I mean, I’ve got my weird neuroses. Like I’m totally—I had this huge inferiority complex where William Vollmann’s concerned. Because he and I’s first books came out at the same time. And I even once read a Madison Smartt Bell essay, where he used me, and my “slender output,” and the inferiority of it, to talk about, you know, how great Vollmann is. And so I go around, “Oh no, Vollmann’s had another one out, now he’s got like five to my one.” I go around with that stuff. But I think, I’m trying to think of any example that …
Bell himself is an outpourer.
I think just: I haven’t read a lot of the new stuff that’s come out over the last few years. Like Steve Erickson, and Tours of the Black Clock—it’s really fucking good. I thought Bret Ellis’s first book, I thought it was very, very powerful. American Psycho—I thought he was really ill-served by his agent and publisher even letting him publish it, and those are the only two things of his that I read. But that’s, I think this is another danger: you get lavishly rewarded for that first book, and it’s gonna be very difficult for him ever to do anything else. I mean there’s gonna be part of you that just wants to do that over and over and over again, so you continue to get the food pellets of praise. It’s one more way that all this stuff is toxic.
Same risk for you?
Sure. Because whatever I do, the next thing will be very different from this. And if it gets reamed, then I’ll think: “Oh no. Maybe Infinite Jest II.” In which case, somebody needs to come and just put a bullet in my head. To be merciful. David Leavitt noose quote: Reviewers will use my first book as a noose to hang my second. I think it often is. Although the nice thing about having written an essentially shitty first book is that I’m exempt from that problem. There were a lot of people who really liked Broom of the System, but unfortunately they’re all about eleven.
From David Lipsky’s book-length interview/memoir Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself; the italicized interjections are Lipsky’s.
Flavorwire has compiled a fantastic collection of David Foster Wallace quotes from David Lipsky’s new book, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. A few excerpts:
On book tour sex:
“I didn’t get laid on this tour. The thing about fame is interesting, although I would have liked to get laid on the tour and I did not….People come up, they kind of slither up during readings or whatever. But it seems like, what I want is not to have to take any action. I don’t want to have to say, ‘Would you like to come back to the hotel?’ I want them to say, ‘I am coming back to the hotel. Where is your hotel?’ None of ‘em do that….I just can’t stand to look like I’m actively trading on this sexually. Even though of course that’s—I would be happy to do that.”
On Blue Velvet:
“I remember going to see Blue Velvet. . . . It absolutely made me shake. And I went back and saw it again the next day. And there was somethin’ about…it was my first hint that being a surrealist, or being a weird writer, didn’t exempt you from certain responsibilities. But it in fact upped them. . . . David Lynch, Blue Velvet coming out when it did, I think saved me from droppin’ out of school. And saved me maybe even from quittin’ as a writer. ‘Cause I’d always—if I could have made a movie, right at that time? That would have been it. I mean, I vibrated on every frequency.”
On the origin of the trademark bandana:
“I started wearing bandannas in Tucson because it was a hundred degrees all the time. When it’s really hot, I would perspire so much that I would drip on the page. Actually, I started wearing it that year, and then it became a big help in Yaddo in ’87 because I would drip into the typewriter, and I was worried that I would get a shock. And then I discovered that I felt better with them on. And then I dated a woman who…said there were these various chakras, and one of the big ones was what she called the spout hole, at the very top of your cranium. And in a lot of cultures, it was considered better to keep your head covered. And then I began thinking about the phrase, Keeping your head together, you know? …. It’s a security blanket for me. . . . It makes me…feel kind of creepy that people view it as an affectation or trademark or something. It’s more just a foible, it’s the recognition of a weakness, which is that I’m just kind of worried my head’s going to explode.”