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Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace Paperback – Deckle Edge, April 13, 2010
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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.
On assignment for Rolling Stone, Lipsky hung out with David Foster Wallace and his two dogs in Wallace’s Illinois home, then accompanied the newly minted celebrity writer on a Midwest stretch of his 1996 book tour for his meganovel Infinite Jest. Lipsky’s article was canceled, and now, in the wake of Wallace’s 2008 suicide, Lipsky’s recordings of five days’ worth of the writer’s brainy and passionate riffing on the nature of mind, the purpose of literature, and the pitfalls of both academia and entertainment are incredibly poignant. Lipsky (Absolutely American, 2003) vividly and incisively sets the before-and-after scenes for this revelatory oral history, in which Wallace is at once candid and cautious, funny and flinty, spellbinding and erudite as he articulates remarkably complex insights into depression, fiction that captures the “cognitive texture” of our time, and fame’s double edge. Wild about movies, prescient about the impact of the Internet, and happiest writing, Wallace is radiantly present in this intimate portrait, a generous and refined work that will sustain Wallace’s masterful and innovative books long into the future. --Donna Seaman
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Top Customer Reviews
Lipsky never wrote the profile (he got sent off instead, he says, to do a story about heroin addicts in Seattle), but he held on to the tapes. After Wallace’s suicide in 2008, he unearthed and converted them, basically unmolested, into this book: a 300-page channeling of DFW’s famous voice at precisely the moment it was becoming that famous voice.
I myself found Lipsky's book totally fascinating. We get to watch DFW’s signature self-consciousness churning at a length and ferocity unprecedented outside of his actual published writing. (“I don’t mind appearing in Rolling Stone,” he tells Lipsky at one point, “but I don’t want to appear in Rolling Stone as somebody who wants to be in Rolling Stone.”) It’s like the Nixon tapes for DFW-heads—full of telling moments that would have been stripped from any reasonable magazine article. One of the effects of Wallace’s prose is to make you irrationally want to be his best friend, and Lipsky creates a close likeness of that experience.
For me, Road Trip bogged down at times due to Lipskys repetitive questions about Wallace's ambivalence about success. It was obvious that Lipsky didn't believe the fourth and fifth interations of Wallace's explanation, so Lipsky had to ask AGAIN and AGAIN. Miniscule insight was gathered with each repetitive ask, and yet other interesting topics were skimmed or diverted by Lipskys interview style. Even with those criticisms, Road Trip is a superb way to understand a bit of Wallace the person, how he perceived his world, how that world-view informed his writing, and how he eventually arrived at the solution of suicide. Ten years before his death, it's clear that Wallace's nerve endings were close to the surface, and he was certainly trying to hold on, even then. Even as I knew the ending, throughout Road Trip I kept hoping that Wallace's thoughtful approach and analysis would lead him to conquer his fears of success, failure, and future. Sad for those of us who thrive on Wallace's vision.
But before returning to IJ I read Lipsky's book. As he (Lipsky) catalogs, DFW was essentially fresh off of having written, rewritten, retyped, rewritten, retyped, etc., IJ. All the themes and the overarching objectives of writing this book were still fresh in his mind (though not so much the specifics of, say, the chronology of the Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad).
Now that I'm back into IJ I appreciate the work Lipsky did to bring this to us. I would strongly recommend this (along with, "E unibus pluram: television and U.S. fiction") to anyone who's ready to continue their infinite jest (or perhaps start on the road trip that does not end).
My two favorite DFW quotes from this book:
[Why he prefers crazy women; and feels he's ended up with lots of crazy ones...] "Psychotics, say what you want about them, tend to make the first move."
"...[A]rt finds a way to take care of you.... Kind of despite itself."