On 10-10-95, David Foster Wallace wrote Don DeLillo a letter. It was printed with a serif font, roughly 20 words per line. Very stiff lettering. He signed off:
All Best Wishes,
He didn’t actually sign his name.
On Nov 6 of the same year, Don DeLillo responded to David Foster Wallace. It was typed with a serif font, roughly 10 words per line. Very rounded lettering. He signed off:
He did actually sign his name.
The following are two paragraphs from Don DeLillo’s response:
The terms you use in your letter are pretty subjective. Discipline, seriousness, fun etc. For me, there’s no contradiction between fun and seriousness. I have fun when I find myself gliding on language and when the story seems to drive itself forward and when I’m able to give a character his or her most unexpected expression. The metaphysics of pleasure in writing, pleasure for extended periods, aren’t easy to unravel. There’s an electrical impulse connected to language and when it takes you into untouristed parts of your consciousness, this can be the deepest writerly pleasure — but it’s not likely to happen except in brief bursts, for a sentence or two, or a short paragraph. Longer-term fun is a function of some mysterious combination of writer, story, characters — the book’s developing form, what it allows you to do and not do, feel and not feel. I think fun has to announce itself.
When I say the novel is a killer, I am reserving this designation for writers who are smart enough, sensitive enough and good enough to realize the dangers and consequently to respect the form. You have to be good before you even sense the danger, or before you can understand what it takes to succeed. Let the others complain about book tours.