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Interview with David Foster Wallace
May 5, 2010 2:45 PM   Subscribe

An Interview with David Foster Wallace 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
posted by phrontist (31 comments total) 99 users marked this as a favorite

 
Again, awesome...and hearth wrenching. (but thanks)
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:54 PM on May 5, 2010


Just finished Footnote 110... I'll watch these when I'm done with IJ.
posted by chairface at 3:11 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Previously

And I already linked there to the complete 84 minute video of the same interview there.
posted by ijsbrand at 3:25 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the German interview site is the whole thing at once.

Compelling and sad.
posted by four panels at 3:37 PM on May 5, 2010


Thanks for posting.
I might be able to watch it in very small quantities at a time.
Too sad.
posted by cogneuro at 4:09 PM on May 5, 2010


I'm deleting all my other MeFi favourites.
posted by doublehappy at 4:33 PM on May 5, 2010


This is painful. Why does it feel like his family is being held at gunpoint in the next room? And that film crew is the biggest bunch of fucks.
posted by greasy_skillet at 5:04 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Omg, for a second there I thought it was an Owen Wilson mix-up.
posted by DenOfSizer at 5:13 PM on May 5, 2010


greasy_skillet, I agree that he seems sorta anguished in the beginning, but it seems to me that he's just thinking hard about the questions and being careful to give a thoughtful response.

Unless you're right, of course, in which case I figure his dropping lots of Latin is an attempt at a diversion so they can escape. :)
posted by JohnFredra at 5:17 PM on May 5, 2010


Wait a minute... who is this guy? And why are we listening to his interviews?
posted by Michael Pemulis at 6:25 PM on May 5, 2010 [13 favorites]


Context:

David Foster Wallace 1962-2008 was a novelist and essayist whose work, such as his most famous novel, Infinite Jest was known for being challenging and cerebral, but also heartfelt and humorous (Citation needed?).

His suicide in 2008 came as a shock to fans, despite Wallace's well-known problems with depression, and the theme of suicide in his writing. (Again, I don't know if everyone will agree here)

His 2005 speech for the commencement ceremony for Kenyon College is a concise, and inspiring snapshot of his worldview, and has consistently been a big hit on the Internet. It was also printed posthumously in The Wall Street Journal.
posted by YouDontSmellBad at 6:36 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


YDSB

I think that was sarcasm from someone named Michael Pemulis
posted by lalochezia at 6:40 PM on May 5, 2010


lalochezia

Damn. And that was my first comment ever too. Got me good.

Pemulis, you just made my shit list.
posted by YouDontSmellBad at 6:46 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of ... better MeFites than me have talked about the odd conflictory emotional state that comes up when new (or new-to-us) DFW material surfaces. The wonder and joy at seeing something new and the urgency of it, but also the sadness at being reminded that eventually, at last, it will be exhausted, and in either case we're only getting happy at seeing interviews and writing from a guy who we didn't know personally, and our suffering is a sort of mean joke when compared to the actual suffering of his friends, family, etc.

Aside from all that complexity, though, I'm kind of terrified of the disappearance of things like this. I've seen so much video since he died, read so many memorials. But so much on the internet just disappears. How does ... is this stuff being archived? Is there a safety deposit box someplace? Can I donate hard drive space or something? It's stupid and I know it's stupid but: I want to be able to see this forever. I want to save it all. Is anybody doing that? Or should I start burning DVDs or something.
posted by penduluum at 6:58 PM on May 5, 2010


I'm kind of ... better MeFites than me have talked about the odd conflictory emotional state that comes up when new (or new-to-us) DFW material surfaces

I'm uncomfortable, and I'd guess (from my readings of the man) that he'd also be uncomfortable with his posthumous coronoation. I read somewhere that, ironically, he'd be the best writer to write about it. I dunno. I think at some point, we should stop listening to what he has to say and explore his oeuvre. Have you (the general you) read Broom the System? What about Brief Interviews with Hideous Men? How about what's finished of The Pale King? Let's appreciate what he did as a career and passion as opposed to some poorly shot and miced interviews.

I want to be able to see this forever. I want to save it all. Is anybody doing that?

