So excellent that I wasn’t able to pick just one best essay. Nick is going to send six writers copies of the book I did about five days with David (a mixed reward: you win 340 pages of extra reading); but when it came time to pick one writer who’d get a signed edition (doubly mixed; 340 pages plus a messy signature), I couldn’t do it. Instead, I checked in with Nick, and then picked four.
I learned a tremendous amount from these essays: it was like looking at an old steamer trunk, finding the oddest travel stickers stamped on the front and back. Infinite Jest is its own full world; it’s also headed nearly everywhere in ours. I read about the Incandenzas being studied in a London Underground lavatory under terrible digestive pressure; the Enfield Tennis Academy traveling through Norway and Lebanon and Peru; Ennett house being visited in hospital waiting rooms and en route to twelve-step programs, the Office of Unspecified Services getting an inspection in a moving car, one of whose wheels had just rolled away. (“There’s something about the first read having taken place in the early mornings or late afternoons,” this writer explained, “while traveling at high speeds with next to no light.” He has a great, Wallaceian name - Ryan Amfahr Longhorn.) They reminded me of something DFW said, about how really good writing can compel you in a way nearly nothing else can. “That kind of stomach magic of, ‘God damn, it’s fun to read. I’d rather read right now than eat.’”
So Tom McCarthy (Lebanon and nearly everywhere), Brooks Williams (hid the novel in a hotel armoire between successive visits), Ryan Longhorn (automobile trouble) and Tyler Jones get the mixed benefit of signed copies. (Tyler Jones wrote a lovely, wrenching essay about the book spelling him at the hospital. “I know that some people read for escapism, a category in which I don’t believe Infinite Jest falls, however I became immersed in the world presented… There was something comforting about an author willing to confront the uncertain in life, the random and tragic.”) Josh W., Liz, Noelia Mendoza, Caetano Galinda, Jan-Erik, Mtte will receive the others. It was a very nice idea, this information swap: Nick and I got to read where people have read DFW’s work, these writers will see the many parts of his world—classrooms, cars, malls, dog-walks—where David discussed it.
I was flattered and thrilled to read all these submissions, and I’d like to thank everyone who participated. None of the entries were anything less than terrific fun to read. Even more, they reminded me of an important thing and warmed me—left me grateful to be part of the community that David Wallace has made.