POSTSCRIPT: David Foster Wallace Writes to Don DeLillo

Each month, Anna Knoebel revisits letters from prominent writers and other artists to revive the dying art of letter writing. Anna is the editor and co-publisher of Abe’s Penny, a magazine of arts and literature delivered in the form of postcards.

Like a prose index of cultural references, this postcard from David Foster Wallace to Don DeLillo makes “Wish you were here!” postcards seem like huge wastes, void as they are of information and character.

Among the many curiosities of this correspondence: “No offense intended” by the card’s image (a book cover from Sheldon Lord’s A Woman Must Love), the mention of Jonathan Franzen’s New Yorker piece on William Gaddis, the brick shithouse of a palm tree, and a request to eyeball DeLillo’s “new novel” (Cosmopolis?). So many of the sentences create space for wondering what more there is to know.

Transcript:

9–1 (CARDS WERE GIFTS — NO OFFENSE INTENDED)

DEAR D2, I AM NOW A LICENSED CA DRIVER, WHICH FROM THE SENSE I GET IS OFFICIAL STATE-CITIZENSHIP IF ANYTHING HERE IS. THERE IS A PALM TREE IN MY BACK YARD THAT’S 11 1/2 FEET AROUND. A BRICK SHITHOUSE OF A PALM TREE. ¶ THANK YOU FOR YOUR NOTE. I HAVE NOT YET READ THE GADDIS, BUT I’M IN CONTACT WITH FRANZEN, WHO’S APPARENTLY BEEN CHARGED THE TASK OF A COMPREHENSIVE GADDIS PIECE BY THE NYer, AND IS ‘STRUGGLING’ WITH IT. ¶ THIS BLOODY MENGENLEHRE BOOK (IT INTIMIDATES ME THAT YOU KNOW THIS TERM) TURNS OUT NOT TO BE DONE — BOTH THE MATH-EDITOR AND THE GENERAL EDITOR WANT REPAIRS — OFTEN THEIR DEMANDS ARE MUTUALLY CONTRADICTORY. I WILL END UP HAVING SPENT 11 MONTHS FULL-TIME ON A PROJECT I’D PLANNED TO KNOCK OFF PART-TIME IN 4. I NEVER WANT TO SEE ANOTHER FOURIER SERIES AS LONG AS I LIVE. ¶ I’D LOVE A CHANCE TO EYEBALL YR. NEW NOVEL IF YOU DON’T OBJECT. AND I HOPE VALPARAISO IS IN GOOD HANDS WITH THE TROUPE.

Y.V.T.
DAVID WALLACE ?

***
— Anna Knoebel has been writing letters since she was about eight years old, often to her grandfather, who would send them back edited. She worked in publicity at MGM Studios in Los Angeles and as the Managing Editor of zingmagazine before co-founding Abe’s Penny with her sister, Tess. She lives in New York with her husband and daughter.

This postcard comes from the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Collection Don Delillo 101.10.

Photo credits: DFW, Keith Bedford, Getty Images file; DD, Joyce Ravid, Scribner / HC

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