost like a geologic posturing of those who
had been to the archive and those who hadn’t; it was kind of like this badge that people were
like, “I’ve seen the archive [inaudible].” It was kind of funny.
MATT
That’s interesting.
DAVE
Yeah.
MATT
You know, I think it’s really valuable, but I also think most of it could be digitized - made
available online. I don't know if that'll ever happen but there’s chunks of it that already are
available online.
DAVE
Yeah, that would be a very nice development for students who are either, like, can’t get funding
from their school to go there or just, like, don’t have the time in their schedule to travel to Austin
for a week or whatever. They can do it from the comfort of their own homes.
MATT
Yeah, what’s become the real use of it is almost, like, a religious pilgrimage. Where the Ransom
Center probably hates this, but there’s people who want to go in there and just handle his books
and papers. And they can. The Ransom Center is publicly funded - partially by the University of
Texas, which is funded by the State of tax payers. So they do allow people to go in and view
things. There are some off limits things. You can’t hold the Gutenberg Bible they have. But,
most of the archives are working academic archives and you can go in there and get the
orientation video and sign, you know, sign the papers and go and request his books and
examine them. And, that is for some people, especially real hard core fans, thats almost, like, a
religious experience. And, that’s hard for some academics to take because academic’s job is
partly to be detached and to cold and critical and not exuberant.
DAVE
Yeah, the dispassionate objectivity.
MATT
Yeah, so that doesn't really mesh up with fans who are really just in awe of the fact that they're
holding a handwritten page of Infinite Jest. It’s hard to detach, for some people, and say, “I’m
just gonna be a cold critical eye here and look for marginalia. There are plenty of other people
who want to just say, “wow”. To me, this is the most, you know, valuable book in my life or most
prominent book in my life and now I’m holding the original draft of it. That’s a pretty cool thing.

DAVE
Yeah, totally. And, I get a sense too, from Wallace scholars, that I’ve met at conferences and
stuff that they’re basically just, like, huge fans and then because of that they, you know, are like,
“Well, I can do some academic stuff with this too. Which is great because it piggybacks into
what I’m really interested in.
Is that a sense that you sort of get as well?
MATT
Yeah. I think theres a lot of that. It’s about half and half. I think there’s half that are not that way.
I think there’s half that are, you know, American literature scholars and they're doing Jonathan
Franzen next week and Don DeLillo this week and David Foster Wallace next week. And, its just
another stop in their tour. And then, I think there are others who are exactly what you’re are
saying - who are huge fans and are lifers and this is their bread and butter. But, I don't have a
great sense of it.
DAVE
What is your, sort of academic background? So, you're in publishing. What is your sort of..How
did you get into literature, and maybe Wallace specifically?
MATT
Well, I don't have much of an academic background. I went to the University of Denver for
Undergrad and we did have a good creative writing program there. And we had a lot of good
PhD. students in Creative Writing. It’s one of the few schools which you can get a PhD. in
Creative Writing. And, so, we had writers coming in there all the time and there was one writer
in particular who I think introduced me to Wallace. And, it was my teacher, this woman named
Beth Nugent, and if you haven't read her she’s phenomenal. I think she only has two books out
that I know of but they're phenomenal books. And, she (to her credit) in ’95/’96 had us reading
excerpts of Wallace’s stuff. And, I was slightly impressed but it didn’t make a huge impression
on me until I saw Infinite Jest at the bookstore. So, for me that was a game changer on Wallace
- whenever I bought Infinite Jest in ’97 or so. And then, after that I moved to New York City and
worked in college publishing there at Columbia and NYU. So, I mean I was on the fringes of
academia. I would go to academia, like, I would go to academic conferences but as an exhibitor
selling books. Almost as a bookseller and publisher.
DAVE
So, you're like a hardcore bibliophile essentially.
MATT
Pretty much.
DAVE
You have also presented academic papers at conferences as well.

MATT
A couple. A couple. And, I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again. It’s such torture, man. The writing of
them, like,
DAVE
Yeah. It’s pretty rough.
MATT
I have total respect for people who do it but it is really difficult to write an academic paper. It’s
really stressful to me.

