Dear David Foster Wallace,
I am facing a big complicated dilemma in my life right now. With lunchtime at my parents’ house rapidly approaching (a lounging, sprawling event which I feel morally compelled to attend), and with my wonderful girlfriend from whom I am currently separated, but not estranged, waiting for my call before noon (it is currently 12:11 pm), I am, not quite intrepidly, definitely a little edgily, trying to decide what I should commit myself to: for starters, should I keep watching the all-Czech tennis affair on Tennis Channel between Lukáš Rosol and Tomáš Berdych—first round, Dubai—or should I press the required buttons on the television and remotes in order to switch back to viewing again the all-American writer “match” between you, DFW, and David Lipsky, as portrayed by actors Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg respectively in the film and “anti-biopic” called The End of the Tour? (I assume someone has told you about the existence of this movie already, although obviously I can’t know that for sure.)
In any case, it seems I have chosen this very pregnant and conflicted moment to finally commence my letter to you which my mind has been pregnant with for several weeks. I’m not sure it’s such a propitious choice, since at any second my mother or father might call up to me: “Hey, do you want an omelet for lunch, or a lunch meat sandwich?” and I will be forced to answer, of course, and decide on the fly what meal suits me best, probably the omelet since my father makes world-class omelets and there is no indication that I or anyone in my family has ever made an omelet as well or will ever do so (least of all my girlfriend who detests being in the kitchen) and because my father, veteran diabetic, increasingly frail, will probably die here soon one of these years… (It has occurred to me, DFW, that I should milk every fucking omelet I can out of him before his hands and legs are too shaky to execute the task or before he checks out permanently.)
Tomáš has won the first set; they are on serve early second set. But it is Rosol, who at 31 years of age has only mustered two ATP Tour titles ever and has never made it past the third round of a slam, who holds a small special place in my heart. That is because he, in the second round of Wimbledon 2012, defeated Rafael Nadal—Federer’s nasty nemesis and the first man to consistently foil Federer’s elegant dominance in the sport’s biggest matches (Djokovic eventually became the second man to do this) and the one player who plays tennis (even if quite brilliantly) like a frothing-mouthed linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Okay, so then, after Rosol dumped Nadal out of the brackets at the hallowed grounds, guess who rose up and won Wimbledon 2012? Roger frickin’ Federer. He beat Djokovic in the semis and Murray in the finals. It was his SEVENTEENTH Grand Slam triumph, seventh Wimbledon crown which tied him with Pete, and it came as such a huge glory and relief to Federer fanatics like me all around the world.
And now here I am watching Rosol for the first time ever, and I am impressed with his hitting, his overall game. He’s a power baseliner. I can see how, at the time ranked 100 in the world, he could finally blast his way past Nadal in a gritty five-setter. Oh, ho, wait a sec now, Rosol appears to be retiring here—this is unexpected, but yes, this is the case. At 2 games to 1, second set, Rosol is pulling out and Berdych is through.
Berdych. Why does my mind want to dwell on this name? Oh yes, because of Geoff Dyer’s article in Harper’s from September 2016, “Tennis Lessons, The meaning of the game.” In the piece, which is a review of three tennis writings—namely, your own 2006 “Federer as Religious Experience” and then two recent books, one called Late to the Ball: Age. Learn. Fight. Love. Play Tennis. Win. by Gerald Marzorati and the other Federer and Me: A Story of Obsession by William Skidelsky—Dyer weaves together a poignant and deft piece, which includes a memorable sequence with pretty killer concluding sentence. First he states wittily that whereas he used to watch only Wimbledon and later just the Grand Slams, he now watches on Tennis Channel “everything from the Chennai Open to the Fallujah Closed.” (This experience of falling into the rabbit hole of seemingly endless tennis tournaments through the medium of Tennis Channel is something I’ve become familiar with over the last weeks, with perfectly mixed emotions, since I’ve been staying at my parents’ place.) After that, Dyer gets even more interesting. After saying he’s so much better informed about the players on tour than ever, and that the internet is the handmaiden of this reality, he writes: “You know, you’re reading about Tomáš Berdych (a player you’d had zero interest in until Murray’s loyal wife, Kim Sears, was caught shouting ‘Fucking have that, you Czech flash fuck’ during a tense match at last year’s Australian Open) and then you’re reading about Berdych’s wife and then you’re looking at pictures of her and before you know it you’re like the character at the start of Ardashir Vakil’s novel One Day, reading The Inner Game of Tennis in bed while his wife masturbates beside him.” Wow, what a sentence! Well, at least it struck me, having the effect roughly of a hypnotizing rally capped by nasty angled winner; perhaps a bit on the brutish side, like a Nadal crosscourt backhand missile, although at the same time Dyer’s words are not without a certain elegance and sublime manipulation which of course we associate more with Federer’s game.
