Sagatrope pointed to an interview Tom Scocca did with David Foster Wallace in February 1998. Excerpts of it were published in the Boston Phoenix then, but on a cruise (get it) for Thanksgiving, Scocca took the time to transcribe it. It’s in 5 parts, and entirely worth reading.
I think Esquire, Esqiure did leave a couple of those in, and I remember my mom, you know, reading that and just, kind of, her eyes being very wide the next time she saw me. There was something about Brooke Shields looking like somebody you’d masturbate to a picture of but not have sex with, that was really one of those four-in-the-morning, 15-cup-of-coffee-really, if I’d been in my right mind, I wouldn’t have put it in the final draft, but I did. And then Esquire, I remember, left it in. Being Esquire. You know, wanting to create as much unpleasantness as possible. So.
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 like impressionistic, and I didn’t know, and I’d never dealt with a fact-checker before. 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, reallyâ€”between you and me and the Boston Phoenix’s understanding readersâ€”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.
The footnotes, the honest thing is, is the footnotes were an intentional, programmatic part of Infinite Jest, and they get to be kind ofâ€”you get sort of addicted to ’em. And for me, a lot of those pieces were written around the time that I was typing and working on Infinite Jest, and so it’s just, it’s a kind of loopy way of thinking, that it seems to me is in some ways mimetic.
Q: There’s one other thing that I wanted to ask you about, which was the relationship between footnotes and hypertext.
DFW: I’ve had people say that, and I would love them to think that there’s some grand theory. I sometimes use a computer to type when I’ve got a lot of corrections to do, but I don’t have a modem, I’ve never been on the Internet. There’s a guy in my department who teaches hypertext, but I don’t really know anything about it.