DAVE
Yeah. Yeah, it kind of opens you up to this level of scrutiny that you don't really experience a lot
in your regular life because everyone just feels like everyone is just silently deconstructing you
as you're reading it.
In my experience, I’ve only actually presented one academic paper at a conference and that
was at the second annual David Foster Wallace conference that we met at recently, in May.
And, that was my first conference paper. So, it was somewhat terrifying, but the response was
awesome. And, I think the Wallace community is super cool and super friendly. I just made lots
of friends after I gave my paper. It was great. I had all these people wanting to talk to me about
Walter [inaudible] cause I made, like, a very brief one off reference to him in my paper. And
then, that sort of, just oddly opened the flood gates for conversation. That was the thing that
people wanted to talk about. So, I thought that was quite fun.
MATT
What about you?
DAVE
So, a bit about me. Matt, you're down in Austin, Texas. I’m up in Kelowna, B.C. Canada. So
most of you listeners probably have never heard of this place. So, it’s close to Vancouver. It’s
about four hours east of Vancouver. The Olympics were there in 2010. So, like, you’ve probably
heard of Vancouver by now, hopefully. Kelowna is kind of like an orchard-y, like, vineyard-kindof-place (100,000 people- 150,000 people). Some famous things Kelowna is known for is we
have this mythological lake monster called the Ogopogo, which is also a palindrome - you can
spell it the same backwards as forwards, which is pretty rad.
So, I mentioned orchards. There’s like, all kinds of apple orchards and stuff. I was just going
through Infinite Jest the other day for my masters thesis research and there’s a part in it where
Joelle van Dyne (she’s at Molly Notkin’s party) and she references British Columbia apple juice
as quote, “extra sweet Canadian juice to be pretty much her and Joelle’s biggest vices” “the kind
it looks muddy it’s so fresh”. And then it's described as “Matte” like, matte-colored as well, this
particular apple juice. And, I mean, that’s saying quite a lot. Joelle is more addicted to this

muddy apple juice than her vice, you know when she goes to have too much fun in the
bathroom. But anyways, that juice is probably from my city or the surrounding area. Fun little
fact.
MATT
I don’t remember that part of the book.
DAVE
Yeah, it’s pretty obscure. It’s on page 228. I didn’t memorize that. I pre-wrote it down before this
recording. It just struck me as ‘yeah, thats something cool I can talk about’; that Wallace fans
might remember.
In terms of career, I’m actually a high school Humanities teacher. I’ve been teaching for about
seven years in both campuses and, also, the school I teach for has a big online school in B.C.
so I teach for them. And, I teach things like English and Socials and Media studies and a bit of
Theology stuff. Right out of high school, I did one semester of business which was definitely not
my realm. But my dad was, like, a business guy. So he’s like ‘you should go in Business.’ and I
was like, ‘OK’. And then, I did a year of Theology in [inaudible] school in California. And then, I
did my degree here at UBC, which is the University of British Columbia- Okanagan. They have a
little satellite campus here. And I did a History major/English minor and then and Education
degree right after that. Then after teaching for five or six years I decided to go back and do a
MA. So, I’m back doing that now and I had to upgrade to an English major. So, I had to do four
undergrad courses and then I could register for the MA. So, that’s where I’m at now. I’m almost
done. So, I’m just working on my thesis which is on Infinite Jest and Theology. So, that is sort of
the academic stuff that I do with Wallace.
Matt, what are some other let’s say authors that you're interested in, that you might kind of
relate to Wallace. What are some books that you've been reading that you might be able to
make comparisons to.
MATT
I don’t know if anyone really compares to him extremely well, but me personally I have an
interest in the writer Roberto Bolano and I have a website that I update, somewhat sporadically
about Bolano. And, he also doesn’t compare well to too many other people except for his books
are lengthy. I read a lot and it’s hard for me to put things into categories and group things
together very well. But, basically anyone that comes out and is compared to Wallace, I’m going
to give them a look. So, book marketers and publishers use that a lot as ‘Oh this guys the next
Wallace’ or ‘This is like Infinite Jest’ and I’ll at least take a look at anyone compared with him.
And in that group of people that he had, I probably have an opinion on all those people:
Saunders, Franzen, Eugenides, Vollmann, Rick Moody - all those guys I have an opinion about
them, but I don't know. What about you?
DAVE
The way that I got into Wallace was through Don DeLillo, And so, I kind of, in my twenties, didn’t
give fiction a lot of attention. I was mostly interested in non-fiction stuff. But, then I read White
Noise in a third year American lit. class and I was like, ‘Oh wow, I need to read more of the
books that are like this.’ So, that sent me kind of on a trajectory. And, mostly I did a lot of