A quick internet search reveals, by the way, that it’s not exactly certain what Kim Sears said in her little outburst down in Melbourne at the so-called “Happy Slam,” but it was obviously crude and rude and Murray apologized on her behalf later. Murray won the match.
Meanwhile, I have been summoned to lunch (it is 1:36 pm), and so I look up at the screen and I see that Damir Džumhur is whipping Stan Wawrinka! The action is recorded from earlier but it is news to me. Now, possibly you don’t know this: the Swiss player, Wawrinka, has emerged in recent years as the only player outside of the “big four”—which tends to remind me of the United States, Soviet Union, Great Britain and China (not trying to “diss” France here) during the period of World War II’s winding down and ending but which of course in this context means Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray—to win multiple Grand Slam titles. Stan took out Nadal for an Australian crown in 2014, and then stole what was supposed to be, finally, Djokovic’s first French Open crown in 2015 (The Djoker got it the following year, beating Murray in the finals), and then he stole another title from the Serbian all-time great by thumping him in the 2016 US Open final. Yet and still, Damir Džumhur, scrappy little Bosnian dude (he’s 5’9″; thank you Oh All-Knowing Internet), is whipping him in straight sets out of the first round at Dubai. Obviously, this is the latest illustration of the fragility and uncertainty of success on the grueling pro tennis tour.
If you’re wondering about the other Swiss stud, one Roger Federer, yes he is playing Dubai this year (he’s won the title seven times). He won his first rounder yesterday over Benoît Paire of France, 6-1, 6-3. It was beautiful, compelling stuff. Federer—efficient, attacking, was hitting back about 60 percent of Paire’s shots on the rise—rather than waiting for the ball to reach its peak or letting it begin to fall. It was standard-issue brilliance; his triumph took an hour. Paire was throwing his racket around in mopey frustration. I felt bad for him, but then he’s a very good-looking guy so I imagine he’ll be okay somehow.
Anyway I have to run to lunch now. When I resume this letter, I promise I’ll veer away, at least in part, from tennis. There’s so much more I want, need to say to you. Even if you don’t want, need to hear it.
Dear David Foster Wallace,
I am listening to my new music playlist, entitled “DFW,” each song freshly converted and downloaded from the good old (not so old really) YouTube Converter site, Internet, USA, Earth-World, etc. It is not a long list, and probably could have been—with a little more will to do further research—more representative of music you directly appreciated. Notwithstanding, my David Foster Wallace playlist begins with R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People.” So, I don’t know how you feel about R.E.M. in general, but in this movie I mentioned before that’s mostly about you, The End of the Tour, an R.E.M. album is playing when you (Segel) and David Lipsky (Eisenberg) are back from dinner and getting to know each other in your one-story Illinois ranch house home. For me, “Shiny Happy People,” with its sheer upbeat nature and its “New Sincerity” kind of feel, well, it just seemed correct.
From there we transition (this transition is happening right…now) to Zack de la Rocha’s new single, “Digging for Windows,” a still very fresh (2016) release. I have not read anything anywhere to indicate you were any kind of fan of Rage Against the Machine or of de la Rocha’s collaborative work post-RATM, but the thing is, I like the former and the latter plenty. For me de la Rocha’s voice is an absolute touchstone, a thing of miraculous beauty. His words and explorations of certain themes—again, at least for me and many others—are invaluable and undeniable, like your words and explorations. This new song is not necessarily so revelatory, not the most brilliant thing he’s done, but it does grow on you after a few listens. It’s got that strong hint of revolutionary intent and it can really grab you. It certainly sets up a robust contrast with R.E.M.’s gushingly euphoric track before it.
