Tuesday, March 9, 2010

DFW Archive

I've never been to Austin. I hear it's a cool town. It's known for its music, of course -- and that's reason enough for me to visit.

Another reason to visit is the University of Texas at Austin's Harry Ransom Center, which houses the archives and papers of writers like Don DeLillo, Norman Mailer, Doris Lessing and James Salter, as well as stuff from Joyce and Beckett.

Now there's word that the Ransom Center has acquired the archive of David Foster Wallace.

From the press release:

"The archive contains manuscript materials for Wallace's books, stories and essays; research materials; Wallace's college and graduate school writings; juvenilia, including poems, stories and letters; teaching materials and books.

"Highlights include handwritten notes and drafts of his critically acclaimed 'Infinite Jest,' the earliest appearance of his signature 'David Foster Wallace' on 'Viking Poem,' written when he was six or seven years old, a copy of his dictionary with words circled throughout and his heavily annotated books by Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, John Updike and more than 40 other authors."

And here's what Wallace's longtime agent Bonnie Nadell had to say:

"[W]hat scholars and readers will find fascinating I think is that as messy as David was with how he kept his work, the actual writing is painstakingly careful. For each draft of a story or essay there are levels of edits marked in different colored ink, repeated word changes until he found the perfect word for each sentence, and notes to himself about how to sharpen a phrase until it met his exacting eye. Having represented David from the beginning of his writing career, I know there were people who felt David was too much of a 'look ma no hands' kind of writer, fast and clever and undisciplined. Yet anyone reading through his notes to himself will see how scrupulous they are."

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