When I was a younger writer caught up in the fever dream of what would be my first abandoned novel, I wrote in a state of panic and dread to David Foster Wallace, then stationed at Illinois State University, in Normal, Illinois. Call this invasion an act of literary stalking, but this was before Infinite Jest came out and I’d read excerpts in various literary journals and was hooked. I don’t know if Dave received much fan mail or if he was one of those guys who, if written to, felt compelled to write back. Whatever, a letter arrived a few weeks later, postmarked from Peoria, Illinois. Inside was a neatly folded note, handwritten in bright-red ink, the penmanship slanted and a smiley face adjacent to his signature.


This is what it said:

Thank you for your nice letter. I’m sorry that I have no words of wisdom or inspiration. I get sad and scared too. I think maybe it’s part of the natural price of wanting to do this kind of work. I wish you well.