DFW will cause you suffering if you fuck with his syntax.
David Foster Wallace was known for a writing style that could be described as intelligently sloppy. He was unconventional in the greatest sense of the word. One of Wallace’s most impressive talents — and there were many — was his command of the English language. To the unfamiliar eye his seemingly haphazard punctuation and parenthetical asides might be confusing. However he had such an incredible understanding of the written word that he brazenly flouted the rules.
This behavior famously made editors feel uncomfortable. Wallace frequently fought or pleaded with magazine editors to leave his articles as is. One of these polite requests recently surfaced. In an fax to the editors at Harper’s, Wallace told them to keep their hands off his article about Kafka. The short message clearly shows that Wallace never abandoned his precious footnotes even for something as menial and conversational as a fax cover sheet.
ATTEMPTED FAX COVER SHEET
From: David Wallace
To: Joel Lovell, Harper’s [redacted] (Office [redacted])
This is pretty much the best I can do, I think. I feel shitty sticking a lot of what you wanted in FN’s, but I didn’t see any work to work it into the main text w/o having to rewrite whole ¶s and throw the thing’s Styrofoamish weight off.
The deal is this. You’re welcome to this for READINGS if you wish. What I’d ask is that you (or Ms. Rosenbush, whom I respect but fear) 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. (A big reason for this is that I want to preserve an oralish, out-loud feel to the remarks so as to protect me from people’s ire at stuff that isn’t expanded on more; for you, the big reason is that I’m not especially psyched to have this run at all, much less to take a blue-skyed 75-degree afternoon futzing with it to bring it into line with your specs, and you should feel obliged and borderline guilty, and I will find a way to harm you or cause you suffering* if you fuck with the mechanics of this piece.)
Let Me Know,
* (It may take years for the oportunity to arise. I’m very patient. Think of me as a spider with a phenomenal emotional memory. Ask Charis.)