Girlfriend Stops Reading David Foster Wallace Breakup Letter At Page 20

Top Headlines


Cake Just Sitting There

Take It

CHICAGO—Assuring you that there was nothing to worry about and not a soul around who would see you, sources confirmed Tuesday that a large piece of chocolate cake was just sitting there and that you should go ahead and take it.

Roommate Skulking Around Edge Of Party Like Victorian Ghost Child

SEATTLE—Appearing initially in the far corner of the living room and then several minutes later on the threshold between the kitchen and the hallway, local roommate Kelsey Stahl was, by multiple accounts, seen skulking around the edge of a house party Friday like a Victorian ghost child.

Man Praying Interviewer Doesn’t Ask Any Questions

MINNEAPOLIS—His mouth going dry and his palms growing sweaty as he arrived at the offices of Regent Advertising Partners to interview for an open account manager position, local man Devin McKee reportedly prayed Thursday that the hiring manager wouldn’t ask him any questions during their meeting.

Man Had No Idea Cough Was Going To Be Wet One

MUSKEGON, MI—Caught completely off guard by the viscous lump of sputum that was dislodged and sent rocketing upward from his lower respiratory tract, area man Luke Reese confirmed Wednesday he had no idea his impending cough was going to be a wet one.

Area Man A Staunch Single-Gender Voter

JOHNSTOWN, PA—Saying it was the only factor he considered when deciding who to cast his ballot for, local man William Swanson, 44, told reporters Thursday he is strictly a single-gender voter.

Weird Relative At Family Reunion Knows How Everyone Related To Each Other

WELDON SPRING, MO—Saying she possessed a seemingly limitless wealth of information on various cousins, step-siblings, and in-laws, sources at the 2016 Webb family reunion this past weekend confirmed that weird relative Susan Amos, 73, exhibited a strikingly intricate knowledge of how everyone was related to each other.

Woman Worried She Doing Bad Job Enjoying Massage

MALVERN, PA—Silently wondering throughout the hour-long appointment if there was anything she could be doing to enhance the experience, local woman Caitlyn Leigh reportedly worried Wednesday that she was doing a bad job enjoying the full-body massage she was receiving.

Cyclist Clearly Loves Signaling Turns

MILWAUKEE—Judging by the firm outward thrust of the woman’s arm and the length of times she held the gestures, witnesses confirmed Wednesday that a local bicycle rider clearly loves signaling turns.

Mom On Vacation Marveling At Time Difference Compared To Home

SAN DIEGO—Having already pointed out when everyone back home was getting off work and when the local nightly news was starting, area mother Pam Westin spent much of the first day of her family’s week-long California vacation marveling at the time difference compared to where they lived, sources confirmed Tuesday.
End Of Section
  • More News
Up Next

Girlfriend Stops Reading David Foster Wallace Breakup Letter At Page 20

BLOOMINGTON, IL—Claire Thompson, author David Foster Wallace's girlfriend of two years, stopped reading his 67-page breakup letter at page 20, she admitted Monday.


"It was pretty good, I guess, but I just couldn't get all the way through," said Thompson, 32, who was given the seven-chapter, heavily footnoted "Dear John" missive on Feb. 3. "I always meant to pick it up again, but then I got busy and, oh, I don't know. He's talented, but his letters can sometimes get a little self-indulgent."

Foster, the award-winning author of The Broom Of The System and the 1,079-page Infinite Jest, met Thompson in March 2001 through mutual friends.

A political-science professor at Illinois State University, where Wallace teaches creative writing, Thompson said pages 4 through 11 of the letter chronicled the deterioration of the relationship "fairly well." She specifically cited Item 64, on page 7, from the section, "How I Can Tell Things Have Changed":

"It used to be that if you were away from the table or in the next room or otherwise unable to witness this admittedly unsavory and wholly intrusive activity on my part, in little spasms of unhealthy obsession I would peek into your Day Runner Personal Planner so as to gauge how much together-time we would have during the upcoming week at a glance; lately, however—if you are at all able to move past this revelation of my no-two-ways-around-it unforgivable and unjustifiable invasion of privacy and on to the rather telling point—I have found myself either viewing the week-at-a-glance in actual anticipation of our time apart or, even when opportunities for unfettered peeking presented themselves, ignoring your Day Runner Personal Planner altogether such as just last week when, stooped in rummaging position, I opted to remove from your bag and guiltily read cover-to-cover a copy of Fine Cooking magazine, therein choosing to glean particulars about the cultivation, culinary traditions, and preparation of white asparagus over those of our precious little time together."

An excerpt from the break-up opus.

In addition to compiling the many reasons why the relationship was no longer working, Wallace's letter featured sections on "Why We Could Never Grow Old Together," "Ways It—Us, The World, And Everything—Has All Changed," and "Things I've Never Told You (That Will Certainly Change Your Mind About Me)."

"One thing I found annoying was that you had to read all the way to the middle to figure out what things on the first page of the letter were talking about," Thompson said. "For instance, he kept referring to somebody named The Cackler without explanation until page 11, at which point I finally found out that The Cackler is my friend Renée—essentially forcing me to read the whole first 11 pages over again. And then there are all the footnotes. I always felt he overused those in his valentines, too."

Thompson said she believes Wallace penned the breakup opus during a January lecture trip to the University of New England in Biddeford, ME.

"When he came back, he handed me a big manila envelope," Thompson said. "He said that during the trip, he confronted himself about some things he'd been avoiding, and that he needed to start living his life in a whole different way. He said the contents of the envelope would explain everything. I was just like, 'Okay, whatever, David.'"

Thompson said she did not immediately open the envelope.

"I assumed it was one of his tomes about, I don't know, the reasons why he isn't going to eat processed sugar anymore, or why he threw out his TV," Thompson said. "Or something like the one where he said, in 88 numbered points, why he didn't want a birthday party."

"Or, God, I almost forgot," Thompson added. "There was the letter where he explained how he now wants to be called 'Dave' and included a page-long description of every single 'Dave' and 'David' he's ever known in his entire life."

On Feb. 5, two days after receiving the letter, Thompson received a voicemail message from Wallace asking her what she thought of it. The message prompted her finally to open the envelope and "crack" the letter. That evening, Thompson slogged through the first 20 pages of the dense, complex Breakup Letter For Claire–Rough Draft, eventually putting it down to begin making dinner. The next morning, she moved the letter from her coffee table to a desk drawer, where it still remains, unfinished.

"Maybe I'll pick it up again," Thompson said. "I'd sort of like to see how it ends. Then again, knowing David, it probably just leaves a whole bunch of loose ends untied."


Sign up For The Onion's Newsletter

Give your spam filter something to do.

X Close