Over the last week, Page Turner,the book blog of The New Yorker, has been running a feature called “DFW Week,” featuring a number of posts from D.T. Max about David Foster Wallace, drumming up interest in Max’s biography. I previously posted about one post, a collection of Wallace’s childhood writings. But I thought it might be nice to provide a summary post with links to all of the great content.
The series of posts kicked off with an excerpt of Max’s biography of Wallace, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, regarding DFW’s time in Granada House, a drug/alcohol recovery house that became the model for the wonderfully tautological version in Infinite Jest. The next post contained DFW’s pitch letter for Broom of the System, his first novel. The letter is described as “wonderfully arrogant.” (I actually thinks it comes across as rather simply confident, not arrogant, myself.) Page Turner also featured Max talking about Wallace and the biography and how DFW might feel about the book.
Max concluded the week with a short, elegaic summary:
What all these residua of his life have in common is that they are testaments to Wallace’s belief in the power of words. Even when things were at their worst, as, sadly, they often were for him, David was writing; if not poems, then fiction. If not fiction, then letters. He used words to wound, words to heal, words to persuade, words to enchant.
The function of words qua words is a topic in Wallace’s fiction is something I could write a lot of paragraphs about (and I’m sure many scholars already have). Words, as was evident in Broom—and to be overly simplistic here—were a double-edged sword to Wallace. No matter what, they cut.