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Home News by Category Interviews Transcript of 1998 Phone Interview

Transcript of 1998 Phone Interview

UPDATE: Parts 4 and 5 now posted.

Tom Scocca interviewed David Foster Wallace by phone in February of 1998 and used the material for a Boston Phoenix article. Tom recently found the tape of the interview and has put part 1 of the transcript online over at The Slate - "I'm Not a Journalist, and I Don't Pretend To Be One": David Foster Wallace on Nonfiction, 1998, Part 1.

Part 2

Part 3:

Q: How do you handle being responsible for facts, writing nonfiction, after writing fiction? Coming to a genre where the things you say have to be on some level verifiably true?
DFW: That's a real good question. And the first one of these that I did, in order, the first one I did was the very first one, about playing tennis as a Midwesterner. Where I had some shit that I just, that was likeimpressionistic, and I didn't know, and I'd never dealt with a fact-checkerbefore. And they're like, "We discovered there is no yacht and tennis club in Aurora, Illinois, what are we to do?" And I was like, oh, God.
So after that I just started to take better notes and be willing to back stuff up. The thing is, really—between you and me and the Boston Phoenix's understanding readers—you hire a fiction writer to do nonfiction, there's going to be the occasional bit of embellishment.
Not to mention the fact that, like, when people tell you stuff, very often it comes out real stilted. If you just write down exactly what they said. And so you sort of have to rewrite it so it sounds more out-loud, which I think means putting in some "likes" or taking out some punctuation that the person might originally have said. And I don't really make any apologies for that.

Part 4:

Q: How much gag writing do you do? To what extent when you're doing these things do you try to be deliberately humorous, and how much do comic effects just sort of arise from the thought processes?
DFW: I'll tell you. I think another reason why I'm not doing any more of these for a while is, by the end, I think the last one I did was the Lynch thing, there really was kind of a shtick emerging. And the shtick was somewhat neurotic, hyper-conscious guy, like, showing you how weird this thing is that not everybody thinks is weird.
I think it's more that kind of trying to—trying to notice stuff that everybody else notices but they don't really notice that they notice? Which I think a fair amount of good comedians do that, too. I don't think, I would never go, oh, it's time for a gag, and just stick in a gag or something.

Part 5 :

Q: How much distance is there between David Foster Wallace—the narrator—and yourself?
DFW: I don't understand the question?
Q: How crafted is that persona? Because it has the appearance of course of, like, nakedness, and an actual opening up of the thought process. But at the same time, you said, like with the David Lynch thing, you felt it sort of turning into shtick.
DFW: Yeeeah. Well. Huh. You know, I think sincerity can be a shtick. I know people, just in private life—you know the kind of person who takes great pride that they will never have an unuttered thought, and there will never be a truth, you know, they're like, "So how do I look in this?" "Wellll, I'd love to tell you you look good, but I've just gotta tell the truth, you look awful"—you know what I mean, those people?
Q: Mm-hmm.
DFW: And uh—[sighs]. The hard thing about any of this stuff is, after a while, almost anything becomes this kind of postmodern pose. And I think really the first four or five of those, particularly like through the cruise, I don't think there was really any persona there at all, except what emerged through the fact the thing was getting cut over and over again, and I'd cut out the lines that were clunky or whatever. I don't think anybody thinks entertainingly at all times.



Last Updated on Monday, 29 November 2010 19:39  

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