Garn Press Author Geoff Ward Discusses the Life and Works of David Foster Wallace

“How can one live?” Geoff Ward says is the central question David Foster Wallace explores in his writing.  He explains, “Wallace’s work urges us to pay passionate attention to life and to risk empathy with others.”

Geoff argues that in Wallace’s fiction “irony is the enemy and a once useful tool that is now ubiquitous and empty, coopted by TV and crass entertainment,” while “authenticity and sincerity have receded from our sight but must be recovered somehow.”

In the audio Wallace says, “those of us who write partly as a subject about popular culture are I think doing something important.” He talks of writing “to wake people up to the fact our experience is weird now. There’s something weird and thrice removed from the real world about it and a lot of us don’t realize it.” He stresses, “What is at stake – in many ways – what is at stake is human agency about how we experience the world.”

At Garn Press we agree with David Foster Wallace and it is for this reason that we published You’re Not Dead – Geoff Ward’s brilliant novel. Like Wallace, Geoff’s writing also urges us to pay passionate attention to life and to risk empathy with others. Geoff takes “the weird” in popular culture and encourages us to wake up to the dangerous ways in which we are being coopted. He shakes us, albeit gently, into becoming more critically conscious of the multiple ways in which we are losing agency in the ways in which we live in the world, and he encourages us to get it back.

You’re not Dead is a great story with a profound message. Listening to the audio made by Geoff on David Foster Wallace and following it with a great Charlie Rose interview of David Foster Wallace creates an opportunity to gain a greater understanding not only of Wallace’s thinking and writing but also that of Geoff Ward.

About Author Geoff Ward

Geoff Ward is the author of the fantasy novel You’re Not Dead, the first in the trilogy The Midnight Books.  He is known more formally as Professor Geoffrey Ward, the renowned literary critic and Principal of Homerton College at the University of Cambridge.

Geoff Ward has taught and published on English and American literature in Europe, the USA and Japan. He has written the first study of the New York School of Poets, Statutes of Liberty (1993/2001) among other books and essays. A Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, he has written and presented documentaries on American writers for BBC Radio, and has published several collections of poetry, including Worry Dream (2013). He is currently Principal of Homerton College, University of Cambridge.

About You’re Not Dead: The Midnight Books Volume One

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You’re Not Dead is a darkly comic fantasy, with elements of romance. The hero Miles Proctor is a young college lecturer, on the trail of the last remaining copy of a notorious Victorian book. Transmutations: The Book of Magic is an occult treatise, which claims to be not merely about Magic, but about how to perform spells and become adept at enchantment.

A series of hilarious accidents takes Miles to New York, California and Death Valley before he finally locates it. By this time he has begun a romance with Becky Morrell, bookseller and co-traveller. On reading the book Miles finds that it has the property of appearing to change its words, each time it is read. He develops his own occult skills, including the ability to alter events, and to travel to the destinations pictured in photographs by focussing on the photograph.

However a presence from beyond, a murderous (if comic) Glaswegian gangster trapped in limbo, begins to invade his consciousness in search of the book as a means to escaping his own twilight zone. Miles’ adventures lead him back into the past and the mysteries of his father’s double life. Miles has joined a coven of magicians in London who discover that he is working more for himself than for the benefit of their capers, which include the quest for an ancient amulet with the power to buy time, but even as they attempt revenge the group comes explosively apart. Weighing in on Miles’ side are a number of supernatural presences, including the ghost of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, but the story still has many surprises in store. Things are not always what they seem, in the worlds of either white or black magic – especially when Miles’ magic manual starts to work in unexpected ways.

You’re Not Dead is the first of the Midnight Books, in which magic, dreams, romance and crime are the ingredients in the fictional spell.


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