On Editing DFW

GQ interviews Deborah Treisman, who worked on the two New Yorker excerpts (“Good People” and “Wiggle Room”) from the unfinished DFW novel, “The Pale King”:

David was wonderful to edit because he was so involved with the minutiae of his work—he had a long explanation for every decision that he’d made, and yet, at the same time, he was willing to rethink anything that didn’t seem to be landing well for the reader. Editing him was sometimes a more painstaking process than editing most writers, but it was a genuine pleasure to engage with his intelligence and with his way of thinking about language, from how it supported narrative trajectory and character development all the way down to the punctuation. He was truly interested in the fine points of grammar, and every rule he broke he broke deliberately, with a specific artistic purpose in mind. Those long paragraphs—as off-putting as they can seem—were entirely purposeful.



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Im greatly anticipating The Pale King, but I do have a few reservations. As Treisman points out DFW was heavily involved with the editing of his books, and from my understanding TPK was/is not at all a finished product at the time of his passing. There will undoubtedly be brilliant passages but they likely wont mirror the final product that Wallace himself would have signed off on. I hope this final salvo into Wallace’s oeuvre is done with the care and attention to detail that he so richly deserves. I would encourage his editors to take their time, and make sure what they release stays as true as possible to Wallace’s intentions, if those intentions were even known.

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