Elizabeth Greenwood

Columbia University / David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
Project by Elizabeth Greenwood
In collaboration with Kevin Le

 

Wallace’s novella-length essay takes place on a cruise ship and is structured like parentheses within parentheses: small observations trigger larger facts about the human condition; like Russian dolls, they are all nestled within each other and are contained between heavy concrete brackets, which represent the m.v. Nadir and his Harper’s assignment. The floors inside these brackets are made of glass to represent the clarity and truth Wallace encounters during his time at sea, and the curved parenthetical cuts made into them allow light to filter between the floors, illuminating invisible links and connecting seemingly disparate themes and digressions. The structure is penetrated by an elevator shaft, which is an explosion of creativity and continuity representing the author himself, who cannot be contained even within the clearest of glass, and who stubbornly refuses to be subdued even in the ostensibly lightest of occasions, like a vacation on the high seas.

 

I might be the least visually inclined person in the world, and drafting plans for the model involved a lot of false starts, discarding, and revising, much like in writing.  But in conjuring Wallace’s epic essay as a tangible object, I realized that the burdensome components that the brackets represent—the ship and the assignment—have the ability both to bolster and support as well as to constrict and confine.