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Home News by Category General Updates Atlantic Advice - Don't Try to Write Like DFW

Atlantic Advice - Don't Try to Write Like DFW

Okay, I won't.

Spencer Kornhaber reflects on past experiences for The Atlantic in, Advice: Don't Try to Write Like David Foster Wallace:

“DFW” is David Foster Wallace, and I feel okay laughing like Ryan Gosling at people who try to write like the Infinite Jest author because it wasn’t long ago that I was one of them. (Sometimes, as when inserting a comically self-scrutinizing and ostentatiously detailed parenthetical, I become one again.)

When I was 17, my aunt got me a subscription to The Atlantic, and the first issue to arrive was the one whose cover featured Wallace’s profile of conservative Los Angeles talk-radio host John Ziegler. The piece exploded my little high-school-newspaper editor brain. Here was journalism’s potential not only as literature, but as form-breaking, highly entertaining art.

Continue reading the article here.


Re: David Foster Wallace's Host I just remembered Marie Mundaca's piece over at Hipster Book Club (now gone?), The Influence of Anxiety: Wading In, about her involvement in the book design of some of Wallace's publications for Little Brown including Consider the Lobster and thus, Host:


Consider the Lobster was a little different. Most of the book was very typical, but there was one particular essay called "Host" that required some special treatment. Wallace, infamous for his footnotes and endnotes, wanted to try something a little different with "Host." He wanted to stress the immediacy of communication and the speed of thought that occurred in the studio where the talk radio DJ John Ziegler worked. The Atlantic Monthly had already run a version of this essay and did a spectacular design job, using a format with color-coded callouts, as if someone had highlighted a script and made note in the margins. However, there are intrinsic differences between a magazine and a book. The Atlantic Monthly used color; we were not going to do that. Magazines are usually 8-1/2 x 11, and we were 6 x 9. We had to figure out a way to do this essay.

A page from David Foster Wallace's essay "Host" in Consider the Lobster.Wallace's idea was to have leaders and labels, like a diagram. He wanted something that looked like hypertext rollovers that were immediate and at hand. I thought this whole thing might be a bit much for me to design. It seemed like it might be a full-time job. I sent it off to one of my favorite designers, who shot me an email back saying something along the lines of "There is not enough money in the world to make me do this."

So I did it. Had I realized at the time that this job would entail my spending close to an hour every few weeks talking to my favorite author ever on the phone, I would have never considered giving it to anyone else. Mostly we just went over changes that needed to be made, but initially we had some very intense discussions regarding the semiotics of the leaders (the lines going from the text to the boxes) and the tics and the line width of the boxes and the ampersands. He'd leave me voice mail messages at work in the middle of the night, telling me what time I should call him the next day. One time when I called, I got his answering machine, but when I began to leave a message, he picked up. "I heard your mellifluous voice," he said. Sometimes I'd hear the dog barking in the background. He was recently married, and he obviously relished saying "my wife" when he would tell me about upcoming plans and where I could find him if I needed him.


Continue reading Marie Mundaca's piece here.


Last Updated on Saturday, 07 February 2015 14:36  

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