“There’s an odd phenomenon, where, I think, if you write stuff that’s intimate and weird, weird people tend to feel they’re intimate with you. You know?”
-- David Foster Wallace to David Lipsky, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace
It would follow that a fan like myself would be excited about the forthcoming movie The End of The Tour, a film chronicling Wallace’s conversations with Lipsky; instead, the whole thing makes me feel a bit queasy.
David Foster Wallace died nearly ten years ago in a grisly suicide. And his works have attracted increased attention ever since.
The reason I mention his death is because I believe the film is an extension of our postmortem fascination with David Foster Wallace. Without his death, the transcripts that became this film would never have found their audience.
Still, I believe the story at the heart The End Of The Tour to be worthwhile. As a reader, I found the source material deeply moving. What I object to is the medium. And I think it is important to note that Wallace’s friends and family have said that they would prefer this story to remain in writing; they do not believe Wallace’s story belongs on film.
There are of course times when the import of a story supersedes any one person’s wishes about how it be told. Stories are important – including this one. Stories show us the universe of choices that exist in the world… they show us alternate ways of existing… the hazards of courses elected and those avoided.
I don’t doubt that The End Of The Tour is a lovely film. People who I respect deeply will choose to see it. I will not. There are a lot of strange people in this world who miss David Foster Wallace a great deal. And our films, articles and blog posts are the strange, sad ways we mourn him. I’ll end by finishing the passage from Although Of Course with which I began this post, it says everything I wish I could:
“I got very tired of having somebody say, ‘I really really really really loved this book.’ Which for one nanosecond makes you feel good. But then you don’t know what else to say except, ‘Thank you.’
“You could sense that they expected you to say something else. To fall into the rhythm of an intimacy that they felt. And of course, there wasn’t that there. And that, that was sad and unsettling.”