Genus comes to mind whenever I think of David Foster Wallace. For a glimpse inside the workings of his brilliant mind, check out the new Harry Ransom Center's online archive collection at the University of Texas at Austin website where you can look inside digitized versions of books and manuscripts from DFW's private collection. The scrupulous annotations made throughout some of his favorite books reveal the deep connection DFW had to making meaning of texts, but also how one of the greatest writers of our time viewed American fiction as a genre worthy of deep reflection on form, style and substance.
The majority of the DFW materials is being processed and organized and will be available to the public in fall 2010, according to the Henry Ransom Collection website, but there are a few preliminary documents ready for previewing right now, such as DFW's personal commentary on the reviews page of Don Delillo's Players. DFW's handwritten comments range from "Eat shit off a wooden stick" to "recondite somantics" and "Office drudgery: a room full of mold eyes" and cue us into his keen awareness of reviewers and their tendencies, but most dominate on the page is his unmistakable sense of humor—a tone that DFW would be the first to point out as ironic given the darkness of depression that plagued his life and led to his tragic death. Zoom in a couple of times on the image and you will be surprised, startled and awed by the wit and intelligence driving his candid commentary. Also on digital display will be his painstaking writing process as recorded in the margins and line edits of his working manuscripts, handwritten notes, childhood writing, a copy of his dictionary with words circled throughout and his heavily annotated books by Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, John Updike and more than 40 other authors.
The Community of Writer's beloved Michael Pietsch, Executive Vice President of Little, Brown and Company, was DFW's editor on his 1000 page manuscript Infinite Jest and is quoted on the website as saying,"Little, Brown and Company is happy to donate all of our correspondence and internal memos relating to 'Infinite Jest,' 'Brief Interviews with Hideous Men' (1999), 'Oblivion' (2004), 'A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again' and 'Consider the Lobster' to the Ransom Center. David's letters are delightful to read in themselves, and we hope that scholars will benefit from finding his notes to his editors and copy editors in the same archive with his draft manuscripts, journals and other correspondence."
If you are a DFW groupie, be sure to bookmark this site:
David Foster Wallace Collection
7 months ago