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This is wicked.


RICK MOODY: How about the footnotes? As I recall it that innovation really first emerged in IJ. Am I remembering properly? That there were none in Girl with Curious Hair? What did you think of them then, and what did they add to the project? They must have increased the level of editorial difficulty significantly ...

MICHAEL PIETSCH [EDITOR]: My recollection about the notes is that I suggested all kind of in retrospect completely lame and shortsighted ways of dealing with them. Make them available in a separate volume for people who really wanted them. Incorporate as many as possible into the text and cut the rest completely. (I know! Heresy!) At first I was having so much trouble keeping just the main body of the story in my head that this extra layer of complexity felt overwhelming. David made it completely clear that the notes were there to stay and that they should be endnotes, not footnotes, so readers could find it easy not to read them if they didn't want to, and so the main body of the text wouldn't look intimidatingly multilevel and complex. I took a freer hand in suggesting cuts to the footnotes than to the body of the story.

Did I already say what we'd agreed early on? That our job together was to subject every section of the book to the brutal question: can the book live without this? Knowing how much this book would demand of readers, and how easy it would be to put it down or never pick it up simply because of its daunting size, we agreed that many passages should come out, no matter how beautiful, funny, brilliant or fascinating they were of themselves, simply because the novel did not absolutely require them. Given that the notes were almost by definition secondary, I invited a lot of them to leave. Of course to David they were not secondary. They were further evidence of the many separate levels of life and thought we're all carrying on at all times. And he insisted that many of them stay that I thought could well have come out.

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. He accepted many cuts -- my recollection is around 250 manuscript pages, though in an interview he said he thought it was 400. But he said no to many more. There's a math proof there in one of the footnotes that I said would be understood by only maybe three readers in the world. And he said it was important to him that those three readers saw that the math in the book was real, and that the character actually had the capabilities he said he had. It stayed.

[Excerpt from Sonora Review 55/56, featuring a 100-page tribute to David Foster Wallace, including the uncollected DFW short story, "Solomon Silverfish."]

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