93 David Foster Wallace Quotes from American Novelist

David Foster Wallace was an American novelist, short-story writer and essayist known for his dense, satirical analysis of American culture.

Born in 1962, he was the son of a philosophy professor and an English teacher. He published his debut novel,

The Broom of the System, in 1987 while completing a master’s at the University of Arizona.

He later taught creative writing and received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 1997.


His most famous work, Infinite Jest (1996), is a massive, multilayered novel featuring a wide cast of postmodern characters and a futuristic world dominated by advertising and consumerism.

Wallace also wrote acclaimed nonfiction works, short stories and essays. He suffered from depression and ultimately took his own life in 2008.

Posthumously, his unfinished novel The Pale King (2011) and a third collection of nonfiction, Both Flesh and Not (2012), were published.

Below are some of the best quotes by David Foster Wallace.

Best David Foster Wallace Quotes


The point of books is to combat loneliness. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Truly decent, innocent people can be taxing to be around. ~ David Foster Wallace.


No single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Most of us will still take nihilism over neanderthalism. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Good writing isn’t a science. It’s an art, and the horizon is infinite. You can always get better. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Life is like tennis. Those who serve best usually win. ~ David Foster Wallace.


It’s weird to feel like you miss someone you’re not even sure you know. ~ David Foster Wallace.


I think it’s easy to stop smoking; it’s just hard not to commit a felony after you stop. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Look, man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? ~ David Foster Wallace.


There is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. ~ David Foster Wallace.

What the really great artists do is they’re entirely themselves. They’re entirely themselves, they’ve got their own vision, they have their own way of fracturing reality, and if it’s authentic and true, you will feel it in your nerve endings. ~ David Foster Wallace.

The integrity of my sleep has been forever compromised, sir. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Do not underestimate objects. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Psychotics, say what you want about them, tend to make the first move. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Nothing brings you together like a common enemy. ~ David Foster Wallace.

What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant. ~ David Foster Wallace.


I wish you way more than luck. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Acceptance is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else. ~ David Foster Wallace.

I have filled 3 Mead notebooks trying to figure out whether it was Them or Just Me. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Entertainment provides relief. Art provokes engagement. ~ David Foster Wallace.

That everything is on fire, slow fire, and we’re all less than a million breaths away from an oblivion more total than we can even bring ourselves to even try to imagine… ~ David Foster Wallace.

You’ll stop worrying what others think about you when you realize how seldom they do. ~ David Foster Wallace.

To experience commitment as the loss of options, a type of death, the death of childhood’s limitless possibility, of the flattery of choice without duress-this will happen, mark me. Childhood’s end. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Whatever you get paid attention for is never what you think is most important about yourself. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Famous David Foster Wallace Quotes

I’m not afraid of new things. I’m just afraid of feeling alone even when there’s somebody else there. I’m afraid of feeling bad. Maybe that’s selfish, but it’s the way I feel. ~ David Foster Wallace.

It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase. ~ David Foster Wallace.

I perhaps could have been somewhat better. One of the interesting things about playing competitive sports as a child is that you confront your own limitations rather starkly at a certain point. ~ David Foster Wallace.

I do things like get in a taxi and say, “The library, and step on it. ~ David Foster Wallace.

I don’t think writers are any smarter than other people. I think they may be more compelling in their stupidity, or in their confusion. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else. ~ David Foster Wallace.

In fact, the likeliest reason why so many of us care so little about politics is that modern politicians makes us sad, hurt us deep down in ways that are hard even to name, much less talk about. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Scenery is here. Wish you were beautiful. ~ David Foster Wallace.

In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Great David Foster Wallace Quotes

The great thing about irony is that it splits things apart, gets up above them so we can see the flaws and hypocrisies and duplicates. ~ David Foster Wallace.


The parts of me that used to think I was different or smarter or whatever, almost made me die. ~ David Foster Wallace.

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.

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.

How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words. ~ David Foster Wallace.

You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship. ~ David Foster Wallace.

It’s probably hard to feel any sort of Romantic spiritual connection to nature when you have to make your living from it. ~ David Foster Wallace.


The interesting thing is why we’re so desperate for this anesthetic against loneliness. ~ David Foster Wallace.

True heroism is minutes, hours, weeks, year upon year of the quiet, precise, judicious exercise of probity and care – with no one there to see or cheer. This is the world. ~ David Foster Wallace.

