Two pieces, published in Harper's, would become some of the most famous pieces of journalism of the past decade and a half. Colin Harrison, Wallace's editor at Harper's, had the idea to outfit him with a notebook and push him into perfectly American places — the Illinois State Fair, a Caribbean cruise. The cruise-ship piece ran in January 1996, a month before David's novel [Infinite Jest] was published. People photocopied it, faxed it to each other, read it over the phone. When people tell you they're fans of David Foster Wallace, what they're often telling you is that they've read the cruise-ship piece.
A squelch of feedback on a loudspeaker brings the official press Welcome & Briefing to order. It's dull. The words "excited," "proud," and "opportunity" are used repeatedly. Ms. Illinois County Fairs, tiara bolted to the tallest coiffure I've ever seen (bun atop bun, multiple layers, a ziggurat of hair), is proudly excited to have the opportunity to present two corporate guys, sweating freely in suits, who report the excited pride of McDonalds and Wal-Mart to have the opportunity to be this year's corporate sponsors.
Monday, the first and only File and Feed in Michigan, is also the day of Rolling Stone's introduction to the Cellular Waltz, one of the most striking natural formations of the Trail. There's a huge empty lobbylike space you have to pass through to get from the Riverfront's side doors back to the area where the F&F and bathrooms are. It takes a long time to traverse this space, a hundred yards of nothing but flagstone walls and plaques with the sad pretentious names of the Riverfront's banquet halls and conference rooms — the Oak Room, the Windsor Room — but on return from the OTS now out here are also half a dozen different members of the F&F Room's press, each fifty feet away from any of the others, for privacy, and all walking in idle counterclockwise circles with a cell-phone to their ear. These little orbits are the Cellular Waltz, which is probably the digital equivalent of doodling or picking at yourself as you talk on a regular landline. There's something oddly lovely about the Waltz's different circles here, which are of various diameters and stride-lengths and rates of rotation but are all identically counterclockwise and telephonic. We three slow down a bit to watch; you couldn't not. From above, like if there were a mezzanine, the Waltzes would look like the cogs of some strange, diffuse machine. Frank C. says he can tell by their faces something's up. Jim C. says what's interesting is that media south of the equator do the exact same Cellular Waltz but that down there all their circles are reversed.
"So at that point," says his sister Amy, with an edge in her voice, it was determined, 'Oh, well, gosh, we've made so much pharmaceutical progress in the last two decades that I'm sure we can find something that can knock out that pesky depression without all these side effects.' They had no idea that it was the only thing that was keeping him alive."
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