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Which is true. Brett Easton Ellis does have some sort of hard-on for David Foster Wallace, due to envy, sure—what writer wouldn't be envious of Wallace's success and acclaim, both critical and popular?—but also due to frustration. And the frustration is that very specific frustration of feeling that the public perception of someone you know is wildly different than the reality of that person. Ellis hates the fact that Wallace is thought to be a saint just because he was a genius. Ellis hates the fact that Wallace can do no wrong because he is dead. Ellis hates the fact that Wallace is untouchable because, a little over four years ago, he took himself away from the world and all of its judgments and critiques. What I'm trying to say is that Brett Easton Ellis's hard-on for Wallace is due to the fact that all of us have a hard-on for Wallace.
I just claimed partial responsibility for one of Brett Easton Ellis's hard-ons. I'm going to go wash my mind out with soap now.
Anyway, I can understand where Ellis is coming from, but Mary Karr was right, he's still "dumber than David." And this matters because it means that he is jealous of David and his opinion can't be considered, really. Whose opinions can be considered? Well, everyone's on the panel for starters. Wallace's biographer D.T. Max was the moderator, but also felt like a participant, and Karr is a poet and memoirist, but was also in a long and tumultuous relationship with Wallace. Deborah Treisman was Wallace's editor, first at Grand Street and then at The New Yorker. Dana Spinotta is an acclaimed writer and didn't know Wallace but is a huge fan and just an all-around brilliant presence for any panel, anywhere, at any time. And the novelist and law professor, Mark Costello was one of Wallace's closest and oldest friends and the two of them co-wrote the 1997 book, "“Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present.”
When asked about Wallace's interest in rap music, Costello said, "He got into rap music theoretically. And I was like, you know, it's actually this thing." And there were many other personal anecdotes about Wallace that brought the man, not the myth, into the room. A portrait of the artist emerged and it was exactly as a Wallace fan might have imagined. Wallace was a man who felt that he was externally inspired to write, he felt like "his ass left the chair," that he was levitated out of his body when he was able to set down the "incandescent prose" that he was so admired for. But he was also anxious and sometimes foolish about his success. Karr related the time that Wallace was asked to participate in an advertisement and she had to say to him, "Would Nabokov make a Gap commercial? Think again, Dave."
At one point, Karr asked, "Did y'all have the same experience of asking him to cut or clarify something and it would come back nine pages longer?"
Treisman said no, but that, "you might get a nine-page note on why he couldn't [make the cuts]."
She quickly followed up by saying that "editing him after death was much easier."