David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books


Columbia University Press


What do we value? Why do we value it? And in a neoliberal age, can morality ever displace money as the primary means of defining value? These are the questions that drove David Foster Wallace, a writer widely credited with changing the face of contemporary fiction and moving it beyond an emotionless postmodern irony. Jeffrey Severs argues in David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books that Wallace was also deeply engaged with the social, political, and economic issues of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A rebellious economic thinker, Wallace satirized the deforming effects of money, questioned the logic of the monetary system, and saw the world through the lens of value’s many hidden and untapped meanings. In original readings of all of Wallace’s fiction, from The Broom of the System and Infinite Jest to his story collections and The Pale King, Severs reveals Wallace to be a thoroughly political writer whose works provide an often surreal history of financial crises and economic policies.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Severs

I study postmodern and contemporary U.S. fiction, with a special interest in Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, and John Edgar Wideman. I co-edited (with Christopher Leise) Pynchon’s Against the Day: A Corrupted Pilgrim’s Guide (U of Delaware P, 2011), and my book, David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books: Fictions of Value, will be published by Columbia University Press in 2016. My articles, on subjects ranging from Barack Obama and Philip Roth to Breaking Bad, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Jonathan Lethem, have been published or are forthcoming in Critique, Modern Fiction Studies, Twentieth-Century Literature, MELUS, Studies in American Fiction, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, and several edited collections.

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