David Foster Wallace is my friend

Dear David Foster Wallace:

 

I’m such a fan. But I’m embarrassed to admit it. When I Googled ‘David + Foster + Wallace + fan’, one of the top results was a question posed on Quora: ‘How is it to date an Infinite Jest/David Foster Wallace fan?’ There have been reports circulating online for years now that your fans are not that pleasant to interact with (and especially unpleasant to date). Titles like: ‘Why Insufferable People Love Infinite Jest,’ ‘Why Literary Chauvinists Love David Foster Wallace,’ ‘Reclaiming David Foster Wallace from the Lit- Bros,’ so on and etcetera. Yikes. As far as the Quora question goes, on September 5, 2018 (the timing here, btw, is key, given what resurfaced that May about your abuse of Mary Karr) there was an answer: 

 

“Male or female? New fan or old fan? I’m sure some of the men who dated me found me insufferable. One, every time I made a mistake, would say, “I thought you were so smart?” Others would say, “I hope you gt [sic] the help you need.” But I think I’m awesome to date. I will bake you brownies and listen to your stories and massage your occiput—don’t worry, I’m licensed to do that. However, I imagine your question is about dating a DFW “bro,” a newish fan who thinks he’s super-smart and clever and is a mansplainer and a manspreader. That doesn’t sound like much fun. I suggest you make a flowchart and see where it leads you (j/k).”

 

I wish I were blessed with OP’s equanimity, but I’m not. You weren’t alive to see it happen, but you should know that over time your alleged misogyny has become associated with your fan base. Even so, I sometimes feel a bit sad that I wasn’t a fan at the peak of your popularity. I only started reading you in 2012, and that was around when things started to sour, albeit slowly. The cultural capital of being your fan has since reversed, and in quite a spectacular fashion.

 

In his article on DFW fans, Jason Rhode wrote that ‘[o]ne of the most unpleasant people [he] ever knew adored Infinite Jest—just loved it. Once, [this person] lifted the book to his lips, and kissed it’. This seems a flimsy correlation, but in my home office I have an A2 blow-up print of you standing in front of a cornfield, so perhaps I can’t judge. I’ve never kissed your book, by the way. I have hugged it to my chest, though, and cried a little. 

 

Rhode, by way of explaining your fans’ devotion to Infinite Jest, writes that ‘[t]he relationship between a good author and a reader leans towards the spooky.’ I agree. But I think Rhode doesn’t go far enough. He only writes about people who love your work. What about people who love you?

 

I’m not, like, super bothered about all this—if I want to shake off your fans’ reputation, I can just say I’ve outgrown you. Julius Taranto wrote about this very process online; he said he’s ashamed of how much he used to love your work. I’m reminded of a Kendrick Lamar lyric: when the shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?  

 

It seems any relationship with you must be disclosed publicly, including the break-up. I figure if I’ve got to talk about our relationship with someone, it should be you.

 

Yours,
Grace

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