Good Old Neon (PDF)
David Foster Wallace’s “Good Old Neon” is one of my absolute favorite stories, and I uploaded it here to share with friends. Google crawlers eventually found it, and it became the top hit when you searched for the title — but with no attribution for DFW or the publisher, whose intellectual property I have zero right to. If anyone with the publishing company would like me to take this down, please let me know. As it stands, I hope it encourages more people to seek out his work: the ~1 hour read explores fraudulence and self-doubt in unbelievable detail, and it makes for a great introduction to his broader body of work. This story is the first thing I ever read of his. By the spiraling conclusion, I knew an avalanche was coming. I’ve since devoured virtually everything of Wallace’s, but this remains my favorite.
<SHAMELESS PLUG>If you enjoyed this story, there’s a chance you’d enjoy other stuff I enjoy. On this site, I sometimes do roundups of my favorite books. More frequently, I post film reviews and film festival recaps. Or other miscellaneous writings, short stories, etc.</SHAMELESS PLUG>
“Good Old Neon” appears in Oblivion: Stories. It was written by David Foster Wallace, and published by Little, Brown and Company in 2004. You can buy the excellent book here. Fans of this work should check out his other short-form collections, particularly A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, and Consider the Lobster And Other Essays. This audiobook features Wallace himself narrating a selection of these pieces, which is a real treasure1. Also enjoy his wonderfully tender New Yorker piece, “Good People”, which would eventually find its way into The Pale King. And, of course, Infinite Jest, his sprawling, hipster-defying masterpiece which delves into many of these themes in far more depth.
While I strongly recommend buying and listening to the audiobook in its entirety, two of the standout tracks are available for free on YouTube: Forever Overhead (one of my favorites of his) and This Is Water (a commencement speech which seems to grow more resonant every year). Also featured on the audiobook is Wallace’s narration of “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men — Interview [#20]”, which I would argue is the single closest thematic companion to “Good Old Neon” in Wallace’s catalogue (and no, that one Jon Krasinski monologue in that one Jon Krasinski movie does not do it justice.)↩