Talk to any David Foster Wallace fan, and she's going to have opinions on The End of the Tour, the film adaptation of David Lipsky's book, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. In the new film, up-and-coming novelist slash Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg) interviews the late literary superstar DFW (Jason Segel) at the culmination of the Infinite Jest book tour. The movie uses excerpts from the book (which largely comprises transcripts from Lipsky's interviews) to animate a wide-ranging conversation about books, fame, sadness, celebrity, and... Alanis Morissette. As Wallace invites Lipsky into his life, the two Davids go on a road trip of sorts together, and spend most of their time, well, talking.
I consider myself well-versed in Wallace: I've read all three novels (do I get bonus points for reading The Pale King on my honeymoon? I think so!), the stories and the essays; I've read DFW's book reviews and the legendary McCaffrey interview; I've attended — and presented at — the David Foster Wallace Conference in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. (OK, it helps that my husband wrote his dissertation on DFW.) Still, I have to admit that I went into the theater with my fair share of skepticism. After all, readers — and readers who are writers — are protective of those whom they admire.
Fortunately, the film captured many of the qualities I've always loved about Wallace's writing: it's funny, weird, verbose, and heartbreaking; when it was over, I wished it hadn't ended. But what I really adored about The End of the Tour was its attention to portraying Wallace's character.
The End of the Tour captured these eight truths about David Foster Wallace — and his fans were totally grateful.
Wallace's Complicated Relationship To Television
In The End of the Tour, DFW talks about growing up in front of the television. He associates television with his bouts of depression. Infinite Jest, at its center, explores the dangers of entertaining ourselves to death. But Wallace is also all about binge-viewing when he's in a hotel room.
The Shoutout To Orgasm Pens
DFW diehards know this was the moniker by which Wallace referred to the pens he used, back in his undergraduate days at Amherst College, when he began writing his first novel, The Broom of the System.
Drone's Origin Story
Wallace was a dog-lover, and Jason Segel effortlessly captured the writer's affectionateness. Fans learning how his second pup, Drone, came into his life.
"Mi Poptart es su Poptart?" says Wallace, as he offers Lipsky half his last P.T. The End of the Tour celebrates DFW's love of convenience store indulgences, fast food, Diet Rite, and nostalgic snacks.
Wallace's Regular Guy-ness
Though this is a subject of debate both on- and off-screen, Segel's performance — peppered with his meandering, kind monologues — definitely highlighted DFW's down-to-earth-ness. Production design touches — like the Alanis Morissette poster in Wallace's house — also illuminated just how normal the writer was.
Without sounding prideful or pretentious, Segel's Wallace constantly reminds viewers that there's a great mind behind that bandana. What DFW fans love is how The End of the Tour captures the writer's cognitive smarts, and his comedic and empathetic intelligences as well.
The Story Behind the Bandana
No, it's not a posturing thing, not some affectation to appear hip or cool. In The End of the Tour, Wallace fans learn that the bandana Wallace wore kept sweat off his forehead — and helped him feel like his mind was staying put.
The End of the Tour shows David Foster Wallace as a person who's unafraid to experience the full spectrum of human emotions. At the end of the film, when Wallace fields an invitation to go dancing at a Baptist church, DFW fans can't help but feel delighted to see the author express himself with such unbridled joy.
Images: A24 Films; Giphy (8)