March 11, 2010

The David Foster Wallace Archives (and my own)

As with "real" news, news in the literary world does not accommodate itself to any schedule, so my usual Tuesday roundup of recent stories regarding literature, books, and publishing failed to include the biggest story of the week - the acquisition of David Foster Wallace's archives by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas - which was inconveniently revealed on Tuesday, after I had already posted my update (though the identity of the buyer should not surprise anyone familiar with the center's modus operandi, as detailed in this New Yorker article).

The news was announced on the Center's website, and a selection of Wallace's writings is already available online, including:
  • A sampling of Juvenilia, early drafts, corrections, and letters (included as a slideshow with the announcement itself)
  • Notes he has written inside books
  • A list of words he has circled in his dictionary (which has already served as a post for my fellow 2logger Flav, which itself served as a partial basis for my new Cycloped post)
"The Book Bench" (the New Yorker's Book blog) asked the curator of British and American Literature at the Ransom Center what else was there and got a detailed answer (the post also contains a more generous slideshow than the one presented by the Ransom Center).

One thing (or actually several things) not included in the archives is all the material related to Wallace's upcoming novel The Pale King, which would be handed over to the Ransom Center once the manuscript is compiled and completed (if such a thing is even possible).

page from a bound copy of “Corrections of
Typos/Errors for Paperback Printing of Infinite Jest”

Being some sort of a writer myself, and also self-involved (as most writers are), this naturally made me think of the archives I might leave behind, which would probably seem paltry by comparison. I don't often write in books, instead using cue cards as bookmarks/places for notations. I do, however, stick occasional bits of ephemera inside my books (e.g. ticket stubs, newspaper articles, postcards, etc).

As for my own writing, I have a big pile of early drafts of Salah the Mute (in English, and a couple in Hebrew as well, still looking for representation if anyone's interested), but most other early drafts of my writing were either discarded when I moved back to Israel, or existed entirely on my laptop, and thus probably overwritten by newer versions.

Aside from that there are a few drawings, some comic strips I drew in high school, some irregularly kept journals (which I might have to burn at some point, I'm not sure yet), and a nice pile of rejections from agents and magazines (for some reason I've never thought of throwing them out). Not much of an archive, but than again, I hope that I still have some time to amass a more formidable pile (maybe I should start writing in books - just a few scribbles and your pile grows by about 200-800 pages - it's worth considering)

"Self Portrait" circa 2006;
from the currently unpurchased S. K. Azoulay archives

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