Although of course you end up becoming yourself : a road trip with David Foster Wallace

by David Lipsky

Paperback, 2010




New York : Broadway Books, c2010.


Shares the author's travels with the late David Foster Wallace based on interviews from the 1996 "Infinite Jest" book tour, covering such topics as Wallace's literary process, struggles with fame, and battle with mental illness.

Media reviews

Lipsky mostly steps out of the way, and lets Wallace talk for himself, but the rapport that he and Wallace built during the course of the road trip is both endearing and fascinating. At the end, it feels like you've listened to two good friends talk about life, about literature, about all of their mutual loves. And while they were both young men in 1996, they seem wise beyond their years, yet still filled with a contagious, youthful enthusiasm.
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Wallace’s aliveness is the most compelling part of this book. His humor, his pathos, his brilliant delivery – his tendency to explore the experience of living even as he’s living it – make this book sing.
"Although of Course" offers much more than just the quotidian charm of a famous man's private life. Lipsky had the good fortune to win Wallace's trust when, suddenly famous, he was forced to confront deep misgivings about commercial success and the specter of depression and suicide that had long lingered over him. Lipsky proves an adept interlocutor, and at their best these conversations give Wallace the chance to think out loud and personalize his great themes: addiction and celebrity and the isolation both could bring.
The overall effect of Lipsky’s constant interruptions of Wallace’s routinely thoughtful replies is not to give the reader useful information but to show how little Lipsky seems to understand Wallace—both the man who preferred to avoid doing journalism of the variety that Lipsky has produced and the artist whose method Lipsky claims he was attempting to ape: “the deluxe internal surveys [Wallace] specialized in—the unedited camera, the feed.”

User reviews

LibraryThing member DRFP
A book that's good in parts. Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself is best when Wallace talks about his then just published novel, Infinite Jest. Anyone wanting some authorial insight to what the author hoped to achieve with that novel can find plenty of information here. Wallace discuss the why's of Infinite Jest's non-linear narrative, the endnotes, the cuts, the motivations behind the novel and more. There're also very interesting sections where Wallace talks about the nature of literary fiction, what he likes and dislikes, and where he expected it to go in the future.

Those are the goods bits, which are unfortunately balanced out by long sections that much weaker. The personal history that Wallace talks about is interesting but it's presented in a much more coherent manner in Max's biography, Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story. I realise this was published two years before Max's book but the fact remains that, as of 2012, if someone wants a good account of Wallace's life they're better served reading the aforementioned biography rather than this.

That brings us on to the point of why this book is probably only for Wallace aficionados - Lipsky is just on bad form throughout. To call him "the author" when all he has done (or someone else has done) is transcribe these tapes seems to me to be quite generous. If Lipsky had taken time to write around all the conversation and be more descriptive of the mood, the locations, Wallace's attitude and behaviour, instead of just inserting random asides that seem designed to make himself appear perceptive, then this could have been a very good piece of non-fiction. As it is there are numerous odd cuts and jumps in conversation that Lipsky does nothing to bridge and there are those annoying bracketed inserts that add little to Wallace's words. All Lipsky does seem to add is a feeble attempt to appear on Wallace's level by being full of quotes from films or books, something Wallace remarks about with faint praise.

This did make me wonder whether Lipsky was in awe of Wallace, this author who was being so heralded. Lipsky certainly seems in awe of Wallace now. Another grating aspect of the book is "the author"'s hagiographic attitude towards Wallace. There are constant remarks in the introduction, preface and afterword (why Lipsky felt the need to write these three separate sections I don't know - more indulgence on his part?) is how nice Wallace was, how smart he was, and wasn't he just the best damn author and most sensitive and in-tune person who ever lived. Wallace was not a bad person but I was hopeful that something published two years after his death would be a little less reverential and slightly more probing about the lies Wallace told or the evasive answers he gave. After all, I'm pretty sure that by 2010, following Wallace's suicide, it was more commonly known that he had had electroshock therapy and been in AA - things Wallace strenuously denies and which Lipsky fails to comment on amidst all his useless asides despite having the benefit of hindsight.

