David Foster Wallace was a great writer who was highly and deservedly acclaimed, had a turbulent personal life, and committed suicide at a young age. If you play around with the words a little you’ve got the story line for the lives of thousands of our culture’s most revered artists. It’s a narrative which, unlike Wallace’s books, is overly familiar, and a film which practically writes itself.
So when it was announced that a film adaptation of David Lipsky’s Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace, a book based on an extended interview, I was more surprised by the source material than the casting of Jason Segel as Wallace. Anyone who’s read D.T. Max’s excellent biography Every Love Story is a Ghost Story knows Wallace’s broader life was far more interesting than that single interview. Even his contentiously named non-fiction seems, at first glance, to be more fertile material for adaptation.
Content aside, I’m looking forward to the film. There’s something sweetly absurd about casting a former Muppets star known for getting his dick out in films as a literary giant who once claimed he thought his life’s purpose was ‘to put [his] penis in as many vaginas as possible’.
The David Foster Wallace Literary Trust, however, really doesn’t agree with that sentiment, and have made it very clear that they ‘do not condone the film…[and] do not consider it an homage’, whatever that means. They go on to say that they would ‘prefer that David be remembered for his extraordinary writing’, although ‘The Trust remains open to working with a range of artists who are interested in respectful adaptations, and will vigilantly protect David’s literary and personal legacy’.
Which begs the question, where was their haughty disdain and vague legal threats when John Krasinski took a huge, steaming dump all over one of Wallace’s most revered short stories, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men? Seriously? I’m pretty sure the whole thing was a way for Dominic Cooper to prove he could read. It didn’t work.
The fault may not solely lie with the film makers, although though should be held accountable for at least some of this crime. I for one don’t think Wallace’s fiction is that suitable for adaptation, but, judging from his Trust’s reaction to this upcoming film, it’s going to be a while before someone is allowed to make a thoughtful, well produced full biopic of Wallace’s life. If the Trust is so concerned with protecting and prolonging Wallace’s legacy, maybe they should be a little happier that someone is making a film about him starring two hugely popular actors (Jesse Eisenberg is playing Lipsky). Besides, even if it does turn out to be terrible, there’s no way it’ll be as horrible as the clip above.