Next is REO Speedwagon’s “Roll with the Changes.” Here is another manically upbeat tune, one that is iconic and which I am taking the liberty of imagining you dancing semi-ecstatically to with Baptists, there at whichever Baptist church in Illinois. Now, I don’t know if you were really in the habit of dancing with Baptists in Illinois or not, and neither does (it seems) Jason Segel (again, he was you) or Donald Margulies (he wrote the screenplay for the movie) or James Ponsoldt (director), but I (and Segel) like to believe that you really did participate in such dancing on some kind of regular/irregular basis there in the middle 1990s. (This movie, by the way, that is sort of about you, is pretty damn good, and made me envious of Lipsky who got to spend a handful of days hanging out with you, even staying at your place. It is, as I’m sure you’ve deduced, one of the prime prompts to this letter).
Next on the playlist? Well that’d be Alanis Morissette, and I think you, you, you, oughtta know which song. Yes: “You oughtta know.” What can I say about this tune’s inclusion? Down from Canada and with the aid of Glen Ballard, Alanis blasted through in the mid-nineties with an incredibly undeniable voice, sexy and “orgasmic,” as you apparently described it, and a bit almost honky, no, like goosey? In any case definitely penetratingly appealing. She and her album became as ubiquitous as talk/writing about you and Infinite Jest. And yes, though I was only about fourteen at the time, I bought Jagged Little Pill and listened to it repeatedly, rapturously. In doing this I had to endure a few poignant teases from my older sisters who knew more about what Alanis was singing about than I did (not to say I knew nothing), but it was well worth it. That voice, that raw energy…I loved it. Apparently, so did you.
By the way, I’m watching a rather compelling tennis match, on and off, with the volume low (so I can hear my awesome new playlist), between Djokovic and del Potro. They’re playing in the second round down in Acapulco, and it’s terrific because they’re both total badasses of tennis (del Potro defeated Federer in the finals of the 2009 US Open in five sets, one year after your departing) but then in addition they are both immensely popular and charming, a condition you knew a little something about. (Del Potro took the first set, Djokovic is about to take the second). Meanwhile, these lucky Mexicans in attendance are just having a fucking blast cheering these two handsome champions on, just lapping it all up, chanting and doing the wave, etc.
The third to last track on my music list is Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption.” I don’t know if you know this, but Van Halen’s two-handed tapping technique on the electric guitar—in the context of rock—was stunning and revolutionary at the time when he introduced it (mid-seventies), and “Eruption” was, I guess, the chief, or semi-official, vehicle of this introduction. The solo is gorgeous, ecstatic, hyper, wild and rockin’. It is raw and untamed, virtuosic. Anyway, to me it belonged because, well, wasn’t Infinite Jest in some ways your “Eruption”? Except, of course, for being much longer…
The penultimate mp3 in my brand new playlist is you talking in an interview on the topics of the then-new War on Terror and post-9/11 environment. A girl in the background, in a voice hard to hear on the recording, asks you a question at length on these subjects and your first response, candid and true, is: “I don’t know I’m scared.” And then: “I don’t know that I could say anything about the last couple of years that anyone else couldn’t say, but…” and then, naturally, you continue. And your comments are so real, to me, so down to earth, but then also so accurate (as I view these matters myself). But there’s something about your voice, cadence, which is simply comforting and reassuring. The words you say are smart, sure, but at the same time, perhaps, not your most brilliant ever stuff. Notwithstanding, your careful approach is so accessible, so earnest. And I realized I needed your actual voice in my playlist, so there it is, that’s what I chose.
The last piece in there is a song that supposedly you loved, and was chosen to usher that movie (which as you probably already know the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust did not endorse—asserting you would not have approved of it) that is more or less about you (it is also, roughly equally, about David Lipsky’s experience of you) to completion, leading into the credits. So, the song is Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship.” It is beautiful, emotional, ambient, towering, warm, enveloping. It is essentially magnificent, and I can’t help but love it myself.
Anyway it’s strange how much I find I like writing to you. It is strange, not at all unpleasant, but strange, how much I wish I were talking directly with you, face to face. But then I take it from my readings that many other people were afflicted with this condition when it came to you—Mr. David, Foster, Wallace…but, truly, I hope that my saying so doesn’t make you feel alone, out there wherever you are.