research on, like, Amazon. People who bought White Noise also bought this book. And, almost
through doing a lot of that; kind of like rabbit-holing on Amazon I started writing down lots of
books that looked interesting. And, then I had a really good friend who was quite into American
lit. So, he was kind of like ‘You should read this as well…and this…and this.’ So, I read Infinite
Jest for the first time in 2007. So, about eight years ago now. So, I was pretty far behind the
curve in terms of it coming out in 1996.
MATT
Nah.
DAVE
No? Not too far behind the curve?
MATT
Nah. No you’re not too far.
DAVE
I’m a David Foster Wallace Poser.
MATT
No. No, no, no. no. I don’t want you to ever think that. Don’t ever say that about anyone.
DAVE
No. No. I was totally just kidding.
Yeah, Chris Adrian’s a writer that I really like, out of San Fransisco, he’s published some stuff
through McSweeney’s (http://www.mcsweeneys.net). And, I tend to like a lot of the
McSweeney’s novels that they publish.
Adam Levin is another guy that I really like. The instructions is a book that he wrote; also by
McSweeney’s. And his book gets compared to Wallace because his book, The Instructions, is
properly massive. Like, it’s well over a thousand pages. Have you had a chance to check that
one out at all.
MATT
You know - we discussed this earlier - I have not read it. I have read the Chris Adrian stuff, but
I’ve got that on my list now of thousand-page-people. So that’s one I remember it coming out
and it was a massive book; like a phone book size. It’s just a huge book. And, my friend had it at
his house and, like, I would take it off the shelf and just look at it and be like ‘Wow. This thing is
huge. I should read some of it.’ And, I read a couple pages. I don't remember any of it. So I
really need to go back to that book.
DAVE

It looks like an Oxford English dictionary in terms of size. It’s actually way lighter than Infinite
Jest; for whatever reason, the composition of the pages is lighter. But it is way bigger looking
than Infinite Jest, but it's actually a lot of a faster read. There’s no footnotes. You're not flipping
back and forth. So, it is actually a pretty quick read considering how large it is. But, I love it - I
would say it’s probably in my top-3 favorite novels. It’s so, so funny and engaging. It’s worth
checking out.
Cormac McCarthy, I like a lot.
MATT
He’s great. Of course.
DAVE
I teach English 11 and I did The Road with my class (This was a few years ago). Which was a
bit of a risk in terms of like, ‘Hey Parents, here’s this really dark book that I’m going to read with
your kids. I hope that’s cool.’ but it went over quite well. Students, generally, liked it quite a lot.
And, teaching literature at that level - I kind of prefaced the course by quoting from Wallace,
from the McCaffery interview (the 51% pain/49% pleasure ratio that he talks about with high art.
Where commercial art is 100% pleasure) as a touchstone throughout the course. And, kids after
the road were like, ‘You just gave us a book that’s 100% pain, and like 0% pleasure. So,
where’s that true?’ So that was funny. It’s very bleak but I think there’s some very beautiful,
redemptive imagery in it as well. But, yeah it's not for the faint of heart.

