David Foster Wallace, lowbrow hero

posted by Jason Kottke Sep 15, 2009

David Foster Wallace may eventually become more well-known for his non-fiction, not the novels he struggled so mightily to perfect.

Because if this is the way it all shakes out, DFW, instead of having to ride the stock exchange of literary taste in dead white male novelists, will find himself in a distinguished little nook of odd artists who labored to produce highbrow work — but who sort of ass-backwardsly won permanent and inarguable fame in lower-browed fields.

Some quick examples include C.S. Lewis ("Chronicles of Narnia"), A.A. Milne ("Winnie the Pooh"), and Roald Dahl ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"), who considered themselves, respectively, a theologian, playwright, and fiction writer, but who ended up as brilliant children's fabulists. There's Theodore Geisel, who chose a silly pen name like "Dr. Seuss" because he wanted to reserve his given name for the Great American Novel he had in him. One Arthur Sullivan composed the music for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" among other bombasts, but is chiefly remembered nowadays, along with his impish partner Gilbert, for his musically innovative spoof operas.