Listen: in your celebrated Federer piece (my late discovery of which being what drew me to you and your work, mainly because it was a brilliant ode to a brilliant player—and person—I have long been fanatic about), you wrote of Roger that: “he looks like what he may well (I think) be: a creature whose body is both flesh and, somehow, light.” Well, the more and more I read about you, about your smiley faces on returned student papers in your writing classes, your unadulterated love for your dogs, your general realness and particular brilliance, and then the more and more I compare that with the fluid amiable genius I see clearly myself when I watch your YouTube interviews, the more and more I think that you too, are, were, are…a being made largely of light.
Wow—this del Potro-Djokovic shit is just completely electric. They are tied 3 games all third set, but del Potro has just pushed Djokovic to Love-40 on his serve. I’ve got Van Halen’s “Eruption” playing, and it’s quite an overload. 21st Century Sensory Overload, Baby! Plus the wind is blowing really hard out the window. So it’s all this: spectacular tennis on television that is just gorgeous and bristling with genius, the wind howling away at the window like an army of ghosts, the radiant glow of my laptop screen as I type away fairly furiously and listen to my newly organized songs that are charged with meaning and emotion. And what else? Well, I don’t know why I feel shy to mention it, but I’m very drunk on the gin. And another thing: before I resumed writing to you, I participated heartily in a two-hour phone conversation with my old-time best friend from teenage years (whom I hadn’t spoken to in two long years). So it’s something of a full night for me, something of a party and celebration.
Del Potro got the break, so after the commercial break he will serve for a five games to three advantage in the deciding set. Coming down to the crunch is this magical Mexican resort town tennis.
Okay, whoops, Djokovic broke back, quite dramatically, and it’s 4-4, third set. Alright, yep, Djokovic has somehow wrested the upper hand here. Okay, Djokovic has won, escaped, prevailed, not without maximum effort and high drama all the way through. Final score line: Djokovic defeats del Potro 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. At the net, the two gladiators share a wonderfully sincere and perfectly respectful, protracted embrace. Genuine grins, and pleasure, from both the vanquishing and vanquished sides of the court, from the Serb and the Argentine…Perhaps, I think, despite all the Fog of Ignorance around and the General Fear and Fucking Bitter Division (and Rote Reflexive Division) between us as peoples and cultures and individuals, we could be, after all, maybe just maybe, evolving.
Dear David Foster Wallace,
I’ve just woken up and switched on the tube to see Murray versus Kohlschreiber in Dubai and it is just immediately engrossing—long extreme endurance rallies, both players hitting and moving so well. Kohlschreiber has taken the first set in a tiebreak, and they have just entered a second set tiebreak. Just a sec, gotta watch this…
Total tantric tiebreak! Truly, probably the longest one I’ve ever personally witnessed (by which I mean watching on TV; I’ve only been to three matches in actual person, all at the Legg Mason tourney in DC with my fellow tennis-loving sister). Don’t believe me? Okay, they switched sides six times, and the affair took thirty-one minutes. During the course of it, Kohlschreiber saved seven (maybe eight) set points while Murray, all ice water in the veins, saved seven match points. Finally Murray took the thing 20 points to 18!
Federer lost yesterday by the way, to Evgeny Donskoy of Russia. It was a huge upset, naturally, with Donskoy, who looks like a cuter, mousier Putin and seems to play with a certain Federer-like ethereality and delicate grace (at times), sneakily coming from a set down to steal the match in second and third set tiebreakers. Obviously, this is the latest illustration of the fragility of success on the grueling pro tennis tour. (Meanwhile, in a wee little bit I’m going to tell you about the incredible thing Federer just pulled off about a month ago in Australia. Given that its newness-level, in terms of the reality and the history books, is still quite high, I am hoping that no one has informed you about it yet.)
Dear David Foster Wallace,
I am in a very nice, capacious, clean library in northern Virginia, very near where I grew up. I am here because I’ve been visiting, staying with one of my best friends going well back in years, and his wife and two young sons and one dog and one cat. Their cozy little house is one of my favorite places to be but at the same time it is frequently reverberant with various noises, and sometimes these can seem to crash right into the material at the top of my skull. So I excused myself for an excursion and now here I sit in that atmosphere of hushed silence libraries produce, an atmosphere that is actually quite alive if you focus in with all kinds of chitterish sounds—whispers and page turns and paper rustles and clicks and clacks and the occasional Klopp of something dropped and Whangg of something banged. I’m a little hungry, and my tummy is lined with anxiety.
