Finite Just

Jimmy Chen

Hello, my name is David Foster Wallace. No, I’m not David Foster Wallace the famous brilliant writer. Funny thing is, I’m also a writer. I’ve been dealing with this for the past ten years. Anything I send to editors gets immediately accepted, but when I tell them in subsequent correspondence that I’m not the one, they retract their acceptance, usually accompanied with deep apologies. One editor wrote this in a retroactive rejection letter:

[…] we initially attributed the awkwardness of the syntax and erratic pacing to vernacular being cultivated, and interpreted the aggravatingly drawn-out passages as a test being put to the reader, as a way to ‘earn’ the reading experience. Now we know it’s just you. Furthermore, it would be very difficult to explicitly state that you are not the one without bringing attention to that fact, and to not have public interpret it as some self-satisfied marketing gimmick. Unfortunately, it is with regret that we cannot publish your novel Just Try To Finish This. We did, however, like your idea to have it highly distributed in Finland as Just Try To Finnish This.

What I’m about to tell you may be hard to believe. It is not my fault the truth is so meta-fictional: I also live in Pomona, California. I lived in Glendale for a while, but moved to Pomona for the nicer air. We actually met for coffee once. He responded to several air-banner messages I had in circulation. He’s actually a really nice guy. Anyways, he said it might be cool to introduce me to his ENG 170R Selected Obscure/Eclectic Fictions class at Pomona College, since I was, to use his words, an ‘obscure’ writer.

Obscure is relative. He should know this with that huge brain of his. The sun, our flame-ball of life, is obscure relative to the infinite universe. Kafka was obscure during his life, and look how he turned out—on every bookshelf in Amerika, right smack between Joyce and Lawrence. I think it’s a little cruel, without hinting at any posthumous status, to call a writer who is not published by freaking Time Warner obscure. Not everyone is a genius, sorry.
I should mention here that his girlfriend Trinna is extremely attractive. And no, she’s not some creative writing student at Pomona—thank God—otherwise I’d probably have to shoot myself [1], after shooting them. Am I jealous? Would I want to wear a bandana? Would it make my day to be a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award Winner? Yes, yes, and yes.

Sometimes I see him in the literature section at Borders, thumbing through the Big Russians with this glazed and extremely bored look in his eyes. They say paranoia is disappointed narcissism, but he has nothing to be disappointed about. So I don’t quite understand the sunglasses. I would think he has a copy of The Brothers Karamazov but apparently he doesn’t. He’s been working on it for two weeks now. One suspects it is not because he cannot afford to buy the book that he stays there, hours at length, reading. Perhaps he too is lonely, in the brief periods between spooning Trinna and getting awards I suppose.

Even as I write these words, I can see how absurd this sounds, how David Foster Wallace-ish this entire missive is. David asked me, about five years ago, to write a book for him. Not dedicated to, but for, meaning—he asked me to write a manuscript for him to submit, under the auspices of him, to his agent. The result was a novel called INFINITE JEST 2. It’s 1430 pages long (all pages are numbered 2) and exists in only three computers in this world: mine, David’s, and his agent Bonnie Nadell’s. I’m thinking about deleting my copy, and David tells me he’s thinking of doing the same. There goes five years of my life, thanks.

Ms. Nadell, if you’re reading this, would it help if I simply dropped dead and there was just one DFW? Are you fond of initials [2]? I hear Kafka’s agent was too.

[1] I do not tread on David's esteemed (albeit somewhat overused) footnote jurisdiction lightly, but only employ such diversions earnestly—case in point: Suicide. His story "Good Old Neon" features a long meandering footnote which supposes the ending of the story with the words: THE END. The story itself continues and readers discover that it’s actually being written, or at least finished, by David Foster Wallace's roommate, who discloses that the author had killed himself. Drum roll please: I am that roommate. An explanation: David went through a severe depression right after Infinite Jest came out, sometime in late 1996. That's when the huffing began, particularly Aqua Net hairspray (extra super-hold, unscented). One day I came back from work early and found him unconscious in the bathtub, soaking in a pink pool of his diluted blood. Our rubber ducky floated there upside-down like some drowned Moby Dick. I quickly duct-taped his wrists and called 911. At the hospital that night, David thanked me, with a resentful intimacy only roommates can understand, and said he'd write a story for me. It won the O. Henry award, though I haven't yet seen a cent in 'indirect' royalties.

[2] OK are the possible initials of one "Omar Kulemsky", a German quality control officer who somehow wound up with the authority to give 'final approval' by a stamp of his initials. Omar, it has been noted, used his stamp at such a frivolous rate that it became a colloquialism. In the case of both K and DFW, any and all implications made by their fictional work are completely false. None of that stuff was, or is, true. Except for this. This is true, literally.

The thing most 'writers' in 'MFA programs' say about David Foster Wallace is, "Well, his nonfiction is fantastic, but his fiction just falls flat." Those people are idiots.

Jimmy Chen’s fiction has appeared in Failbetter, Opium, Monkey Bicycle, Eyeshot, McSweeney’s, among others. He can be found virtually at Embassy of Misguided Zen.