Endnotes: David Foster Wallace
February 19, 2011 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Endnotes: David Foster Wallace. Professor Geoff Ward discusses David Foster Wallace.

This audio-only documentary includes interviews with writers of fiction (e.g. Mark Costello, Rick Moody, Don DeLillo), Wallace's editor (or the editor of Infinite Jest, anyway) Michael Pietsch, Wallace's agent Bonnie Nadell, and Wallace's sister Amy. It also includes illustrative excerpts from Wallace's writing. Most of these are from Infinite Jest, though at least one comes from Wallace's forthcoming unfinished work, The Pale King.
posted by sixo33 (15 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
Oooh, is this available as a podcast anywhere? I'm afraid listening to this will make me very sad.
posted by mecran01 at 8:22 PM on February 19, 2011

That was great, thank you.

I found the reader obnoxiously over-emphatic, but I suspect that might reflect more on my idea of what Infinite Jest should sound like than any actual flaw on his part.
posted by neuromodulator at 8:24 PM on February 19, 2011

I thoroughly enjoyed that. I am definitely looking forward to The Pale King.

Thanks for the link.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:29 PM on February 19, 2011

We are patiently standing by for a summary.
posted by ovvl at 8:47 PM on February 19, 2011

Aw man I was just about to go to sleep.
posted by pwally at 9:56 PM on February 19, 2011

So Pale King is out April 15th?
posted by mannequito at 10:11 PM on February 19, 2011

Yes, listening to this will probably make you sad. It's interesting though.

00:00 Intro
07:56 Amy Wallace (sister)
13:50 Mark Costello (friend, co-author)
18:13 Irony is the enemy. Wallace on irony.
20:44 Rick Moody (famous author)
23:47 Don Delillo (really famous author)
30:50 Curtis White (author, mentor)
33:00 Charles Harris (some guy)
34:50 About "The Pale King". (I did not know that DFW is a major charcter.)
43:00 Mark Costello (again).
44:22 Don Delillo (again).

I'm very interested in "The Pale King". I've come across a lot of criticism of contemporary literature that authors tend to avoid the "world of work" (thinking in particular of B.R. Meyers criticism of "Freedom" by Wallace's friend Franzen. Even though the criticism was published after Wallace's death, the criticism does ring true to me in a lot of contemporary literature that I've read lately seems to revolve around characters who are academics or artists or criminals who are rarely in an office) and I get the feeling that Wallace was trying to get at that common criticism.
posted by bobo123 at 10:25 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, I would warn potential listeners that it does seem to contain some sort-of spoilerish things about The Pale King. Not spoilers in the traditional sense of "Luke, I'm your father," but the editor talks about a sort of moment when something that was out of context in the book has its context revealed. It's super minor, in the vein of having a "corporate year chronology" when starting Infinite Jest. I do think it's a bit wrong, in the sense that I want to be confused when DFW wants me to be confused, if you know what I mean.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:37 PM on February 19, 2011

It's a heartbreak that he had to take off. It still hurts me and I bet it hurts you -- unwritten, mostly unspoken but well-known MeFi rules insist that you MUST love Watterson and DFW. It hurts that he's gone and hurts as bad or maybe worse knowing how bad he was hurting before-hand; it'd not been near as bad if he'd been in a car wreck, or got nailed by cancer or some such. If it'd been cancer we'd have hurt with him, sure, and ached about it, but not like knowing what little we can know about how it was for him in his hell of depression.

Wouldn't you have given about anything to help him? I would have. He was one of us.. No, he wasn't maybe -- he showed us ... us? Showed us himself? Gave us all he had? All of those?

I cried a little as I listened, not like before but some, just the overall sadness of his loss and ours and also the knowing the horror show it had to have been, the ongoing beatings, the grinding pulse of depression beating him into the dirt. And hanging? Unless you're lucky enough to snap your neck and die instantly -- and most don't -- I'd have to think hanging is one of the worst ways to go. Hanging, fire, drowning -- my unholy trinity. And him so bright, he had to know that beforehand, he had to know what he was facing; he was deeply depressed but not stupid.

Listening to him speak like listening to the hum and whir of a computer, guy was so goddamn bright and so goddamn fast on his feet; I love to listen to him click his tongue -- chuk chuk chuk chuk chuk -- and then WHAM!! out comes perfectly formed ideas that I couldn't even begin to think of, much less articulate clearly. Always he was above me, reading him always a stretch, giving me words and ideas to learn then ponder.

I never did finish Infinite Jest and I'm not going to try again -- I ran at it three times, then last year I went at it slower, more obliquely, trying to sneak up on it, but it just ended up pissing me off, yet again; so much endless roaming, so much show-offy interweaving of story-lines that I never could keep it straight, it got to where it wasn't worth it to try. I'm about convinced that the whole goddamn thing had to have been written on a manic run, I can about feel synapses snapping and popping inside his head -- and probably a few popping and snapping around his head, too -- as he wrote the thing. I want to hose him down with lithium.

I realize that what I just wrote is heretical around here, and I'm trembling to think of exposing myself to you all as weak-willed, intellectually stunted, just an overall mope. Be that as it may, it's true, my truth. Sue me.

I did follow through the book, skipping huge sections, absolutely nailed to the book by the characterizations of the people inhabiting the detox/rehab and also inside AA, which is by far the best, most accurate writing on the subject I've ever seen -- he's absolutely got it nailed. Dead on. Pitch perfect.

