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Home News by Category DFW Remembrance Reflections on a postcard from David Foster Wallace

Reflections on a postcard from David Foster Wallace

Frank Cassese has an interesting reflection over at Guernica, It Doesn’t Mean We’re Wasting Our Time: Reflections on a postcard from David Foster Wallace. (1/11/12):

My letter began with honest praise, explaining the kind of influence his books exerted over me, how I felt upon reading Infinite Jest and how said experience propelled me into serious fiction writing and thus landed me in the quagmire I now found myself, perhaps in retrospect trying to impart a bit of guilt onto the writer for the unintended impetus that had led me to this impasse. Then I informed him of my situation, letting him in on the awful obstacles to publication I had theretofore encountered, and humbly requesting that he permit me to send him my novel. It seemed like a reasonable request at the time. I didn’t expect him to drop everything, read my book and proclaim it a work of unsurpassable genius; I didn’t expect a close reading with detailed editorial suggestions and lengthy comments. I suppose all I was hoping for was that my writing be read by David Foster Wallace, which, at the risk of hyperbole, was somewhat akin to a zealot’s hope that his prayers find their way into the hands of a worshiped but otherwise uninterested god. Mostly, I was feeling down and desperate, and reaching out to the man who had greatly inspired my failing quest just felt like something I should do, if for nothing else than for having done so.

Several months later I received a postcard in the mail, a slightly tattered 4×6 of Dodger Stadium, with Los Angeles smeared across the top in imposing red capitals and a smoggy scattered skyline in the background. By this time I had all but forgotten my letter. I didn’t know anyone in LA, but figured a friend was traveling and decided to drop a line, so I lowered my eyes past the rows of neatly lined and evenly spaced blue ink print to the signature, which was illegible, next to an adumbrated smiley face.

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