Get Inside of David Foster Wallace’s Head


Attention DFW fanboys and girls! We were recently alerted by our friends over at HTML Giant that David Foster Wallace’s archive has been acquired by the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin. They’ll house a plethora of DFW-related goodies: original manuscripts for Wallace’s books and stories, his research materials and college and graduate school writings, as well as his first ever known signature — at the end of “Viking Poem,” penned when he was only six or seven.

The archive will also maintain Wallace’s dictionary and library of over 40 authors, all of their works heavily marked up by the king of annotation himself. Add this to the David Foster Wallace Audio Project and you’ve got at least a month’s worth of heavy intellectual stimulation to go on. Don’t jump in your jalopy for a literary-themed road trip yet, however — the materials won’t be available to researchers until the fall, though a “selection” will be on view in the Ransom Center lobby until April 9.

After the jump, check out the first handwritten page of Wallace’s draft of Infinite Jest, a few of the annotated insides of the books in Wallace’s personal library (DeLillo, McCarthy), as well as a sampling of the words he circled in his dictionary, to be dissected and pontificated upon at your leisure.

Nerd out, kids — here’s the birth of Infinite Jest in the man’s own handwriting:

Also of note — Wallace’s extensive note-taking on other people’s work:

Don DeLillo’s Players:

Don DeLillo’s Ratner’s Star:

Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree:

(The audacity! A commentary on the man or random doodles born of boredom? Either way, we love it.)

Edwin Williamson’s Borges: A Life:

See even more at the Ransom Center website.

UT Austin is also the possessor of Wallace’s American Heritage Dictionary (He didn’t use the OED? Our world is totally rocked), complete with scribblings and circled words. Behold, a page:

Some other words circled by Wallace in his dictionary and their definitions (a longer list is available here):


-noun Psychiatry.

a symptom of mental disorder involving impairment or loss of volition.



a number of badgers together.





1. a pet name. 2. the practice of using a pet name. 3. the use of forms of speech imitative of baby talk, esp. by an adult.



a person to whom a legacy is bequeathed.

peccant –adjective 1.sinning; guilty of a moral offense. 2. violating a rule, principle, or established practice; faulty; wrong.

uxorious –adjective doting upon, foolishly fond of, or affectionately submissive toward one’s wife.

valgus –noun 1. an abnormally turned position of a part of the bone structure of a human being, esp. of the leg. –adjective 2. of or in such a position; bowlegged, knock-kneed, or the like.

No words were circled in the x, y, or z sections of the dictionary. Very curious. Discuss!