Monday, February 11, 2013

DFW Kenyon discrepancies

And while I’m thinking about David Foster Wallace’s commencement address:

There are at least three significant discrepancies between the audio and print versions of the 2005 Kenyon College commencement address. The second sentence of this passage, present in Audible’s audio version, is missing from the print version:

It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in . . . the head. They shoot the terrible master. [Ellipsis in the original.]
And the second sentence of this passage, present in the print version, is missing from the audio:
The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to thirty, or maybe even fifty, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head.
The absence of the “terrible master” sentence has been widely understood as an attempt to moderate the tone of a passage that seems to point to Wallace’s suicide. But there is a less conspiracy-minded explanation: Wallace’s publisher used the written text of the address, which would seem to mean that the missing-from-print sentence was an impromptu addition. The missing-from-audio sentence would seem then an impromptu deletion from the written text.

A third discrepancy: some of the details of the end-of-day trip to the supermarket are missing from the audio version. At Kenyon, Wallace skipped this print passage:
and of course there are also the glacially slow old people and the spacey people and the ADHD kids who all block the aisle and you have to grit your teeth and try to be polite as you ask them to let you by
and replaced it with
et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony.
Related reading
All David Foster Wallace posts (Pinboard)

[The print version: This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life (New York: Little, Brown, 2009). A handful of words per page, to make a 144-page book. I can’t imagine that Wallace would have been happy about that.]

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