Would it be too cynical of me to say that this was nothing but a cash-in on Wallace's memory by Lipsky or his agent or publisher? There's good material in this book, though you have to sift through some dross to find it, and with a little more effort on Lipsky's part this could have been something very worthwhile. As it is it's pretty average. As I said earlier, apart from the bits specifically about Infinite Jest you can find all the useful information in this book in D.T. Max's much more readable biography. Max's book isn't perfect either but it's a much better place to start if you want to know about Wallace the person.
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LibraryThing member BillPilgrim
Extended interview with David Foster Wallace that took place at the end of his book tour for Infinite Jest. The author was sent by Rolling Stone to interview Wallace when he was the bright star of the literary world due to the success of his novel. Lipsky travels with Wallace from his home in Bloomington, Indiana to the last few stops on his tour, over the course of three days or so. No article was ever published, though. The interviews are transcribed in full here, with occasional explanatory interruptions and comments interspersed throughout.

(An ironic part is that during the interview, more than once, they talk about how it had been so long since Rolling Stone had published anything about fiction. The author was using that fact to try to get Wallace to open up about his positive feelings about the attention he was getting. Then, the magazine never actually published an article.)

Although there is a bit of verbal chess going on at the start, when Wallace is defensive about revealing too much, as time passes they develop a real rapport. They talk about Wallace's personal and professional history, and also talk a lot about the state of the culture, both popular and the higher forms. I found most of the discussions to be fascinating.
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LibraryThing member subbobmail
Back when David Foster Wallace was actually becoming famous for having written a dense 1200-page work of literary fiction, David Lipsky was sent by Rolling Stone to write a piece on him. The piece was never written, but Lipsky kept the tapes of the interviews he did with Wallace over the course of a few days. Anyone who loves DFW will be grateful for such a large dose of his voice and personality. His voice on the tape and his voice on the page are remarkably similar...if only, for his sake and ours, Dave were still around and putting words on paper.… (more)
LibraryThing member jope
Having not yet read any of DFW's oeuvre, I can only predict this will provide useful insight. As for this book, it's mediocre. Wallace shows a distinct lack eloquence in verbal conversation, whereas his interlocutor Lipsky, I kept wishing would STFU. The roadtrip aspect had a certain charm, kept it more "real" to some extent. An exchange over email or (gag) chat would have made for an interesting comparison.… (more)
LibraryThing member dugenstyle
As you probably are already aware, the book is essentially a transcript of the conversations the author had with DFW which were intended to be made into a profile for Rolling Stone magazine. The last leg of the book, in which DFW stops being so hyper-self-conscious and actually talks candidly with the author, is incredibly interesting for the established DFW fan. Preceding this section is a long discussion on 90's pop culture which is incredibly dull if you haven't actually seen the movies (or whatever) they are discussing. It is interesting as a whole because it is a really long interview with DFW, but can get boring in the exact way that really long interviews can often be boring.… (more)
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
This books reads like one of the best conversations you've ever had. You know what I mean - the nightlong philosophical meandering lovely humorous discourses on life, the universe, and Meaning, and all of those Big Concepts.

I admit freely that I adore DFW and would have been a stuttering mess had I tried to talk to him, like that one guy in the book signing scene, and eavesdropping on this conversation was a distinct pleasure for me. I could sit and listen to him just talk, about his bandannas, his dogs, the greater Purpose behind his Life and Work, and so forth.

I regret bitterly that I will never be able to talk to him, as I do with many authors. But their works and interviews and letters live on, as a surrogate and something better.

Even if the interviewer is a bit abrasive [e.g. interjecting with judgmental comments, fishing for controversy, writing down things that he says won't be recorded, tapping DFW's dogs on the nose(at least he apologized for that in the afterword!)], I still enjoyed this book. Recommended for fans. A road trip to remember.
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LibraryThing member Neftzger
Reading this book is like having a conversation with David Foster Wallace. That's because it is a conversation - it's the transcript of taped conversations the author had with DFW while on the last portion of the Infinite Jest book tour. That (for me) was the most interesting part, because I was reading the words of DFW as he discussed his perceptions of the literary world while still in the "hype" phase of the book release and before time had proven the book's worth. Twenty years later we know how the book performed, but at the time of this conversation DFW had no idea that people would still be reading and appreciating this particular work.

