September 16, 2008


All my Publishers Weekly e-mails had mention of David Foster Wallace today. It's like everyone had to collect their breath yesterday and could finally talk about him today. 

I'm rather ashamed to say I've never read anything by him, which is why it's strange to me that I feel as bad as I do, which is certainly not as bad as someone who knew him well, or someone who loved his writing, but still. 

I met him once, extremely suddenly, when he came to F&M to read. His was our Big Reading of the Year, the one with the fellowship attached, and many hands in the voting ring. Tickets to the reading sold out in what had to be record time for an English department event. I volunteered to tear tickets at the door, because that guaranteed me a seat, and it also earned the Dispatch $7 an hour. 

All of the posters promoting the event turned passages from his books into gorgeous, color-soaked, drippy-typewriter-fonted bits of art. If I had been more thoughtful, I would have swiped one or two from the Writers House. In any case, not one had a picture of him on it. It was all about his words.

So when the day of the reading came, and I stationed myself at the right-hand-most door to the auditorium, I stopped a man with a long, straggly ponytail and one leg of his jeans tucked into his untied boots from going in without a ticket. Cookie, the English department secretary, made it very clear to me that tickets were sold out and under no circumstances were people to be allowed in without a ticket. So I did not let him in. And when I asked for his ticket, he merely said, "Oh," and patted his shirt pocket, and turned to his friend, who produced a ticket, and then David Foster Wallace gave me a ticket to his own reading, and thanked me.

It wasn't until he got up on stage, and the lights dimmed, and hundreds of people clapped that I realized who he was, and I blushed from my collarbone to my hair in the dark.

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