The severing of an established connection is exponentially more painful than the rejection of an attempted connection. ~ David Foster Wallace.

I often think I can see it in myself and in other young writers, this desperate desire to please coupled with a kind of hostility to the reader. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Wise David Foster Wallace Quotes

If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. ~ David Foster Wallace.

He suddenly felt nothing, or rather Nothing, a pre-tornadic stillness of zero sensation, as if he were the very space he occupied. ~ David Foster Wallace.


This diagnosis can be done in about two lines. It doesn’t engage anybody. ~ David Foster Wallace.

The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you. ~ David Foster Wallace.

American experience seems to suggest that people are virtually unlimited in their need to give themselves away, on various levels. Some just prefer to do it in secret. ~ David Foster Wallace.

The entire ball game, in terms of both the exam and life, was what you gave attention to vs. what you willed yourself to not. ~ David Foster Wallace.

To be willing to sort of die in order to move the reader, somehow. Even now I’m scared about how sappy this’ll look in print, saying this. ~ David Foster Wallace.

The job of the first eight pages is not to have the reader want to throw the book at the wall, during the first eight pages. ~ David Foster Wallace.

She took a sort of abject pride in her mercilessness toward herself. ~ David Foster Wallace.


If you’ve never wept and want to, have a child. ~ David Foster Wallace.

The depressed person was in terrible and unceasing pain, and the impossibility of sharing or articulating this pain was itself a component of the pain and a contributing factor in its essential horror. ~ David Foster Wallace.

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Top David Foster Wallace Quotes

I had kind of a midlife crisis at twenty which probably doesn’t augur well for my longevity. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Lucky people develop a relationship with a certain kind of art that becomes spiritual, almost religious, and doesn’t mean, you know, church stuff, but it means you’re just never the same. ~ David Foster Wallace.

It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. ~ David Foster Wallace.

I’d tell you all you want and more, if the sounds I made could be what you hear. ~ David Foster Wallace.

It’s in the democratic citizen’s nature to be like a leaf that doesn’t believe in the tree it’s part of. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. ~ David Foster Wallace.


We are not dead but asleep, dreaming of ourselves. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Fiction becomes a weird way to countenance yourself and to tell the truth instead of being a way to escape yourself or present yourself in a way you figure you will be maximally likable. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Pleasure becomes a value, a teleological end in itself. It’s probably more Western than U.S. per se. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Mediocrity is contextual. ~ David Foster Wallace.

If Realism called it like it saw it, Metafiction simply called it as it saw itself seeing itself see it. ~ David Foster Wallace.

There is no hatred in my love for you. Only a sadness I feel all the more strongly for my inability to explain or describe it. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Profound David Foster Wallace Quotes

Every love story is a ghost story. ~ David Foster Wallace.

You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do. ~ David Foster Wallace.


Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still. ~ David Foster Wallace.

You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. That is real freedom. That is being educated and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race. ~ David Foster Wallace.

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.

Perhaps this is what it means to go mad: to be emptied and to be aware of the emptiness. ~ David Foster Wallace.

I believe I want adult sanity, which seems to me the only unalloyed form of heroism available today. ~ David Foster Wallace.

We’re not keen on the idea of the story sharing its valence with the reader. But the reader’s own life outside the story changes the story. ~ David Foster Wallace.

The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the ‘Oh how banal.’ ~ David Foster Wallace.


Stay conscious and alive, day in and day out. ~ David Foster Wallace.

My personal belief is that because technology and economic logic has gotten so sophisticated, cruelties can be perpetrated now that would have been unimaginable two or three hundred years ago. ~ David Foster Wallace.

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.

What TV is extremely good at – and realize that this is ‘all it does’ – is discerning what large numbers of people think they want, and supplying it. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Deep David Foster Wallace Quotes

You are what you love. No? You are, completely and only, what you would die for without, as you say, the thinking twice. ~ David Foster Wallace.

So yo then man what’s your story? ~ David Foster Wallace.


Fiction is about what it is to be a human being. ~ David Foster Wallace.

I love the way you love, but I hate the way I’m supposed to love you back. ~ David Foster Wallace.

I don’t want to hurt myself. I want to stop hurting. ~ David Foster Wallace.

Please learn the pragmatics of expressing fear: sometimes words that seem to express really invoke. This can be tricky. ~ David Foster Wallace.

So these were the 93 top David Foster Wallace quotes on life, love and depression.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Rachel Carson quotes and Richard Dawkins quotes.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar