Josh Ferris, author of one of last year’s finest novels, Then We Came to the End, recalls his days as a student news reporter when he had the opportunity to interview David Foster Wallace for the Daily Iowan.
Some recollections from my interview: he shared his office with another teacher; he drove a beat-to-hell Volkswagen; we ate pizza by the slice at a place on campus. To my inquiry, smug and innocent, on why he still lived in the midwest and not in New York City, where all the Great Writers lived, he said, equally innocently, ‘I love the midwest.’ When we stepped into his VW, he apologised for its state of disarray and its bad muffler. On my offer to pay for his pizza, he said, ‘No, no, save your money. You’re still a student.’ On my journalistic method, he remarked, ‘I’ve never known a reporter who didn’t use a tape recorder.’ I have little doubt that by then he knew what sort of ‘journalist’ I was, and yet, as we ate and talked and I took down notes (on Infinite Jest: ‘I wrote it between episodes of cleaning out my refrigerator’), he treated me as if I were Edmund Wilson.
David Foster Wallace, author of The Broom of the System and Infinite Jest, hanged himself on Friday, September 12, 2008.