There is no way for me to adequately review David Lipsky’s erm, book-length interview? biography? of David Foster Wallace, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. Why? Because I approached the book like it was 1986 and it was an issue of Tiger Beat featuring a fold-out poster of C. Thomas Howell.
I devoured it in the greedy, selfish way teenaged girls devour fun facts about Justin Bieber, stopping just short of making lists of things DFW and I had in common (neither of us are Updike fans). Undoubtedly the notebook containing such a list (were it to exist) would have featured a cover filled with Jodi Chromey Foster Wallace, Jodi Foster Wallace, Jodi + David in loopy girl cursive.
If you’re looking for fluffy trivia about the author, than this is just the book for you too! Of course, David Foster Wallace’s trivia is different than most any teen heartthrob you can think of. You’ll also dig it if you’re in the mood for some mid-90s nostalgia. It’s very 90s featuring long dissections of the movie “True Romance” and more than a few sentences spent discussing the appeal of Alanis Morissette.
The book is a transcription of the conversations between DFW and David Lipsky during five days in March of 1996. Lipsky had been sent to Illinois to interview DFW for Rolling Stone based on the huge, huge, huge buzz generated by Infinite Jest. RS eventually killed the piece, and after DFW’s 2008 suicide, Lipsky turned the tapes into a book.
The two Davids go to class (DFW was teaching at Illinois State University), take a road trip to Chicago after the airport in Normal closes due to bad weather, and fly to Minneapolis for DFW’s reading at The Hungry Mind (and then they do it all in reserves to get home again). In one of the passages where Lipsky provides some background, he made a comment about how The Hungry Mind isn’t there anymore, and neither was the hotel they stayed at, and neither was DFW. It hurt. I’m not sure if it would have hurt as much if it weren’t Minnesota. Who knows?
The two spend time talking about literature, writing, pop culture, and their respective childhoods. It’s fascinating because both men are really, really smart and at times I found myself pondering “do people really talk like that.” At times it’s humbling.
So why did I love this book that is essentially two dudes talking? I’m not sure. I’m generally not the type to read long, slice-of-life interview pieces about anyone, really. But for some reason I ate this one up. If you have a soft spot for David Foster Wallace like I do, I bet you’d eat it up too.