Via Messenger

Avoided your book when it was published, same way I avoided The Pale King and the D.T. Max biography, thinking it would be simply too sad to hear from a dead friend second or third hand. Actually, not sure I was necessarily friends with DFW while he was alive, but we did spend some quality time on the tennis court together in Bloomington between 1996 and 1998. I was in town researching a book about an old murder case and sort of hunted him down when first hitting the ground there from New York in search of local color, chasing him out of a coffee shop, having recently read his Esquire piece on Michael Joyce and recognizing it instantly as the stuff of genius (I had not read any of his books yet). Like everyone else, I went on to become a huge fan of his work. However, it was sparring with him on opposite sides of the net in Tornado Alley, as he famously referred to tennis in the rural Midwest, that remains an even more powerful impression. Just a great, gifted, fucked up bundle of nerves, sweat, insecurity and shit yourself laughs. He showed up the first time we hit wearing a New Edition T-shirt and within a few games accused me of missing a backhand approach shot on purpose to make him feel better. He was somewhat paralyzed by shame over exaggerating his prowess as a junior tennis player in the Esquire thing and he knew that I knew it. It was not that big of a stretch, as he’d played tournaments as a kid and knew the scene. Still, it was so endearingly absurd how bad he felt about it and kept apologizing to me, apparently because I’d been a better player growing up in the same Central Illinois a few years after him, but certainly no Agassi either. Anyway, we sort of kept in touch and reconnected after he moved to California. I was already living in L.A. and tried to get him to do a cameo for me in an Indie film I wrote and was producing. “Think William Burroughs in Drugstore Cowboy, Dave.” Pitched him the idea as potential fodder for one of his experiential postcards he did for magazines or something. Never panned out, as he kept stalling me, saying he had to run it past his agent, his publicist, and approximately five other people that he said rounded out his “circle of trust,” and then, not long after our last phone call, he hung himself with a black leather belt by nailing it to a patio rafter in the backyard. I was thinking about that call when I slipped into The End of the Tour alone at the Arclight on a Monday afternoon, sitting in the back row, three other people in the theater, believing I wouldn’t be able to stomach Jason Segel acting smart in a bandanna and might have to cut out early. It proved to be a remarkable catharsis instead. A stunning tribute to a person, a place, and a moment in time. I’m sure you’ve heard this from so many others who knew him in one form or another far better than I did. But the reason I shoot this message your way is that I met him at just about the same time you rolled (pun alert) into Bloomington for those wondrous five days of your own in the middle of nowhere. It is very easy to understand why you never forgot them. So listen, FB friend, brother of the box, if not the lung, I’m really glad you wrote Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself and look forward to reading it after loving every word, tape recorded or otherwise, put to film.