There’s a point in this film where the interviewer David Lipsky, at least according to the film, wants David Foster Wallace to live up to this idea of a glamorous, brilliant, yet generous author. A Hollywood prototype of our imagination. This author has, we feel, somehow portrayed their soul, their very essence on the page. They’ve moved us in ways not possible in regular social interactions. We feel we know them on a level that’s beyond the fleeting, “How are you doing?” Even when we rationally know that we’ve been bewitched into intimacy with character and literary devices, we ignore this reality in order to continue to live the dream of the novel, of the narrative that allowed us for 8-12 hours to feel closer to a human being, closer than most of us get on a daily basis with anyone really. Marriage and children, family, these are all portals to defeating the darkness of loneliness, but they reveal their secret depths in stages or moments, a tapestry of belonging that satisfies in their longevity. And yet the story, the novel especially due to it’s length, creates a larger depth of feeling, of stepping out of one’s life to see the mirage of connectivity, first through character, and then, usually quite mistakenly with the author.
Lipsky, as quoted in the movie says, “People don’t read a 1,000 page book unless they think the author is brilliant. They want that author to be brilliant.” I will confess that I have not read Infinite Jest and that I might be doing a bit of slight of hand, when I use Wallace as a stand-in for any author. Sure we want brilliance, but we also want understanding, a moment of holding this author to the highest regard, because they made us feel less alone, more understood, connected, yes to the larger world, but really to them, the author. We’d love to make them our best friend, our confidant, the person who understands us above anyone else. All because of their alchemy with words. With their story, they’ve touched a part of our consciousness that we’ve never given away to anyone. The reasons for this denial of self to those around us are varied and myriad, some justified, others not out of fear or selfishness. The writer holds up our coal of weakness and gives it the dignity and respect we think it deserves and because the writer has not asked anything from us, but rather has given us their own special consciousness, we want to thank them in ways that surely go beyond normal social interaction.