In The End of Tour, Jason Segel portrays author David Foster Wallace in what's being hailed as a possible Oscar-worthy performance for the normally goofy actor. The movie is based on the book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by author David Lipsky, which details conversations Lipsky had with Wallace over a five-day period while Wallace was on tour for his most memorable work, the novel Infinite Jest. Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky in the movie, and while he's getting his fair share of praise, it's Segel who really stands out in the film. The actor imbues Wallace with deeply mysterious wisdom, passion, and struggles, and draws very strong comparisons to the real-life author, who committed suicide in 2008. Anyone who's seen the movie can't help but be drawn in by Segal's performance, and if they're anything like I am, they'll find themselves more curious about Wallace's work after having seen the film. But if you're unfamiliar with his work, picking which David Foster Wallace books to read might be a bit overwhelming.
Regardless of what you choose, you certainly won't be alone in your curiosity. Wallace clearly had hordes of devoted fans before the film, but The End of the Tour is sure to inspire an uptick in interest. If you're a Wallace newcomer, start with these seven works:
I might as well begin here. When anyone mentions David Foster Wallace, my thoughts immediately turn to the gargantuan book that has become both a symbol of pompous snobbery and one of the most genius literary works of all time.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
The title story in this collection of essays chronicles Wallace's distaste for the manufactured "fun" he's supposed to be having on a seven-day Caribbean cruise, while other works are critical of other society fun-makers like television and state fairs. Although it may be a bit painful to see things I enjoy torn down, it's always good to see things from another point of view.
Consider The Lobster
Being from Maine originally, I've eaten my fair share of lobster in my day, so do I really want to read an essay that delves into the ethics of boiling an animal alive, complete with theories on what said animal might feel? Not really, but I'd like to see what it says just because of the controversy it caused. I'd also really love to hear about Wallace's experiences at the AVN Awards (a porn awards ceremony) in "Big Red Son" and aboard John McCain's campaign tour bus in "Up, Simba", which are two of the other essays in this collection.
The Broom Of The System
Wallace's first novel is mostly dialogue and deals with a woman questioning her own reality. Sounds good to me.
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
I love short story collections, and that's what this book is. The title story was so beloved by The Office's John Krasinski that he made it into a film, which I somewhat shamefully admit intrigues me more (I'm that one guy who usually favors the film adaptations of stories to the book versions).
If there's one thing Wallace and I have in common, it's a love of tennis (though he, having been a nationally ranked junior player, is much more of an authority on the subject than I am). This collection features five essays about tennis, including one about the divinity of Roger Federer.
Everything And More
Admittedly, a book about math seems like a bad time, but the idea of Wallace exploring mankind's limits in our struggle to understand the concept of infinity is fascinating. I mean, I'll probably pop a couple Aleve before reading it, but I still say it'll be fascinating.
Check out these seven books after you see The End of the Tour, because trust me — you won't be able to get enough of Wallace and his work.
Images: A24 Films; Little, Brown (4); Viking Press; Hachette; W.W Norton