On giving readings: “I like it once I forget myself. So that’s right now it’s terrible, and the first ten minutes will be one of those awful like I-can-feel-my-heartbeat, and everyone else can hear it. And then after a while I just forget it. One reason I don’t mind going long is that when it gets to twenty minutes, just as I’m starting to halfway enjoy it, um, it’s over.”
On disliking Q & A’s following readings: “[It’s] just stuff like ‘Where do you get your ideas?’…. I get them from a Time-Life subscription series, which costs $17.95 a month.”
On his fear of flying [while boarding a plane]: “I wasn’t all that good at physics in high school. And we’re gonna—basically our lives are about to depend on physics. What is it: the under exceeds the over, there’s lift?”
On being proud of the success of Infinite Jest: “I wanted to do something that is real experimental and very strange, but it’s also fun. And that was of course very scary. Because I thought maybe that couldn’t be done—or that it would come off as just a hellacious flop. But I’m sort of proud of it, because I think it was a kind of brave and right-headed thing to do.”
On aspirations for career longevity: “I’m really into the work now. I mean it’s really—and I feel good about this. Because you know, we want to be doing this for forty more years, you know?”
It’s tempting to read Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself looking for clues that explain Wallace’s death (and there is a lot here to mull: details of his previous suicide attempt and his time in a mental institution, his fear of shock therapy, and his recovery and optimism for a career that would span decades). But, although haunted by it, this is not a book about his death; it’s a book about his life. Lipsky has given us a true gem: Wallace in his own words, in a voice that remains vibrant, hopeful, and frank even after its speaker has been silenced. We all may know how it ends, but Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself takes us back to where it all began.