MATT
I like it. I don’t think it’s his best work. For me, I really like The Crossing. I don’t know if you've
read that book. Blood Meridian and the Crossing- that’s about as good as it gets.
DAVE

Yeah, Blood Meridian is just wild.
MATT
I highly recommend it. It’s part of that boarder trilogy where the Crossing Cities of The Plain and
All The Pretty Horses. Of all of those, I really like The Crossing and it starts out with one of the
best sequences of this guy taking a wolf back to Mexico. I really think that part of it in particular
is maybe the best thing McCarthy’s done. I mean, Blood Meridian is fantastic to me but it’s also
like, so gruesome toward the end. There’s so much - I feel like - sensationalism in it.
DAVE
Yeah, pornographic violence almost.
MATT

There’s that one line in it where it talks about a native American getting his head quartered.
Like, he gets shot in the head and it says “….his head is quartered”. You can see like one fourth
this guys map just get totally erased.
DAVE
So, Matt you also gave a paper at the conference that was Theologically geared. What was the
title of your paper, again?
MATT
I forgot about that. My paper was about the part of The Pale King that I call the Fogel Novella
(section 22) about a character named Chris Fogel and his sort of conversion to the IRS. And,
he’s a guy who converts sort of from a life of being a wastoid into being a tax examiner working
for the IRS. And, I thought it was one of the most interesting things Wallace has written. Like,
why is he interested in this, you know, sort of Christian conversion narrative of a guy who has
sinned and done bad and now he’s gonna go straight and do right? Why is he writing so much
about this guys life story and life history? Why is he sort of playing around with that in this book?
I found it interesting because it means this book is not really about boredom and tax and this
stuff that it appears to be at the surface. I think it’s about something deeper than that. And, it’s
about being an adult and going straight and being a responsible citizen and how do you really
live a life like that. What does life mean? That’s what I was trying to write about.
DAVE
And you do some really interesting comparisons with St. Paul and this character, Chris Fogel.
MATT
Yeah, I thought Paul’s conversion story was really interesting because he saw this very bright
light and then he also heard this loud voice and that’s what convinced him to give up his ways of
persecuting his church and become a follower of Jesus. But, really it was the sound that
convinced him to convert and the same thing happened in pre-literate society they relied on
sound and talking and voice. They didn’t rely on people reading a book to convert to religion,
and this idea of sermons and preaching was really important, really, to the spread of religion
and Christianity, as we know it, up until really the 20th century. And, in the 19th century and
18th century, you know, sermons were how they converted people. So, I think it's important in
the book Fogel is giving, sort of, a testimony and what converts him is listening to someone
else’s sermon (actually from a Jesuit priest who is a substitute teacher at his college).
DAVE
Yeah, and that’s, like, one of the best scenes in Pale King. It’s so interesting
MATT
Now, Dave your paper was about Chronic City. Is that right?
DAVE

Yeah, it was about Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City and sort of the influence or the shadow of
David Foster Wallace in that book. If you've read that book..people who’ve read that book, it
takes place in this kind of, like, weird futurist..well not futurist but just, like, bizarre Manhattan
and there’s this, like, ubiquitous chocolate smell and this, like, fog that just sticks around forever.
Everyone’s lives are very much based upon appearance and there’s just all these really wacky
and weird things going on in that book. But, there’s a novelist characters talk about called Ralph
Warden Meeker in that book and then they go on to describe his gargantuan novel Obstinate
Dust. So, it’s a pretty heavy-handed Wallace reference. And, then the way they describe the
book is like a brick of pages, as a big novel, and all all this other stuff. It’s quite funny and then
there’s this artist in the book - in Chronic city - called Laird Noteless. And, he makes this huge
art installation in Manhattan, called (not the Great Concavity but) Urban Fjord. And so, like, the
protagonist takes this book Obstinate Dust and he goes and sees..he goes and stands at the
edge of this, essentially, it’s a big garbage dump; people have, like, thrown their waste into it.
So, it’s kind of, like, signaling the Great Concavity - kind of idea. And, so he’s sick of this book
and how big it is and he’s lugging it around everywhere. So he throws it into the Urban Fjord
and, like, almost dislocates his shoulder in the process. It’s, like, this really funny kind of meta
thing of, like, the death of the author and throwing this thing into the concavity. It’s all very meta
and all that kind of stuff.
So my paper was just unpacking that but then also making the point that there are these kind of
hopeful moments. Particularly, around this one architectural object of a church pyre in
Manhattan and how the characters living in this world of simulation, simulacrum, he, kind of, has
these moment of authenticity all based around this object. So I’m kind of making the argument
that, like, theres some kind of, maybe, possible alignment between Lethem’s literary ethos and
some of the stuff we see in Wallace in terms of, like, Wallace calling for a generation of literary
rebels who will, like, care about single [inaudible] principles and stuff like that. So it’s a bit, like,
paratextual in some senses, but that was kind of the main gist of my paper at the conference.
So, Matt you were there last year at the conference in 2014? The first annual.
MATT
Right. In 2014, it was the first annual David Foster Wallace conference in Bloomington, IL. And,
I wasn’t sure what to expect but I definitely wanted to go and check it out. So, I went and I had a
great time in terms of meeting new people, meeting people who I had met only online before.
And, it was a really interesting conference because it was a mix of academic people who were
undergrads, grad students, people who were not students at all and just interested in Wallace.
So, I think that sort of dynamic is, somewhat, rare. A lot of obscure single author conferences
don’t attract a ton of public or even fans. There are some, like, it doesn't compare it with
something like William Faulkner who has a huge conference every year and there’s tour buses
full of people touring his childhood home and stuff. But, that sort of canonization happened
pretty quickly and Faulkner was not a huge hero, you know, immediately upon his death the way
Wallace was. It will be interesting to see how Wallace turns out. There might well come a time
when there are tours of his childhood home or statues of him, and that has happened say with
John Updike. The John Updike Society actually purchased, recently, Updike’s childhood home.
And, they are in the process of restoring it, and I assume there will be tours, and they do have
an annual conference. So, there is some precedent for this. I think it's rare just that Wallace has
such cultural cache and cultural awareness of people are way more interested in him. It seems
that Wallace still matters a lot more than John Updike or even Faulkner, maybe.
DAVE

