March 09, 2010

the DFW archive

You probably read it there, since I’m sure the set of readers fully encompasses the set of readers, but Jason points out the news that the University of Texas has acquired the archive of David Foster Wallace.

UT’s press release about the acquisition is essentially a microsite of material from the collection, including scanned images from the inside of some of the books Wallace owned. Here’s the one for DeLillo’s Ratner’s Star:


That image makes my heart beat faster. Here’s an excerpt of a blog post from Bonnie Nadell, Wallace’s literary agent, about the collection…

What scholars and readers will find fascinating I think is that as messy as David was with how he kept his work, the actual writing is painstakingly careful. For each draft of a story or essay there are levels of edits marked in different colored ink, repeated word changes until he found the perfect word for each sentence, and notes to himself about how to sharpen a phrase until it met his exacting eye. Having represented David from the beginning of his writing career, I know there were people who felt David was too much of a “look ma no hands” kind of writer, fast and clever and undisciplined. Yet anyone reading through his notes to himself will see how scrupulous they are.

The inclusion of the words “and readers” gives me hope that some of the pieces in the archive find their way into books, on to the web, etc….and not just sifted through the inscrutable filter of academia. (And since everything comes back to this lately: I wonder what the market opportunity is for an iPad version of Infinite Jest annotated and overlaid with notes / revisions / edits from DFW?)