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Thursday, December 12, 2013

David Foster Wallace: The Movie!

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 12:29 PM


I kind of hope Kermit narrates the movie, but to backtrack:

From the interesting to the exploitative, there's been no shortage of things put out in the wake of David Foster Wallace's death. Off the top of my head, I can think of his unfinished novel The Pale King (which Wallace's readers were then asked to buy again in paperback, where even more unfinished stuff was included), the severely fluffed-up repackaging of Wallace's short speech This Is Water into a novelty hardcover, the thin, morbidly titled paperback David Foster Wallace: The Last Interview, the essay collection Both Flesh and Not, D.T. Max's biography Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, this thing, and David Lipsky's Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, which charts a sort of road trip between Rolling Stone's Lipsky and Wallace, who was on a tour promoting Infinite Jest. I've read most of the things above, but passed on the Lipsky book; something about it felt a little... off. I don't know. Buying stuff about one of your favorite authors who happens to have died relatively recently is a weird proposition; my basic rule, so as not to feel skeevy about it, is to avoid the stuff that feels the most sensational. I'm not saying that Lipsky's book is sensational, or isn't good—I have no idea—but nothing about it overcame my entirely personal, entirely subjective sense of whether or not something was put out because it's cool or because Wallace's death created a weird, overly reverential market that didn't exist when he was alive. (I had the opposite reaction to the D.T. Max book, which I picked up a few days after its release. Again, entirely personal, entirely subjective.)

OKAY BUT ALL THAT SAID, AND TO COMPLETELY BURY THE LEDE: They're making a movie out of Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, with Jesse Eisenberg playing Lipsky and Jason Segel playing Wallace. Segel certainly looks the part, I tend to like his performances quite a bit, and he generally takes on solid projects. This still seems weird to me, though, in much the same way that Jim Halpert's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men seemed weird to me: Like this is going to be something really difficult to pull off, and I'd rather not spend my time watching someone fail. (I still haven't seen the movie of Brief Interviews.) It'd seem to me that the way to go about this new film would be to understate the Wallace angle by trying to avoid it as much as possible—and just make, for all intents and purposes, a movie about two writers, one more successful than the other, who're traveling around. But if you lose the Wallace angle, you also lose the film's main draw, not to mention the main advertising angle. It's a tricky balancing act, and given who's involved, I'm guessing this movie won't be as easy to ignore as Brief Interviews. So! This will be a thing, I guess.

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