David Foster Wallace : Scribbles in the Margins

Published March 11, 2010 by Dallas


If you’ve ever read anything by David Foster Wallace, or if you’ve ever read anything about David Foster Wallace, you’ll know first and foremost that his style and his genius were unmatched in the modern era of “less is more literature.” Say what you will about the practical application of implementing hundreds of pages of footnotes to help broaden the understanding of your story, or layering characters so deep that they often fold in upon themselves, the steps that he took to advance the cause of what great writing can be will no doubt still be a topic of debate on college campuses and coffee shop sofas for decades to come. While DFW left us with only a handful of titles to his name (each one a delightful gem) he also left a substantial library of notes and notebooks. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin acquired the archive and has been diligently digitizing the papers one by one so you too can have a flip through the (virtual) pages.


The archive contains manuscript materials for Wallace’s books, stories and essays; research materials; Wallace’s college and graduate school writings; juvenilia, including poems, stories and letters; teaching materials and books.

Highlights include handwritten notes and drafts of his critically acclaimed “Infinite Jest,” the earliest appearance of his signature “David Foster Wallace” on “Viking Poem,” written when he was six or seven years old, a copy of his dictionary with words circled throughout and his heavily annotated books by Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, John Updike and more than 40 other authors.


Wallace’s materials at the Ransom Center will reside alongside the papers of contemporary writers such as DeLillo, Norman Mailer, Doris Lessing and James Salter, as well as those of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.

Wallace’s publisher Little, Brown and Company is donating its editorial files relating to the author to the Ransom Center. Wallace worked with Little, Brown and Company beginning in 1993.

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