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David was one of those eerie, perfect combinations of two parents' skills. The titles of his father's books — Ethical Norms, Particular Cases — have the sound of Wallace short-story titles. The tone of his mother's speaking voice contains echoes of Wallace's writing voice: Her textbook, Practically Painless English, sounds like a Wallace joke. She uses phrases like "perishing hot" for very hot, "snoof" for talking in your sleep, "heave your skeleton" for go to bed. "David and I both owe a huge debt to my mother," says his sister, Amy, two years younger. "She has a way of talking that I've never heard anywhere else."