And, like, you’re seeing a lot of David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest references in pop culture
these days, as well. I think that kind of speaks to the urgency or the relevancy of people really
are caring a lot about David Foster Wallace at present. You know, The Simpsons episode on
the cruse ship; you see Wallace in the background in his tuxedo t-shirt kind of thing. There’s a tv
show called The Affair, that came out last year. There’s a scene where, like, just these teachers
in this room that are, kind of, on probation, or whatever. One guy’s reading Infinite Jest and then
the protagonist comes in and they’re taking about this books. And, he's like “Oh yeah, I tried to
read that, like, two or three times and I could never get through it.” And they have a fairly
extensive conversation about it, you know. Did you see that movie, Liberal Arts?
MATT
No.
DAVE
Ok, so it's set at Kenyon College and..which is obviously significant for Wallace. And, there’s,
like, several scenes where characters talk about this great big book. They never actually flash
the cover or never mention David Foster Wallace, but all the ways that they describe the book;
it’s very clear that’s what they are talking about. So, there’s just, like, (I mean there’s lots of
other examples) like the tv show New Girl and all these other ones where they're mentioning
David Foster Wallace. He’s becoming - yeah like you said - cache ideas, even in pop culture
he’s, kind of, not just, like, a literary figure but also, like, a pop culture figure, as well.
MATT
Yeah, and I think academically someone like Faulkner probably matters a lot more or is a lot
more cited and important to the cannon maybe of American history/American literature. But,
Wallace does matter and is growing in his reputation. So, I think it's important for, you know,
recognizing when academics do take note of him and put on conferences and organize papers
and books around him. That is something that doesn't happen for every author no matter their
age or, you know, how long they've been deceased.
DAVE
Yeah, totally. So you’re experiences at the conferences have been awesome, you would say?
The people have been very cool?
MATT
The people have been very cool and I hope that the conference continues. I really hope that ISU
buys into the conference and sponsors it, you know, for the long term. I don't know if thats true
or not. It seems still a little early in the game; a little precarious after two years that even though
they have had an international conference on their hands and people coming from the UK and
Australia to attend this conference (**Canada). They still don't seem like they've fully invested in
it.
DAVE
Right. Like, I heard some rumors that it might run in LA next year or something, but I don't know
if that’s true.

