Category Archives: Famous Drafts

Precision: David Foster Wallace at work

Came upon this document over on Ron Silliman’s blog which shows the changes between the transcription of David Foster Wallace reading “A fragment of a longer thing” (Dec. 2000) and The New Yorker’s publication of that story as “Backbone” (Feb. 28, 2011).

It’s fascinating and exciting to see Wallace’s editorial mind at work here. The writing is so much cleaner and more efficient in the New Yorker version. The story was really made by the revision, all my favorite moments (“The boy had turned seven.”) and elements (the detailed medical descriptions of the boy’s movements) edited in and all the redundant wording edited out. “Precision” is the word that comes to mind when I look at this. I have been geeking out over this and plan to continue the geek out for a while. Pure brain candy. What do you think?