Many years ago Christina Dixcy and I went to the Barnes & Noble on Union Square to hear DFW read from his just-released Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. There might have been other people involved, I’m not sure, as it was a long time ago. Anyway, as Christina and I were among the privileged (read “smug, hipster”) few who had actually read Infinite Jest (me, twice, cause I’m geeky and post-modern that way, and Dixcy, with an ingenious method of physically cutting the book into 3 mini-books (with their accompanying footnotes, natch) to facilitate subway reading, cause that thing was way to impractical to read underground, man).
And so he reads, I don’t remember which story, and then, it’s over, and we go to get in line to get our books signed. I admit I’m a little starstruck and nervous about the encounter. And the guy ahead of us, it’s his turn, and here he is, probably as shy and starstruck and nervous as I am (well, not as shy), and he’s standing in front of a guy whose work he admires, and wants him (DFW) to know that he’s a fan, and has already read the book David is touring to promote the release of, but not quite sure what to say, on account of nerves, probably, so anyway he blurts out what had to be the first thing that popped into his head, “Hey, so did your father really wave his dick at you when you were thirteen?” (a reference to a story in BIWHM). I couldn’t see, but I’m sure dude cringed the very second it left his mouth, sucked in his breath, knowing he had said the Precisely Wrong Thing. DFW sighed, looked up, said, “fiction: from the Latin Fictae, meaning ‘made up'” and gave him his book. Dude slinked off, probably to a bar, to lament that he had met a great author and Blown It like an Anthony Michael-Hall character.
Pressure was off of me, though – cause I was next, and instead of standing there silently or uttering a voice-cracking “I-I-I-I’m a big fan of your work!,” which is what I probably would have done, I now had a “oh man, can you believe that guy?” bond with my new pal Dave. He signed my copy with the above statement, saying something about how he used to make signatures more personal, but after something was taken out of context, he had stopped. He, Dixcy and I shared a slightly obscure Monty Python reference, had a nice friendly laugh, and we were on our way. On the subway home, I reflected that he seemed like a nice guy, I was glad to have done it (like I said, I was pretty nervous about the whole book-signing thing), and most importantly, I was glad I wasn’t the guy in front of me in line.