David Foster Wallace Archive Finds a Home

By Jason Boog Comment


Yesterday the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center acquired the archive of writer David Foster Wallace. The collection includes annotated books from the author’s bookshelf, like that scribble-filled copy (pictured, via) of Suttree by Cormac McCarthy.

The collection contains a vast sample of the late author’s writing life: poems, stories and letters he wrote as a young man; college writings and teaching materials; and “heavily annotated books by Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, John Updike and more than 40 other authors.” In addition, Wallace’s agent, Bonnie Nadell (of the Frederick Hill Bonnie Nadell agency), wrote a touching introduction to the collection.

Here’s more from Nadell: “[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.”