I began this journey nearly six months ago with the lofty goal of reading all of David Foster Wallace’s books in the course of one calendar year and blogging about the experience. Approaching the midpoint of the year, I thought it appropriate to pause momentarily and reflect on my progress. At this point in the year I should have read about 2000 pages, or the equivalent of reading Infinite Jest one and three-quarters times; I’ve read 487 and only completed two books from my original list. So at first glance, it would appear that I’ve got a lot of catching up to do over the summer. But before casting stones, let us consider a few things:
First, the lame excuses. Throughout much of the first quarter of this year I was dealing with severe migraines and accompanying vertigo. My doctors were trying to get me on the right medications, which wasn’t always going well; and I missed a lot of work during those months, which caused me to fall behind in grading and other schoolwork. And in the midst of that I had 90 students to prepare for the AP Literature exam. So the combination of not feeling well and the pressure of the May 6 exam date prevented me from giving adequate time to this Letters Project.
But on the other hand, starting this project has opened up a whole lot more than the 4003 pages I originally planned on reading. David Lipsky’s book, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, came out in April and required immediate attention. And curiosity led me to find a number of DFW’s short stories and essays that were published originally in magazines and then later online. So even though I have yet to crack open Infinite Jest, I haven’t exactly been asleep at the wheel… or keyboard.
As I reflect on these last six months, I see that I had no idea what I was getting myself into back in January. Starting the Letters to DFW blog project has opened up doors and opportunities I never would have imagined when I began. Researching Dave’s life and writing led me to find fellow students of his work through the Howling Fantods website and Wallace-l discussion board. This community has challenged my thinking and my writing as we have discussed Dave’s works. I’ve found like-minded individuals who share my love of reading and writing about great prose.
Additionally, working on this project has expanded my own writing as I have experimented with elements of style and voice. In reading Dave’s essays and stories, I have come to see the world around me and those who inhabit it a little differently. And in writing about those essays and stories, and attempting to mimic his style and tone, I have come closer to finding my own written voice. I have struggled to find just the right words to say exactly what I mean to say, and I have worked to connect ideas and thoughts that I had never before connected.
I recently read Zadie Smith’s essay on Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. In her discussion of “Forever Overhead” she writes about how Dave uses a second person narrator to engage the reader. All of his writing – and this short story is the perfect example – is not about society or culture, but about us – the reader – as a part of that society. We are flawed individuals living in a flawed society. He uses his writing as a sort of mirror in which we can see ourselves a little more clearly.
Reading Dave’s work has allowed me to see the world – and see myself – a little more clearly. Writing about his work has challenged me to better articulate what it is I see.
So in these first six months things have not gone as planned, but I am better for having come this far. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.
 I see now that what was once called a lofty goal was more of a delusion of grandeur. I was young and naïve and really had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time.
 Although, it is probably cheating to count the 144 pages of the gift book edition of This is Water. The bootleg version I found online, when copied into a Word document, comes to about eight pages, depending on the font size and margin settings.
 Attempting to master the footnote has been my most ambitious undertaking. I’ve made some progress, but am still far behind the Master.
 The first couple sentences of the story threw me for a loop. I hadn’t seen a second-person narrator used since reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book as a kid. But after getting past the initial shock, I found it very engaging.