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Annotated Jest

by John Rodat on April 13, 2011

A writer I greatly admire, the late David Foster Wallace, has been receiving a spate of coverage recently for the publication of his final, unfinished novel, The Pale King. Sadly, Wallace committed suicide in 2008, so much of the attention has been focused on trying to make sense, not of the book, but of Wallace’s mental and emotional state—which likely would have made the comparatively private and circumspect Wallace squirm. Even I, a considerably less reclusive and far more garrulous and available writer of great genius, am made uncomfortable by the prospect of such intimate posthumous speculation.

The opening of Wallace’s archives to the public in 2010 has allowed researchers intimate access and tremendous—if ultimately inconclusive—insight into the man behind the fiction. A particularly poignant piece written by Maria Bustillos was just published by the online publication The Awl, and can be found here: theawl.com/2011/04/inside-david-foster-wallaces-private-self-help-library.

In examining the heavily annotated self-help books of Wallace’s private collection, Bustillo does a commendably thoughtful, sensitive job of poking at an enormously sore subject. It can’t have been an easy task for a fan of the man’s work; but it is inevitable, I suppose, that writers such as Wallace and I will inspire this sort of thorough curiosity, even from beyond the grave.

So, I have chosen to make it easier for my own fans, who are legion—though far quieter than Wallace’s, which is fine and appropriate because I’m a much more secure guy. (I don’t need reassurances. Or fan mail directed to me care of the paper, the address of which is right there within the front page. Or via e-mail. Or my Facebook page. Or my Twitter, @thebestintel.) You will not have to wait for a university library to grant you permission to view the voluminous evidence of my own efforts to balance my penetrating insight, my dedication to the written word and the monstrous responsibility of my vast intellectual and imaginative gifts with the pleasures and the mundane life of an everyday guy. I’ll give it to you, now.

From my archives, then, the first installment of my own annotated personal library.


Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories

p. 89:  Huh. “Insect.” Thought it was a roach—doesn’t ever say, specifically. Look up what kind of bugs are common in Prague. Be good to drop at parties.

p. 251:  Check if that Jeremy Irons movie is available to stream.


The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaymes

p. 119: EXACTLY!!

p. 215: I’ve thought the same thing.

p. 215: OK, then, pizza?

p. 215: As soon as the lecture’s over.

p. 215: Do you have an eraser? This is a library book.


Ulysses, James Joyce

p. 22: not so tough

p. 48: good!

p. 78: [doodle of a man with an eye patch]

p. 110: [random cross hatching]

p. 183: ugh

p. 183: nope

p.183: uuuurrrgh


Ulysses for Dummies

back inside cover: Oohhhh!


Twilight, Stephanie Meyer

p. 19: Mr. John Cullen

p. 19: Mr. John Rodat-Cullen


Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk

p. 27: They’re totally the same guy.

p. 41: plus gay


The Seinfeld Scripts: The First and Second Seasons

inside front cover: Jerry: Jesse Eisenberg, George: Owen Wilson, Kramer: Zach Galifinakis

p. 11: in space

p. 11: or documentary style


The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden

p. 101: eggs, coffee, toilet paper, New York Super Fudge Chunk, wine, goldfish crackers


Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

p. 211: jesus

p. 450: Knowledge Network bartending class, Tue 8 PM




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