APPRECIATION: On David Foster Wallace’s Birthday, Here are Five of his Remarkable Essays – on State Fairs, 9/11 and More

David Foster Wallace’s would have turned 54 today, February 21.  Wallace, who took his own life at age 46, is best remembered for his innovative, postmodern 1996 novel Infinite Jest -- and lately, for last year’s movie The End of the Tour, an affecting story of a journalist’s travels with Wallace on his Infinite Jest book tour.

In addition to being one of his generation's most acclaimed fiction writers, Wallace was an insightful and wry essayist, who explored subjects ranging from the pigs and corn dogs at the Illinois State Fair to the nation's response to 9/11.

To mark his birthday, here are five of his best works of non-fiction.

                                                                       --Noah Benjamin-Pollak

"A Ticket to the Fair" [PDF] – a gonzo-style, minute-by-minute journey through a surprisingly traumatizing trip to the Illinois State Fair

"9/11: The View from the Midwest" – a detailed-to-the-point-of-seeming-prosaic dispatch from the heartland after the Sept. 11 attacks, including an obsessive search for American flags

"Federer as Religious Experience" – an appreciation of a brilliant athlete at the height of his powers

"Host: Deep into the Mercenary World of Take-No-Prisoners Political Talk Radio" – a look inside the studio and mind of right-wing talk radio host John Ziegler

“Shipping Out: On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise” [PDF] – a brilliant meditation on traveling by cruise ship, which was for Wallace closely tied to thoughts of death