Open Letter to David Foster Wallace's Literary Executor

To Whom it May Concern,

I don't yet know who might be inheriting the job of dealing the with David Foster Wallace Nachlass but whoever you are out there in the world, this is a request to you. Let me be frank and to the point: Let us see it all.

Not knowing how much remains unpublished of Wallace's work, not knowing what provisions he may have made or requests he may have left for whoever it falls to to see to the administration of his remaing material, I think it needs to be said that we want it, and that in my opinion there is no way that the publication of any juvenalia, unfinished manuscripts, rejected by the author incomplete essays, or abandoned novels will in any way harm the legacy of the greatest American writer of the last 50 years.

My reasons for believing this are as follows:

1.) Wallace's brilliance is fixed in literary history by his already published work. It would have been fixed by Infinite Jest alone, but that in concert with A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, Girl with Curious Hair, Oblivion and Everything and More (which has been unjustly panned in this writer's estimation) has established an unassailable legacy of fine literary output. Anything additional, published correctly and with the understood caveat that it may not be up to the author's standards for his own work, will only add to our understanding of a literary giant the understanding of whom should be the work of anyone who cares about American letters. In short, the publication of everything can do no damage.

2.) Many great writers are only known to us as well as they are through the work of their literary executors in promoting work that the author deemed unsuitable for public consumption. To take just one example, imagine a world in which Max Brod had followed Kafka's instructions and destroyed the manuscript for The Trial. What a loss to world literature that would have been? Make no mistake, in at least my estimation Wallace's work firmly places him in the ranks of a Kafka. It could well be that some of his greatest work is work that he himself did not see fit to publish or even finish. This is not a move without precedence in the history of literary genius. In short, the publication of everything may uncover true gems.

3.) Wallace, like Wittgenstein, one of his heroes, was a man who wrote compulsively and whose mind was only available to a small percentage of his students. Through the publication of the Wittgenstein Nachlass scholars have been able to uncover and present to the world a clearer picture of the mind of a genius which has been influential in and of itself. Even where, for example, Wittgenstein had clearly proscribed his own output and made the decision that it didn't represent his views, that material had value in and of itself as representative of HIM. It is my belief that some lesser output of wallace, items he himself wasn't happy with, may offer such insight as well. Given the importance of Wallace, understanding the author for whom the idea of writing as essentially a communication between the writer and reader, may indeed give us greater insight into the man and make for a richer experience of his work. In short, the publication of everything could make the understanding of everything else even better.

I hope that you will consider these thoughts, should you find them, whoever you are. Far be it from me to encourage cynical cashing in on the fame of a dead writer by pushing everything into the public eye. In fact, I would think that such a consideration to avoid such cashing in may give you pause as you consider what to offer to the public. Just recognize that the job you have been tasked with, as sad as it is, is a service both to your friend and his readers. We are waiting anxiously to see what you will do. Please don't let us down.

JF Quackenbush