Read David Foster Wallace’s Instructions for Editing His Work


Between the footnotes, the pages-long rabbit holes of digression, and, most of all, the energy of genius that radiates from his prose, we imagine it was beyond intimidating to edit David Foster Wallace under any circumstances. So imagine being Joel Lovell, the poor Harper’s editor who was hit with the note below. In a fax cover sheet titled “Attempted Fax Cover Sheet” that accompanied Wallace’s submission of an essay on Kafka to the magazine, he apologizes for responding to queries “in FN’s” and then goes on to make a request: “What I’d ask is that you… not copyedit this like a freshman essay. Idiosyncracies of ital, punctuation, and syntax (‘stuff,’ ‘lightbulb’ as one word, ‘i.e.’/’e.g.’ without commas after, the colon 4 words after ellipses at the end, etc.) need to be stetted.” He goes on to admit that he’s “not especially psyched to have this run at all” and then semi-playfully threatens Lovell. Reading the published piece, it seems that the magazine obliged Wallace — the word “stuff” appears three times in the fairly short piece, including one mention in the footnotes.

[via Letters of Note]