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DFW in his own words (well, mediated by David Lipsky)


I’ve started yet another book¹, Lipsky’s road-trip-with-DFW- on- IJ publicity tour-interview called Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself (this title is fantastic). Luke was a sweetheart and mailed me his copy, which had been his late birthday present from me (since the book came out in April and the birthday was in March).

I’m only 40ish pages in since I skipped the afterword (which appears immediately after the introduction) on Mr. Lipsky’s advice, but I’m already 1) lost with the very writer-ly talk jumping b/n DFW and Lipsky, 2) getting used to DFW’s thought-spelunking manner of speech– hopping down deeper into the subject but like all over the cave wall, and 3) so encouraged with what DFW says about writing.

In nutshells– Fame can’t fill you up. Be someone who writes rather than a “writer” who does more posing than writing. Love what you’re doing more than what others will think of it, but don’t write for a faceless audience. You are not smarter than everyone else. Not everyone will be interested in what you are interested in. Genius does not flow from every sentence that you will write–again with lots and lots of hard work.

Also, DFW has blasted Broom of the System a whole lot already. He said he didn’t work as hard on it has he should have–which was something I could see when I was reading it (post-IJ). DFW is hard on himself to begin with but yeah, Broom could have been a lot better. It doesn’t help that I wasn’t in tune with all the philosophy stuff that was going on (he tells Lipsky that basically it was a conversation between Wittgenstein and Derrida), but I was a little hurt to not find out what happened to Lenore (either Lenore) in the end. But apparently when Broom‘s editor made suggestions for some changes, DFW wrote a 17 page philosophical-argument-letter in response and (according to him) got away with not doing any more work on it. But ah well. I’m glad I read it and was able to observe first hand the difference hard work makes in the writing of an already super-talented person.

I too have had the hubris of thinking that genius would flow from my pen (poetry notebooks full of scribbling and little editing; there being a huge difference between a fwip of  inspiration that needs to be written down and leaving the seed there to rot without the tilling and weeding necessary for growing ideas). I think the hard work involved in putting together a good poem is daunting (or has been daunting me since the poetry class of fall ’09), but the craft is calling me gently. Wondering if people will like it or if it is good or if they think it is good has to stop mattering so much that I won’t even write. This needs to be for myself, my satisfaction in labor over words that I love. I don’t want to start hating writing poetry because it has become an exercise in pleasing others or earning identity or awesome points.

I love that DFW said that somewhere in writing IJ, it made him feel “unlonely. I think everyone who’s stuck it out reading to some point in IJ has also hit that point where they felt unalone. I did, Luke did. But that the author himself felt unalone in writing it?

It’s just a damn good book.

¹ Currently in the middle of  A Good Man Is Hard to Find (and other stories) by Flannery O’Connor and 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, plus I went to the library today and picked up some graphic novels, two books of poetry, and three movies. Ahar.

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