25 David Foster Wallace Quotes From The Philosophical American Author
August 10, 2022 5:00 AM EST
David Foster Wallace was an American author.
He wrote several novels, short stories, and essays.
He was also a university professor of English and creative writing.
David came from a family of academics.
His father taught philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and his mother was an English professor at Parkland College.
In 1985 David graduated from Amherst College, his father’s alma mater, with a degree in English and philosophy.
He used his honors thesis for English, as the manuscript of his first novel, The Broom of the System.
Wallace earned a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at the University of Arizona in 1987.
He would end up teaching at several colleges and universities over the course of his career.
What was David Foster Wallace like outside of academics?
Well, If you have seen pictures of David Foster Wallace, you will have noticed that he always wore a bandana.
If you have wondered why he always wore a bandana, the answer has to do with his insecurity over his “heavy sweating.”
He had a lifelong struggle with depression and addiction, which contributed to his death.
That makes these quotes from David Foster Wallace about loneliness even more poignant.
Keep reading to learn more about his life.
Don’t forget to also check out these J.R.R. Tolkien quotes to help you climb out of life’s hole.
Check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily inspiration.
Explore our complete collection of motivational quotes here.
Best David Foster Wallace quotes on depression, loneliness, and more
1. “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.” ― David Foster Wallace
2. “Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” ― David Foster Wallace
3. “The interesting thing is why we’re so desperate for this anesthetic against loneliness.” ― David Foster Wallace
You will also enjoy our article on Their Eyes Were Watching God quotes.
4. “Sarcasm and jokes were often the bottle in which clinical depressives sent out their most plangent screams for someone to care and help them.” ― David Foster Wallace
5. “We’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we’ve never even met?” ― David Foster Wallace
6. “Lonely people tend, rather, to be lonely because they decline to bear the psychic costs of being around other humans. They are allergic to people. People affect them too strongly.” ― David Foster Wallace
7. “It’s a very American illness, the idea of giving yourself away entirely to the idea of working in order to achieve some sort of brass ring that usually involves people feeling some way about you—I mean, people wonder why we walk around feeling alienated and lonely and stressed out.” ― David Foster Wallace
8. “We all suffer alone in the real world. True empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with their own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple.” ― David Foster Wallace
9. “There’s a kind of Ah-ha! Somebody at least for a moment feels about something or sees something the way that I do. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s these brief flashes or flames, but I get that sometimes. I feel unalone—intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. I feel human and unalone and that I’m in a deep, significant conversation with another consciousness in fiction and poetry in a way that I don’t with other art.” ― David Foster Wallace
10. “Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties—all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion—these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.” ― David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace quotes about freedom, truth, and time
11. “Logical validity is not a guarantee of truth.” ― David Foster Wallace
12. “The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” ― David Foster Wallace
13. “Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.” ― David Foster Wallace
14. “I’d like to be the sort of person who can enjoy things at the time, instead of having to go back in my head and enjoy them.” ― David Foster Wallace
15. “There are no choices without personal freedom, Buckeroo. It’s not us who are dead inside. These things you find so weak and contemptible in us—these are just the hazards of being free.” ― David Foster Wallace
16. “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” ― David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace quotes for everyday life
17. “Every love story is a ghost story.” ― David Foster Wallace
18. “Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you.” ― David Foster Wallace
19. “It is often more fun to want something than to have it.” ― David Foster Wallace
20. “That no single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable.” ― David Foster Wallace
21. “I’d tell you all you want and more if the sounds I made could be what you hear.” ― David Foster Wallace
22. “The parts of me that used to think I was different or smarter or whatever, almost made me die.” ― David Foster Wallace
23. “You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” ― David Foster Wallace
24. “Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.” ― David Foster Wallace
25. “To be, in a word, unborable… It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.” ― David Foster Wallace
What did you learn from these David Foster Wallace quotes?
Wallace’s battle with depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicidal tendencies led to several hospitalizations.
At one point in 1989, he spent four weeks at McLean Hospital—a psychiatric institute in Belmont, Massachusetts.
While there he successfully finished a drug and alcohol detox program, which he would later say changed his life.
He had a volatile relationship with Mary Karr in the early 1990s that resulted in allegations of abuse.
He would later marry Karen L. Green in December 2004.
Wallace’s novel The Pale King, which was nominated for a Pulitzer, was published posthumously.
Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times wrote that The Pale King “showcases [Wallace’s] embrace of discontinuity; his fascination with both the meta and the microscopic, postmodern pyrotechnics and old-fashioned storytelling; and his ongoing interest in contemporary America’s obsession with self-gratification and entertainment.”
He was a talented and troubled man who impacted the literary world and if you haven’t read one of his novels, you should pick one up!
If you are already a fan, share your favorite novel in the comment section below, along with any other favorite David Foster Wallace quotes and sayings.