""If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it. I know that sounds a little pious.""
-- David Foster Wallace An indelible portrait of David Foster Wallace, by turns funny and inspiring, based on a five-day trip with award-winning writer David Lipsky during Wallace’s Infinite Jest tour
In David Lipsky’s view, David Foster Wallace was the best young writer in America. Wallace’s pieces for Harper’s
magazine in the ’90s were, according to Lipsky, “like hearing for the first time the brain voice of everybody I knew: Here was how we all talked, experienced, thought. It was like smelling the damp in the air, seeing the first flash from a storm a mile away. You knew something gigantic was coming.”
Then Rolling Stone
sent Lipsky to join Wallace on the last leg of his book tour for Infinite Jest
, the novel that made him internationally famous. They lose to each other at chess. They get iced-in at an airport. They dash to Chicago to catch a make-up flight. They endure a terrible reader’s escort in Minneapolis. Wallace does a reading, a signing, an NPR appearance. Wallace gives in and imbibes titanic amounts of hotel television (what he calls an “orgy of spectation”). They fly back to Illinois, drive home, walk Wallace’s dogs. Amid these everyday events, Wallace tells Lipsky remarkable things—everything he can about his life, how he feels, what he thinks, what terrifies and fascinates and confounds him—in the writing voice Lipsky had come to love. Lipsky took notes, stopped envying him, and came to feel about him—that grateful, awake feeling—the same way he felt about Infinite Jest
. Then Lipsky heads to the airport, and Wallace goes to a dance at a Baptist church.
A biography in five days, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself
is David Foster Wallace as few experienced this great American writer. Told in his own words, here is Wallace’s own story, and his astonishing, humane, alert way of looking at the world; here are stories of being a young writer—of being young generally—trying to knit together your ideas of who you should be and who other people expect you to be, and of being young in March of 1996. And of what it was like to be with and—as he tells it—what it was like to become David Foster Wallace.
David Lipsky is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone
magazine. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker
Magazine, The Best American Short Stories
, The Best American Magazine Writing
, The New York Times
, The New York Times Book Review
, and many other publications. He contributes as an essayist to NPR's All Things Considered, and is the recipient of a Lambert Fellowship, a Media Award from GLAAD, and a National Magazine Award. He's the author of the novel The Art Fair
, a collection of stories, Three Thousand Dollars
, and the bestselling nonfiction book Absolutely American
, which was a Time
magazine Best Book of the Year.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In early 1996, journalist and author Lipsky (Absolutely American) joined then-34-year-old David Foster Wallace on the last leg of his tour for Infinite Jest (Wallace’s breakout novel) for a Rolling Stone interview that would never be published. Here, he presents the transcript of that interview, a rollicking dialogue that Lipsky sets up with a few brief but revealing essays, one of which touches upon Wallace’s 2008 suicide and the reaction of those close to him (including his sister and his good friend Jonathan Franzen). Over the course of their five day road trip, Wallace discusses everything from teaching to his stay in a mental hospital to television to modern poetry to love and, of course, writing. Ironically, given Wallace’s repeated concern that Lipsky would end up with an incomplete or misleading portrait, the format produces the kind of tangible, immediate, honest sense of its subject that a formal biography might labor for. Even as they capture a very earthbound encounter, full of common road-trip detours, Wallace’s voice and insight have an eerie impact not entirely related to his tragic death; as Lipsky notes, Wallace ‘was such a natural writer he could talk in prose.’ Among the repetitions, ellipses, and fumbling that make Wallace’s patter so compellingly real are observations as elegant and insightful as his essays. Prescient, funny, earnest, and honest, this lost conversation is far from an opportunistic piece of literary ephemera, but a candid and fascinating glimpse into a uniquely brilliant and very troubled writer.
“Lipsky’s transcript of their brilliant conversations reads like a two-man Tom Stoppard play or a four-handed duet scored for typewriter.” —Lev Grossman, Time Magazine
“Exhilarating…All that’s left now are the words on the page—and on the pages of ‘Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself,’ too, with the voices they conjure of two writers talking, talking, talking as they drive through the night.” —Laura Miller, Salon
“Crushingly poignant...Startlingly sad yet deeply funny...The picture Lipsky paints is of an author alternately confused and excited, sincere and suspicious... It’s impossible for anyone who ever fell in love with Wallace’s prose not to read Lipsky’s account looking for clues. And while suicide is never really logical, it’s heartbreaking to read Wallace discuss his history of depression...Somehow even sadder are Lipsky’s observations of Wallace’s moments of happiness: his love for his dogs, his fondness for television, the music of Alanis Morrissette. Even his Diet Pepsi and McDonald’s habits read as sweet, childlike and, in the end, crushingly poignant...The rapport that he and Wallace built during the course of the road trip is both endearing and fascinating. At the end, it feels like you’ve listened to two good friends talk about life, about literature, about all of their mutual loves. And while they were both young men in 1996, they seem wise beyond their years, yet still filled with a contagious, youthful enthusiasm...his fans and his readers at least have this: a startlingly sad yet deeply funny postscript to the career of one of the most interesting American writers of all time.” —Michael Schaub, National Public Radio
“In ‘Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself,’ Lipsky is not telling us about Wallace’s life: He is showing Wallace living his life. His book could only have been written after spending five days with Wallace, on what Wallace calls ‘our hypothermia smoking tour of the Midwest’… One thing is certain: If you didn’t already love Wallace, this book will make you love him…The purpose is to get us inside Wallace’s head, and Lipsky takes us there. More aptly, he doesn’t interrupt Wallace as he takes us there. We get to s