This book will primarily appeal to fans of DFW, although some relatively new authors may enjoy hearing some of DFW's perceptions of his situation and find reassurance that even he had readings where no one showed up.
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LibraryThing member aliceunderskies
I am not a huge DFW fan. I adore his essays but have yet to make it through his fiction. I read this mostly in response to my father, who knew him in college and was speaking often of him to me in May. It's a mixed experience of a book--it gives a true and incredible sense of the man behind the towering sentences; it really made me truly mourn Wallace as well as crave more of his work. The long parts of this book that were just DFW talking were brilliant and fascinating and absolutely joyous. The editorial asides and the interruptions of Lipsky matched that joy with a corresponding sense of ick. I can't remember when I last read a book that was so troublingly edited, and was consistently amazed by how little Lipsky seemed to listen to or understand DFW, not just in his at-the-time comments but even over a decade later. I was also equally troubled by my own motives in even reading the book--but that is a separate essay.… (more)
LibraryThing member dtn620
Lipsky's voice is initially bothersome. Wallace's responses are fascinating.

It is rather sad to hear DFW discuss (at least twice) how he wants to be writing for the next 40 years.
LibraryThing member eenee
Lipsky was sort of a pompous pain in the ass at times BUT his pretentiousness really couldn't take away from how much I love DFW. I'm totally hopeless over that guy and this book just fanned the fire.
LibraryThing member tewigleben
Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky: A Review
...Becoming Yourself is like having an intimate conversation with David Foster Wallace and realizing how truly idiotic you are, realizing you may or may not actually think the same things as Foster Wallace. Maybe you aren't clever enough to articulate them, roll them around in your mouth and have it make sense the way it does in your head. Or maybe you are claiming his ideas as your own because he's just that good.

There's still a humanity here, a rawness. This book either serves as a great introduction to Foster Wallace and his work or is awesome for someone who has read all of Foster Wallace's work and is craving more.

Lipsky relinquishes control, lets David speak, puts the words out there and you can image the road rumbling under your feet, the smell of chewing tobacco and chaos, calm. He did the right there here, and he knows it. He knows the power of this voice because he experienced it first hand, and felt the need to share it with others. His bracketed notes and interjections give just enough insight into his head at the time. It's perfect.

If only I could be so introspective and articulate.

Lipsky's words are powerful and clear, his intro and afterwards. I enjoyed his style, his realness and rawness.

Foster Wallace is dead. This is the end, this is what we have. The tragedy of mental illness and the brilliance of a mind that obviously had not explored this world long enough... what would we get, today? This world dominated by screens, mindlessness and precious, precious success.

Read this. And someone go see the movie 'End Of The Tour' for me, because I don't know if I can handle it without an unbias review first.

