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David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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Home News by Category This is Water The Glossary's This is Water

The Glossary's This is Water

Latest update 22/5/13: (See below)

An excerpt from David Foster Wallace's Kenyon Commencement Speech, This is Water, from The Glossary. I'm not a huge fan of the ongoing music... detracts from it somewhat. Or the little meta-story in the vid. Some neat stuff in the visuals, though. [You can listen to the complete recording of the original speech here , then purchase it here, or buy the text version.]


Adweek - The Story Behind 'This Is Water,' the Inspiring Video People Can't Stop Watching Without permission, Glossary created an amazing homage to David Foster Wallace By David Griner.

Without permission...

What did you have to do to get permission to use the audio?

We had little to no budget for this project and we knew that the publishing house was going to be really skeptical of our little companyís request to utilize his work. We had faith in our vision for the video and that once it was complete they would see that this was something made with the best intentions in mind. We are in no way making any money directly from this video; it was purely a passion project. While we had high hopes for this, we could have never seen all of this attention coming. Sometimes itís better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Surely there's a revenue stream generated by those millions of views. :/

Update 19/5/13:

The Youtube vid is now sitting at 5.1 million views. Wow. DFW's speech is now listed on the TED site - at TED Best of the Web, and was listed as a TED bonus talk (via twitter too, so it exploded again). I personally loved seeing Stephen Fry tweet about it (to his 5.7 million followers!), and then watch another retweet explosion.† David Foster Wallace searches on twitter come up almost 99% for this video (which is so much better than a few years ago when it was tweeted results from that horrid web based 'style' bot - the "I write like... [insert random author e.g. David Foster Wallace]". )

In the comments section below Tay points out that the video resulted in library borrowings and visiting this site. If that experience is extrapolated I'm guessing many more people have done the same thing.

I've had significant flow-on success here too. I can't deny it. I just hope the success now means The Glossary sorts something out with the Wallace estate. If they're the Wallace fans they appear to be I'm betting they already have. This vid, while not 100% true to the original speech, has done a great service to the profile of Wallace's writing.

Update 22/5/13:

...and it's gone (at least from the primary Youtube location). I'm not at all surprised (The Glossary did suggest not having the rights) but maybe placing an official ad for the upcoming uncollected fiction in the description would have been a good way to tap into the publicity?

"THIS IS WA..." This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by David Foster Wallace Literary Trust."

Streisand effect in 3... 2... 1... ?

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 May 2013 17:08  


#1 Tay D 2013-05-18 06:19
Funny. That viral video is what reminded me of David Foster Wallace's writings (something I hadn't really explored). From that video I watched the full speech and just picked up one of his books from my local library. Consider the positive effects of that many unaware people became aware of DFW's many people took his advice and changed their thought patterns or much revenue it has generated from people purchasing David's work...and the fact that I wouldn't have ever found YOUR site if I hadn't seen that video and explored it further. As Godard said, "It's not where you take things from--it's where you take them to."
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#2 Nick 2013-05-19 14:55
You make a couple of great points, Tay. Now with the youtube vid at over 5 million views (and certainly more via vimeo from The Glossary site) as well as the recent feature as a recommended video via Ted Talks on the web and twitter more people than I ever could have imagined have been made aware of Wallace's work. It's fantastic. I just hope they DO all contribute so that Wallace's estate (his family) see a direct benefit from this. And yes, I have seen an increase in hits, and Amazon purchases too. I hope The Glossary sort something out with Wallace's estate...
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#3 Michael Berg 2013-06-07 15:18
I'm a little bit ambivalent about this. Great way to wedge his words onto the consciousness of a seemingly hesitant mainstream, and now the Trust looks like another shadowy conglomerate the mainstream will disparage for inconveniencing their access, and it seems like, if I was going to do something like what they did, I'd ask for at least Creative Commons requirements (if I was the Trust) and let the passionate YouTube enthusiasts have their easy access, which will in the end be better for the trust, and show us in full color if the video maker's pledge of passion was the true motivation over some side profit/notoriety. Because if they were truly doing it only for passion, they'd abide by Creative Commons rules and regulations. As it stands, mainstream won't trust the Trust, and it could prematurely snip DFW's entrance into a wider audience, which for moralistic human reasons, people are obviously ready for, right now. Beholden.
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