An indelible portrait of David Foster Wallace, by turns funny and inspiring, based on a five-day trip with award-winning writer David Lipsky during Wallace's Infinite Jest tour.
In David Lipsky's view, David Foster Wallace was the best young writer in America. Wallace's pieces for Harper's magazine in the '90s were, according to Lipsky, like hearing for the first time the brain voice of everybody I knew: Here was how we all talked, experienced, thought. It was like smelling the damp in the air, seeing the first flash from a storm a mile away. You knew something gigantic was coming.
Then Rolling Stone sent Lipsky to join Wallace on the last leg of his book tour for Infinite Jest, the novel that made him internationally famous. They lose to each other at chess. They get iced-in at an airport. They dash to Chicago to catch a make-up flight. They endure a terrible reader's escort in Minneapolis. Wallace does a reading, a signing, an NPR appearance. Wallace gives in and imbibes titanic amounts of hotel television (what he calls an orgy of spectation). They fly back to Illinois, drive home, walk Wallace's dogs.
Amid these everyday events, Wallace tells Lipsky remarkable things: everything he can about his life, how he feels, what he thinks, what terrifies and fascinates and confounds him, in the writing voice Lipsky had come to love. Lipsky took notes, stopped envying him, and came to feel about him that grateful, awake feeling the same way he felt about Infinite Jest. Then Lipsky heads to the airport, and Wallace goes to a dance at a Baptist church.
A biography in five days, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself is David Foster Wallace as few experienced this great American writer.
©2010 David Lipsky (P)2010 Random House
"Lipsky vividly and incisively sets the before-and-after scenes for this revelatory oral history....Wallace is radiantly present in this intimate portrait, a generous and refined work that will sustain Wallace's masterful and innovative books long into the future." (Booklist)
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
At first, I thought Lipsky was kind of operating in that opportunist zone (and I'm sure there is a little of that, b/c journalism never can claim to be opportunisticly free). Lipsky had, packed away, tapes and tapes of unused RS interviews with DFW. DFW has just killed himself, wow, a perfect time to rush it to press. The more I read and listened, however, the more I realized in many ways I preferred the rough, transcription-like, quality of the book AND that it wasn't as simple as it first appeared.
The dialogue between Lipsky and Wallace provided an interesting, unfiltered look into Wallace's method and a peek into his head (even though ultimately, I think Wallace was guarding that sanctum sanctorum pretty well). Wallace, during the road-trip interview, once remarked that writing was an intimate connection of the writer's brain voice with the reader's brain voice. Later, he expanded this theme when talking about how there are things that really good fiction can do that other forms of art can't do as well --
"And the big thing, the big thing seems to be, sort of leapin' over that wall of self, and portraying inner experience. And setting up, I think, a kind of intimate coversation between two consciences. And the trick is gonna be finding a way to do it at a time, and for a generation, whose relation to long sustained linear verbal communication is fundamentally different."
So, in that way, Lipsky's piece, while appearing at first to provide just a simple throw-up of all those unused RS interview notes and tapes, actually provides an avenue to see DFW's intimate 'brain voice' conversation. While at one level Lipsky has given us an interesting conversation between the author and DFW, it ultimately seemed to be a conversation DFW is having with himself (Lipsky here seems like a pretty good looking-glass for David Foster Wallace).
The structure and methods of this book were really novel and interesting--like one reviewer said, a four-part piece for typewriter or a Tom Stoppard play in two voices. I enjoyed Lipsky's account of a 5-day road trip with DFW, but the flirtation and flattery and mutual masturbation got a bit tiresome. Maybe I tired of the one-upmanship and competitiveness evident in the interview because I'm female and just don't function this way in conversation, even conversaton with a brilliant and talented person (not that I've had that many of those). I thought the two narrators' voices were excellent and helped to flesh out the give and take and the involuted recursiveness of DFW's thinking. He was very guarded about his biographical details (DT Max's recent bio contradicts several assertions made by DFW in this interview) and obviously wanted to control the essay Lipsky planned to write for Rolling Stone (the essay was never published). But I was surprised at the seeming need to impress his interviewer and convince him that he was just like him, when in fact DFW is like no one else I've ever read or heard speak. To his credit, Lipsky acknowledges the flirtation and flattery going on, with little editorial asides, and I guess this is just the way intellectual males talk to one another, with both trying to establish the pecking order without openly engaging in feats of strength. I wouldn't have guessed DFW had such a need to please! or be admired. In the end, this is an interesting interview done in a novel way, but is probably only going to appeal to completist fans of DFW's work. The DT Max biography is more informative and less irritating.
I love DFW, and have read or listened to almost everything he wrote. If you're looking for a Wallace listen, I'd probably go with Consider the Lobster if you're up for non-fiction, or else Girl with Curious Hair or Brief Interviews with Hideous Men if you're looking for fiction.
For those of us obsessed with Wallace, AOCYEUBY is a worthwhile, interesting listen, which provides a great window into the inner Wallace. It also made me interested to read more by David Lipsky.
But for anyone who's not already obsessed with Wallace, I just can't imagine why you'd spend your time on this.
I would recommend this to a friend who is a David Foster Wallace fan. I think something would be lost without coming to this without having read DFW.
I've got to say that it was great to have a voyeuristic peek into DFW's life. Sure, it's much more than that - but the sense you got from a DFW essay of knowing him - this delivers the same dope.
The highest praise I have for a narrator - any narrator - is that they are not annoying. Mike and Danny are not annoying.
No - akin to a DFW work, there's just too much to take in for an "all in one sitting" thing.
Only to a fellow fan of DFW.
Find someone who can actually imitate DFW. This actor reads well, but it's not the same persona, he sounds like someone imitating a description of the way Wallace talked and not the way Wallace actually talked, which was much more subtle, a little more reedy and gentler. This guy sounds like a football player and not a writer.
For me, yes.
The endless talk about fame got tedious. This book would be better to "eye read," in my opinion, because there were parts I would have liked to skim in order to get to the parts I was interested in.
I'm glad I used a credit on Lipsky's book. Wallace's writing has been reviewed as revolutionary satire, lampooning our current civilization. When I read some of his works, the Broom, Hideous Men etc. I only found a depressed, angry man railing at not being able to make sense of it all.
This books peek at the man Wallace bore me out in my estimation and saved me time, effort and credits that I might have spent on more Wallace works. However other than that the book has no value what so ever.
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