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David Foster Wallace was a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine from 1996 to 2008.
His first story for the magazine was “Everything Is Green,” from Girl with Curious Hair (1989). Five other short stories of his were published in the magazine, among them “Rabbit Resurrected” (August 1992), a parody of John Updike’s “Rabbit” series; “The Awakening of My Interest in Annual Systems” (September 1993), an excerpt from Infinite Jest that ran three years before the novel was published; and “The Compliance Branch” (February 2008), an excerpt from his unfinished, final novel, The Pale King (2011).
Wallace also wrote four works of nonfiction for the magazine: “Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes: A Midwestern boyhood” (December 1991); “Ticket to the Fair” (July 1994), which was a finalist for the National Magazine Award in feature writing; “Shipping Out: On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise” (January 1996), later published as the title piece in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (“It was very clear to us that we had pure cocaine on our hands,” Harper’s editor Colin Harrison later said of the article); and “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage” (April 2001).
Wallace died on September 12, 2008. During his life, he received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and three O. Henry Awards, among others. He was named to the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language in 1999, and in 2005 Infinite Jest was named one of the best one hundred English-language novels since 1923 by Time magazine. The Pale King was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, but lost, in a three-way tie, to nothing.
Democracy, English, and the wars over usage
On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise
A Midwestern boyhood
Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.
Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith
© 2012 Harper’s Magazine. Photograph (detail) © Benjamin Lowy