Editing INFINITE JEST
Again, some bits from the Sonora Review DFW Tribute Issue, which I’m still reading through; this time I’ve excerpted Rick Moody’s interview of Michael Pietsch, who edited Infinite Jest while at Little, Brown. The whole interview is interesting, as Pietsch talks about how he acquired IJ, how he and Wallace worked together to edit it, and how ‘it felt as if [they’d] published a book that mattered, and that would last.’ Pietsch calls it ‘one of the great thrills’ of his working life.
Of the editing process, Pietsch says that ‘every decision was David’s. I made suggestions and recommendations and tried to make the reasons for them as clear as possible. But every change was his.’
After the jump, you’ll find some responses Wallace made to Pietsch’s requests for cuts.
p. 52 – This is one of my personal favorite Swiftian lines in the whole manuscript, which I will cut, you rotter.
p. 82 – I cut this and have now come back an hour later and put it back.
p. 133 – Poor old FN 33 about the grammar exam is cut. I’ll also erase it from the back-up disc so I can’t come back in an hour and put it back in (an enduring hazard, I’m finding).
pp. 327-330 – Michael, have mercy. Pending an almost Horacianly persuasive rationale on your part, my canines are bared on this one.
pp. 739-748 – I’ve rewritten it – for about the 11th time – for clarity, but I bare teeth all the way back to the 2nd molar on cutting it.
p. 785ff – I can give you 5000 words of theoretico-structural arguments for this, but let’s spare one another, shall we?
And, if you haven’t done so, head over to this piece by Steven Moore, another friend of Wallace’s who also helped him revise IJ. It’s longish, but interesting to see what was happening on another side while Pietsch was sending in his own suggestions.
And, of course, you should buy the tribute issue if you’d like to read more DFW stuff. I think I’ve reached my limit of posting excerpts from it without permission.