Author and Rolling Stone contributing editor David Lipsky won a National Magazine Award for writing about the late author David Foster Wallace last year. We talk to Lipsky about his recent book, "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace," and his travels with the author. We also hear from Wallace's sister, Amy Wallace-Havens, on her brother's legacy.
John Hockenberry: David Lipsky, this is kind of a dream come true. In a way you’re sitting down with a writer who you obviously admire, you’re spending time with him, is it also a way of vanishing into his work by sitting down with him?
David Lipsky: Well, yeah, cause one of the great things about, both about being with him and then reading the book afterwards is it’s like being in an essay he’s doing live, it’s like being in his great narrative voice as he’s gong into a restaurant, as he’s going through an airport, as he’s going through the mall of America. So it was as if you woke up inside one of David’s paragraphs.
John Hockenberry: And were you comfortable on this trip with him?
David Lipsky: In the beginning, he doesn’t - I have the impression he doesn’t like me, and I get that impression because he turns to me in a pizza restaurant and says “I’m not sure if you are a very nice man or not.” But, yeah, then afterwards as we started driving around more, yeah.
John Hockenberry: There was a sense of, in some of the recordings you made, and to hear David Foster Wallace’s voice right now is… y’know quite extraordinary, here’s him talking with you, on this road trip back in 1996, with every bit of the whimsy you would find on the page.
[AUDIO David Foster Wallace: I have this… here’s this thing where it’s going to sound sappy to you, I have this unbelievably, like, 5-year old’s belief that art is just absolutely magic, and that good art can do things that nothing else in the solar system can do. END AUDIO]
Hockenberry: Can you see his face, when he was saying that to you?
by David Lipsky
David was six feet two, and on a good day he weighed two hundred pounds. He had dark eyes, soft voice, caveman chin, a lovely, peak- lipped mouth that was his best feature. He walked with an ex-athlete’s saunter—a roll from the heels, as if any physical thing was a pleasure. He wrote with eyes and a voice that seemed to be a condensed form of everyone’s lives—it was the stuff you semi thought, the background action you blinked through at supermarkets and commutes—and readers curled up in the nooks and clearings of his style. His life was a map that ends at the wrong destination. He was an A student through high school, he played football, he played tennis, he wrote a philosophy thesis and a novel before he graduated from Amherst, he went to writing school, published the novel, made a city of squalling, bruising, kneecapping editors and writers fall moony- eyed in love with him. He published a thousand- page novel, received the only award you get in the nation for being a genius, wrote essays providing the best feel anywhere of what it means to be alive now, accepted a special chair to teach writing at a college in California, married, published another book, and hanged himself at age forty- six.
David Lipsky, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, talks about traveling with David Foster Wallace during his Infinite Jest tour, the novel that made him famous. Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace is a biography told over five days, in which Wallace tells Lipsky remarkable things about his life, how he feels, what he thinks, what terrifies, fascinates, and confounds him.