The writing of David Foster Wallace transformed the root and branch of contemporary fiction, introducing a formal inventiveness that moved authors away from an emotionless postmodern irony. Critics have pointed to Wallace's exploration of morality and a return to sincerity as the central concerns of his work. However, as Jeffrey Severs argues in David Foster Wallace's Balancing Books, the author was also deeply engaged with the social, political, and economic issues of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A rebellious economic thinker, Wallace not only satirized the deforming effects of money but also questioned the logic of the monetary system. In his original readings of all of Wallace's fiction, from The Broom of the System and Infinite Jest to the story collections and The Pale King, Severs reveals Wallace to be a thoroughly political writer whose works provide an often surreal history of financial crises and neoliberal policies.
As Severs demonstrates, balance and value are crucial to the work of Wallace, who constantly asks us to consider what we value and why. The concept of value is where his major interests intersected: economics, work, metaphysics, mathematics, and morality. Severs also details how Wallace's writing explores the quest for balance in a world of excess and entropy. Wallace showed characters struggling to place two feet on the ground and restlessly sought to balance the books of a chaotic culture. Explaining why Wallace's work has galvanized a new phase in contemporary global literature, Severs draws connections to key forerunners Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, and William Gaddis, as well as successors-including Dave Eggers, Teddy Wayne, Jonathan Lethem, and Zadie Smith-interpreting Wallace's legacy in terms of finance, the gift, and office life.