It is a truism that some books are long in the making. Think Joyce, think Proust. Think, for that matter, any of your cherished modernist masters. Contemporary biographies, however, often solicited with deadlines and marketing campaigns attached, tend not to grow so slowly. If they do,  as in the case of David Lipsky’s Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, readers can assume an extraordinary backstory. And, indeed, the story behind Lipsky’s account of the late David Foster Wallace is both interesting and illuminating. It provides an insightful angle onto the media phenomenon that Wallace, after his untimely death, has become. And it raises doubts about the book’s quality as a piece of literature; doubts that ultimately can be dispelled via a comparison with Wallace’s own work. So here it is, first of all – the backstory, in chronological order. […]

READ MORE: The Dave Show (Post 45: Contemporaries 10/2011)

HOW DAVID LIPSKY CAPTURES THE SPIRIT OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE  A few years ago, I wrote an essay about Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, David Lipsky’s unconventional “biography” of the late David Foster Wallace. The angle I chose at the time were professed doubts about the book’s quality as a piece of literature. Wasn’t Lipsky’s true-to-each-spoken-word coverage of Wallace, I wondered, rather self-indulgent — at best a reminder of the media phenomenon Wallace had become, at worst a cynical attempt to cash in on tragedy? With the release of The End of the Tour, based on Lipsky’s book, these questions have only become more pressing. In my earlier essay, republished here in truncated form, I concluded that Lipsky’s choice to print largely unedited transcripts, the raw material underlying what could have been a more focused prose piece, was not a case of hagiography-by-bootleg; rather, it was informed by assumptions about power in life-writing that he shared with Wallace. And I would argue that the creators of The End of the Tour were not ignorant to these considerations, either. To be sure, the logic of their medium forced them to make different formal choices than Lipsky. However, by (over)dramatizing Wallace’s and Lipsky’s struggles with the intimacy of their assignment and by balancing their storylines against one another, shifting focus back and forth until it has become quite uncertain who this movie is really about, The End of the Tour hints at the kind of counter-profile on Lipsky that Wallace had envisioned: “a profile of one of you guys who’s doin’ a profile on me […] to get some of the control back.” […]

READ MORE: How David Lipsky Captures the Spirit of David Foster Wallace (Just Words 08/2015)