David Foster Wallace on American Consumer Culture


I recently watched some interviews of David Foster Wallace. It’s fascinating to hear him speak. He’s a deeply intelligent, neurotic, and sentimental man.

My favorite parts are when DFW talks about American consumer culture. He describes the US as “one enormous engine and temple of self-gratification,” which works very well in growing the economy but doesn’t nourish other parts of people.

For young people in America, there are very mixed messages from the culture. There’s a streak of moralism in American life that extols the virtues of being grown up and having a family and being a responsible citizen. But there’s also the sense of do what you want, gratify your appetite because when I’m a corporation, appealing to the parts of you that are selfish and self-centered and want to have fun all the time, is the best way to sell you things…[This is one more example of] the American economic and cultural systems that work very well in terms of selling people products and keeping the economy thriving do not work as well when it comes to educating children or helping us help each other know how to live and to be happy.