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LibraryThing member jcbrunner
It does not happen often that actors look uglier than the real protagonists. In The End of the Tour (2015) presents a rather greasy David Foster Wallace while Jesse Eisenberg's mousy character does not do justice to a Rolling Stone reporter. Still, the film captures well the rambling nature of the conversations between the two on the last leg of the book tour of Infinite Jest. I actually prefer DFW as an essayist and interviewee to his work as a literary author. He was a great observer of late 20th century America and pop culture which he found both addictive and repulsive. Thus, he did not have a TV in order not to be glued to it in a manic self-destructive manner. His early suicide was such a (preventable) tragedy as his voice and commentary is missing (while his less gifted colleague Jonathan Franzen drones on).… (more)
LibraryThing member ecataldi
I was surprised at how quickly I flew through this book. I think I was expecting it to be as heavy as Infinite Jest, but at a slim 300 pages this book a nice fast read. I had seen the movie, The End of The Tour, last year and loved it. Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself is the transcript turned book that the movie is based off of. Former Rolling Stones journalist, David Lipsky, got to spend five days with author, David Foster Wallace at the end of his Infinite Jest book tour and he recorded hours of conversation and comments. This book is a transcript of all their various musings. Anything from dogs, to Last of the Mohicans, to the writing process, and suicide was covered and it touches on a little bit of everything and is fascinating to read. Wallace speaks as eloquently as he writes and was clearly a literary genius. This book just makes his loss even more profound. An interesting peak into the mind of a literary genius. A must read for fans of David Foster Wallace.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in return for my honest, unbiased review.
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LibraryThing member Mrs_McGreevy
This book consists of Lipsky's notes (and occasional commentary thereon) from the time he accompanied David Foster Wallace on the final leg of his book tour for Infinite Jest. It's a fascinating portrait of a young man struggling with fame, with genius, and with the depression that would eventually cause him to take his own life. Powerful and sad.… (more)
LibraryThing member grebmops
Desperately in need of an editor.
LibraryThing member poppycock77
Every time I've heard DFW speak or read any of his essays, I always feel an extreme kinship with him, as if he expresses much of what's inside my own head. I'm sure I'm not the only one, and I think that's an indicator of a great writer. I love that there's a section at the end titled Cultural Products Mentioned, with a list of the tv, movies, and literature mentioned in the interviews. I think I'm finally ready to clear some other books out of my periphery and really dedicate all my spare time and effort to reading Infinite Jest.… (more)
LibraryThing member stephkaye
This is not an easy read. Even for a die-hard David Foster Wallace fan like myself, it was frustrating. Lipsky has basically transcribed, word for word, "um" for "um," the conversations that he had with Wallace over the course of a few days that the journalist spent profiling Wallace toward the end of the Infinite Jest promotional book tour. Perhaps this is an homage to Wallace's instantly recognizable conversational style, but it's quite hard to follow at times. Especially since Lipsky has decided to condense his own questions down to key words, and not to label his versus Wallace's remarks. He may have done this to minimize his own verbiage and shine the light on Wallace's, but it just makes the exchanges that much harder to comb through. Yet comb through I did, for the pearls of Wallace wisdom contained therein. If you are new to Wallace, this really won't make sense until you've read Infinite Jest. Good luck.… (more)
LibraryThing member jphamilton
Objectivity is something that rarely rears its head when I’m dealing with much of anything concerning David Foster Wallace, as I’m a literary DFW groupie through-and-through. Many would see this book as something redundant, as I’ve already seen (several times) the film on the same events, The End of the Tour, starring Jesse Eisenberg as the interviewing author David Lipsky, and Jason Segel playing Wallace. Lipsky was on assignment for Rolling Stone magazine to try and capture the excitement of the author who seemed to own the publishing scene, and his fans who were walking on air as they met him during the last five days of the book tour for his monumental book, Infinite Jest. Lipsky was another adoring fan as well, seeing Wallace’s fame as something he lusted for himself, while it was something that DFW was not that comfortable with at all.

Wallace was also quite nervous that in the interviews he would come across as too much of … frankly, so many things. On the page, Wallace was used to constantly rewriting, editing, and perfecting his words, but he worried that a casual, off-the-cuff remark could make him look like an ass, a fool, ignorant, or countless other things. As a reader, I found myself fascinated by how this raw, first draft of a conversation allowed me to see just how his mind works on the fly. Sure, I heard him say the same things in the movie, but the printed word is my thing. Makes me think of how many years it took me to become comfortable reading fiction off a monitor, and not needing to print it out on paper to enjoy it.

No one should think that these interviews/conservations are going to always be deep and meaningful, with everything being so profound. Lipsky ends up sleeping in an extra bedroom at Wallace’s house when they’re in town, so he catalogs the books and the décor of the house, down to his Alanis Morissette poster and the Barney the Dinosaur towel covering a window. They do it all together: drive, eat, play with his two big dogs, and talk constantly about writing, fame, women, insanity, and what the two men want in their lives.

This is not a road trip/buddy movie, but there’s a lot of common ground, even if the two men are coming at things from very distinctively different positions. There are times when Lipsky asks a probing question about Wallace’s mental state, drug use (especially rumors about his heroin addiction), being institutionalized, ego, his friendships (Jonathan Franzen and more) and his opinions of other writers—and Wallace will show his discomfort, but most times he will put a response together in his head, and print out, give an answer. The way the two men relate is fascinating.

A quote from Lev Grossman in Time magazine was spot-on to me. “Lipsky’s transcript of their brilliant conversation reads like a two-man Tom Stoppard play or a four-handed duet scored for typewriter.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even with (or maybe because of) all of its familiarity. These two authors speaking intelligently about writing and their lives is golden to readers like me. The book is also a treat to just pick up and read random sections of. It’s a book that works for some, and not at all for others [I’m thinking of Vicky here], but those that appreciate it are as happy as David Foster Wallace’s dogs were to get outside to play.
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