MATT
I think it’s all just rumors at this point until we know anything, but it would be nice it was in the
same place year after year.
DAVE
Yeah. Yeah, totally.
Yeah so, my experience at the conferences has been totally cool, socially. Everyone that
appears to attend these Wallace Conferences are just very cool, down to earth, interesting
people to talk to. I don't really get the sense that it’s this really competitive academic exercise.
Most people seem to be there just because they're interested and they just want to talk about
Wallace. And, I think that’s quite cool.
I described my experience at the first conference in Paris last year to some of the other
attendees the last night over drinks. To me, it sort of felt like a high school reunion of a bunch of
strangers. And, like, their collective memories rather than, like, being stories from their senior
year where like the collective memories were like scenes from Infinite Jest. And, you know,
were all just reminiscing together and laughing and like, ‘Oh yeah this scene about [inaudible]
and this scene about the [inaudible] tongue scraper ads’ and, like, all that stuff. And it just, like,
it had a very collegial feeling like everyone was on the same team. And, like, everyone just
loves this writing so much and it's been such a formative part of who they are, in a literary sense
(probably also in a personal sense for a lot of people, as well). So, my experiences at those two
conferences have been just very awesome.
MATT
I was gonna say, one thing that’s very different about the 2015 conference is the fact that we
had the film there and we really got a private screening in a great old historic theatre of The End
of the Tour. And, that added a lot - I think - to the conference.
And, we’re about out of time on this show today but I think that’s something we will discuss in
depth on the show later because I’m really curious to get your opinion on the film and what you
think about Jason Segel’s portrayal.
DAVE
Yeah. Yeah, it was very..really interesting to see how he pulled that off.
MATT
Well, that about wraps it up on my end.
DAVE
Cool. Is there anyone that you want to thank, Matt, for supporting you on the first episode of The
Great concavity.
MATT

I want to thank Dave Laird. I want to thank my family and..no I don’t really have anyone. How
about you, Dave?
DAVE
I want to thank my wife Rachel. She actually came up with the idea for this podcast. We were on
a road trip about a month ago and she's like, “Are there any podcasts specifically dedicated to
Wallace?” and I said “No there aren’t. I check iTunes all the time there’s, you know, one off
episodes on, like, Slate and other things about him but there’s no actual dedicated podcast. And
she’s like “Well, you should start it.” I was like, “No. That sounds terrifying. Who am I?”
And,anyway she’s just been really encouraging about it and then I pitched it to you and you
were like, “Yeah, cool. Let’s give it a shot.” So thank you Matt Bucher, as well, for being willing
to try this.
MATT
Thank you, Rachel.
DAVE
Also, I want to thank my friend Aaron Cassidy, who is a podcaster from Kelowna. He has a
board game podcast called Boards Alive. And, he’s been very helpful with just telling me about
technical things about how to do podcasting. So, thanks Aaron.
MATT
Also, a huge thanks to the visual artist Robyn O’neil for allowing us to use her amazing graphiteon-paper piece for our podcast icon - which has the very loquacious, and I dare say, Wallicean
title of These Final Hours Embrace at Last, This is Our Ending, This is Our Past.
You can check out more of her stunning work at her website, (robynoneil.com) as well as get a
sense of her literary proclivities on her very own podcast Me Reading Stuff - on which she
recently read the first piece from Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, entitled a
Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life.
We’re in talks with Robyn about having her on the show soon, as a guest. So, keep your fingers
crossed for that. She is a huge Wallace fan. So, that would be awesome; to have her on.
Thanks again, Robin, for your support for this show as well.
DAVE
And, also a big thanks to the band Parquet Courts for allowing us to use their song, Instant
Disassembly as the intro and outro music - which is from their album Sun Bathing Animal.
If you are an exhibitionist and have any questions, comments, or are just in the mood for some
friendly bander and want to say ‘Hi’ to us, you can get in touch on Twitter at the handle
@ConcavityShow or, if you're a bit more agoraphobically inclined, you can send us an email at
concavityshow@gmail.com

Finally, if you are a hardcore audio-weenie we apologize greatly for what has probably been a
very horrendously recorded episode here. This is a totally DIY endeavor, which has meant me
just watching Audacity tutorials on Youtube and trying to figure out how to do this stuff myself.
So, hopefully this will improve as the show progresses.
So, any last thoughts, Matt?
MATT
No.
DAVE
Ok, great. Well thank you very much for listening to the first episode of the Great Concavity and
if you liked it, and if you feel like it, you can leave a review on iTunes.
Thanks for listening.