40:15 absolutely nails Illinois summer days, nothing moving, right to the horses grazing in the distance -- maybe they're my brothers horses, he raises Belgians, his horses always come to my mind when I think of Illinois horses -- and the electric song of insects in that humidity that won't leave the whole day through. Leaving Chicago on the train last summer in the early afternoon, I got to watch Illinois unwind southward, yet another part of that trip I truly loved, just getting to see it, getting to go through those towns whose names are written pretty dang deep on me, in me, and knowing that many of the people we were rolling past were listening to Cubs baseball games on the radio, or, sadly, if they're mentally ill, listening to Cardinals games. Texas truly is home anymore, I cannot stand the way that people submit to authority there in Illinois, it's just presumed sortof, every aspect of life tightly under control; loathsome. So I'd never live there again but to visit is truly comforting. It's so beautiful, or it is to me anyways, having been born there, lived there until my late teens, gone back a number of times over the years, four months here, six months there, a year here, two weeks there. I was there last summer and I was just there again, as I listened to DFW's words describing it....

I love him, DFW, if it can be said to love a person you've never met, known only through their words. (It appears it *can* be said; I just did so, in the first three words of that prior sentence.) I love Sam Clemons. I love Joseph Heller. I *love* Marcus Aurelius; get the translation by Maxwell Staniforth, Marcus comes off the page so warm and human and decent, he's an old friend of mine now. I love the first book Scott Peck wrote, The Road Less Traveled, written before he wigged out on Jesus. I love Richard Brautigan -- please don't just think of him as "Oh yeah, that 60s guy", seek him out, read his later books, read his last book if you've got the courage to watch on the page a person write what is pretty much their suicide note, sit with him while he writes it with wry charm and outrageous humor -- yeah, I love Richard Brautigan. I love Jane Hamilton, for the gift of The Book of Ruth, which also tells the truth about Illinois, a different truth but true as any you'll ever come across...

Anyways. I love DFW. I've read and re-read some of his essays and short stories, so much there, he's such a pleasure to sit with, opening up his mind to us. (Who knew there was so much of interest in the OED? Not I. I read that essay floating in the pool here at my condo, laughing my ass off thinking of him and his mother singing the SNOOT song, and his father and sister totally annoyed, stuck in the car with those SNOOTs, and I'm smiling and shaking my head in appreciation as I turned those pages, I sogged out that copy of Harpers that late afternoon/evening, fresh out of my mailbox that day.)

I hope I can read The Pale King, I hope it doesn't loop too far afield for me to hold with him, I hope that I can sit here on the boat dock and enjoy one last piece torn off the soul of Mr. Wallace, torn off, shined up, given to us, his last song.....
posted by dancestoblue at 11:26 PM on February 19, 2011 [21 favorites]

Wallace lived in my hometown, Bloomington, Illinois. Taught some course at Illinois State Univ. from what I understand. I've just recently gotten into his writing and I was shocked to learn of the connection to my region. Maybe such things give me hope. Maybe.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:01 AM on February 20, 2011

god, I loved Infinite Jest so much, I'm so torn on whether or not I should read The Pale King. On the one hand, I feel like I shouldn't, because it's unfinished, and thus will leave a very important part of me unsatisfied. Then again, 2666 was unfinished, and its an insanegeniousbook and I'm so glad I read it. So I'm torn. Also the fact the IJ was kinda depressing because Hal was a stand-in for DFW, and bad things happen to Hal, and The Pale King is basically the book that killed DFW. So I'm kinda torn.

If there were such a thing as a literary mashup, I feel like an Infinite Jest / Confederacy of Dunces mashup novel would be the best, most depressing, most hilarious book that was ever written or conceived.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:28 AM on February 20, 2011

Speaking of DFW-related things that are unfinished, this PostSecret from today makes me want to tear my hair out.

Thank you so much for posting this - I caught it just before it was deleted previously (in a different format) and was really sad not to get to see what other Mefites had to say about it. As a native Midwesterner with two tennis player brothers, I especially enjoy hearing about tornado season and matches on that flat, open land.

I miss DFW more than anyone else I've never met.
posted by naoko at 8:36 AM on February 20, 2011

You know what he does for me? He makes me feel like I'm not crazy. Everything else in the world feels like it's weighted to lean on me with this tremendous force, and that force is telling me I'm crazy and I'm damaged. And then there's DFW, and he feels like this lone support helping me bear a bit of that weight, telling me quietly that the things that concern me should concern me, and the alienation I feel isn't the result of some gross imbalance but is a natural result of being sensitive to certain things.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

I remember when he died and reading all the comments here, thinking it was about time I gave his work a try. Since then, I've read Infinite Jest, Girl With Curious Hair and Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. I can clearly say that no other writer has had as much impact on me as DFW. Reading Infinite Jest was one of the most significant experiences about my summer last year (that and going through all the seasons of The Wire). I'm going to be sad when I realize some day soon there will be nothing more to read of him.

In any case, I'm really looking forward to The Pale King (April 15th just happens to be my birthday!) despite it being unfinished. Here is a good blog I found for keeping track of news updates surrounding the new book, and DFW-related stuff in general. Going to watch the documentary now, thanks for posting.
posted by troubles at 5:20 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

It took me some time to get to this, but it was well worth it. Thank you.
posted by safetyfork at 10:14 AM on February 26, 2011

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