Yes. Yes, people are doing that. Probably all the wrong people; corporations that don't have your best interest in mind. Also loonies. But yes, almost everything on the InterLink is being archived.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 7:13 PM on May 5, 2010


Thanks for these, I never get used to seeing him speak, the combination of what a charming, funny, sweet guy he seemed to be and the wincing hyper-self-awareness that must have ultimately been just really painful. He looks like he's mentally darting between having a fantastic time talking about interesting stuff and wishing he could curl up and blow away.

Seconding also that nothing written or recorded by or about DFW is likely to disappear, his fan base is too large and devoted for that to happen.
posted by chaff at 7:26 PM on May 5, 2010


Even the stuff that he might've preferred to see disappear.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:39 PM on May 5, 2010


Thanks for this. I wish though there were captions of the interviewer's questions and comments, I find it very difficult to hear and understand her.
posted by semmi at 8:01 PM on May 5, 2010


In the linked interview, he talks about how he didn't like doing readings because he doesn't feel like his work responds well to being read. That it doesn't ... belong on the voice, or something; I can't remember exactly and I'm not going to go digging to find it. But I think I've mentioned before on here that I have an old beat-up copy of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, on tape, read by the author. I cherish it. Whether or not he would have thought that it works, it does. It's marvelous, and it definitely broadened and deepened my connection with the book.

He knew, and you and I both know, the author doesn't get to decide what his/her own stuff means. Does that mean that the author also doesn't get to decide whether his/her own stuff is any good? That the curatorial culture decides collectively, and that then everybody has to decide individually? I don't know. The guy who didn't burn Kafka's papers after he died probably has an interesting opinion on the question.
posted by penduluum at 8:02 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just finished the new David Lipsky book in which he basically transcribes the tapes of his road trip with DFW at the end of the book tour for IJ. It's a fascinating snapshot of a fascinating period of DFW's life. Can't recommend it highly enough - it was simultanoeusly heartbreaking and inspiring to read.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:47 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


That commencement speech is fan-fucking-tastic.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 10:03 PM on May 5, 2010


penduluum: " That it doesn't ... belong on the voice, or something"

The phrase, I remember it because it stuck with me, was that it doesn't "live on the breath." I'm fairly sure this is a quote or an allusion about some works living on the page or in the mind vs. on the breath, but I'll be damned if I can remember the source.
posted by chaff at 12:27 AM on May 6, 2010


Even the stuff that he might've preferred to see disappear.

Reality of art, the internet, being famous, touching the hearts of millions, &c.
posted by doublehappy at 4:06 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find it very difficult to hear and understand her.

the mp3 has better audio (also sorta previously ;)

oh and btw systems and stories...

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 5:25 AM on May 6, 2010


.
posted by orville sash at 7:16 AM on May 6, 2010


I just finished the new David Lipsky book in which he basically transcribes the tapes of his road trip with DFW at the end of the book tour for IJ.

I did too. It's well worth the read. I didn't get a whole lot out of it about Wallace's thoughts regarding IJ or writing in general, but it functions well as a kind of biography. And of course, the whole time, we know what DFW and Lipsky did not know, which is that he's going to end up killing himself a decade later. That knowledge colors so much of his story and his words that it is an unusual experience. Or, as Lipsky put it, suicide "has an event gravity: Eventually, every memory and impression gets tugged in its direction."

As for the interviews, he always looks so painfully self-conscious, it's heartbreaking, once you know where it's all going. I wish that he could have learned to be more comfortable with who he was, even if that meant he wouldn't have written Infinite Jest.
posted by callmejay at 8:13 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just started reading DFW's history of Infinity called Everything and More. I've just started it, but its pretty interesting. I had no idea he was into math as well.
posted by jpdoane at 9:08 AM on May 6, 2010


"It would be easier for me if we could do this as a conversation..."

For me too, man.

.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 1:00 PM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had no idea he was into math as well.

You should check out the DFW interview with Michael Silverblatt, in which DFW talks about structuring IJ as a Sierpinski gasket.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:55 PM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


A blogger put up a piece from 1996 in Details magazine, and included a bunch of links to other stuff. Looks promising, I came here to post the link, now I'm gonna go read.
posted by nevercalm at 4:38 PM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


He seems so considerate, painfully so. Especially in contrast to the film crew guy who said he was "pontificating." The way he would sometimes append "I don't know if that makes sense," to the end of his questions.
posted by angrycat at 10:37 AM on May 11, 2010


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