Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Assembling New David Foster Wallace Book - From Time Magazine

Interesting piece from the latest issue of Time Magazine in "Unfinished Business" by Lev Grossman... about "The Pale King", David Foster Wallace's posthumously published novel.

What struck me wasn't necessarily writing about the book itself, but rather the compilation of the work. As I've been reading about (and posting on) the process of writing lately, one thing that's come out repeatedly is the import of editing in the process.

This (presumably) final work from Wallace presents a remarkable example of that import with Grossman's description of how the book came together. After Wallace's passing, reams of pages were found with scattered chapters, notes, vignettes and story fragments... and out of this, the book was assembled. Over the course of two years, longtime Wallace editor Michael Pietsch pored over the work and through an exercise in "extreme editing", made what he felt were the best decisions possible about how it should all fit together into a narrative.

This endeavour by Pietsch (and him winding up with the finished product as described by Grossman) is remarkable to me from the perspective of how both incredibly creative and highly process oriented it must have been. Now, this of course wasn't editing under normal circumstances, but maybe it is a statement on what editing as an activity can be.