But guess what I’ve got sitting on the tiny circular table in front of me? Infinite Jest and The Pale King. Now, my main aim is to write to you, so don’t think I’m going to read very much of either of these mammoth works of yours. They are mainly here to keep me company. Or, they will serve as my spiritual anchor when I get distracted and my rudder when I’m on task and slip into flowing stretches of productive tap-banging on the keyboard.
So, here we go (forgive me for doing this and for just jumping right into it, but here’s what I’ve been needing to tell you): I read an article online from The Guardian, published about three years following your leaving, about your wife and widow, Karen L. Green. It was about her in relation to you, of course, in relation to your tragic death and in relation to your four, generally happy, married years together. Here’s what I recall of the article, the things that stick vividly to my grey matter: she is who discovered you in your horrifying hanging state; she is an artist, and it was in the wake of a piece she did reconfiguring some of the words from one of your earlier stories (extremely bleak) that you two met and hit it off; she is coping, with enormous difficulty, through her art, and through her analyses and memories of what transpired that day—September 12, 2008—and of the many days, both happy and harrowing, that preceded it; she feels she made a mistake that day when you checked out, and says she would never have left the house had she detected the true state you were in; she is comfortable in having real anger—fury—toward you, since she came to learn that it was quite a common response of those left ‘hanging’ in the wake of loved ones’ suicides…
Sorry. Sorry for that super-facile macabre pun (or double entendre or whatever it was; I’m sure you’ll know best), which was probably as stupid as it was sickening. It is possible I’m a little mad at you myself, DFW, though I don’t really have the right to be. What I do have, instead, is the luxury of viewing your violent departure from a great distance. It makes me sad, angry, but I can get over it fast, think of something else. Not like Karen. For her it’s entirely, entirely, different.
Why don’t we switch tracks here? Let’s get back to Tennis-and-Federer, clearly the twin tethers of this letter.
I’ve really wanted to tell you about another article I found online, from the Winter 2015 issue of the literary magazine Prairie Schooner and authored by one Porochista Khakpour (a beautiful female Iranian American writer). The title is “Federer as Irreligious Experience.” Now Don’t Worry, while she takes and inverts your title, her piece proves very much to be homage to both Federer and You, even if at times it doesn’t feel like it. So there are a couple things I imagine you might take issue with (although of course since I am not at all you I can’t say that for sure; meanwhile I imagine there may be a couple things you will take issue with in this letter of my own).
It’s fundamentally a good piece, but here is something I could not appreciate. Somewhere in there she wrote: “By the time Wallace actually hung himself on his patio, Federer was no longer at the top of his game, but as time has proven, not quite at the bottom either.” Okay, aside from the lead-in phrase here which strikes me as a little insensitive, I have to point out that it seems very close to outrageous that she would remark that at this point—the point marked by your death, September 12, 2008—Federer was “not quite at the bottom” of his game. In fact, it would be perfectly plausible to argue that he was very much still on top of the sport and “his game.”
Here’s why. True, Federer had lost Wimbledon 2008 in the Finals to Nadal (who was becoming his beastly nemesis and was already the hyper-brawny avatar of the recently ascendant Power Baseline Game in the Sport, which you so aptly described in the 2006 essay) in what, it is widely agreed, was the most epic and amazing tennis match of all time (I watched it, lengthy rain delays included, and I certainly think it was the greatest. I don’t know if you watched it, but I do know that during those months you were struggling mightily with the demons of depression and with the attendant demons of gravest doubt, those that forced you to question if you could find a comfortable way to live again). And it is true that that loss was a great blow to Federer, one that shook him profoundly (there were some Federer tears that night, to be sure, a few of which the cameras captured). But, yet and still, he lost only in five epic sets, in the Finals, against the guy he had beaten in the Finals in 2006 and 2007, and he lost only after giving a spectacularly brilliant display of not only his All-Time-Amazing Tennis Ability but also his All-Time-Amazing Champion’s Grit and Determination. Okay. Then, two months later, in Queens, New York, Federer was able to rebound from this loss to Nadal by winning the US Open over Andy Murray (who had beaten Nadal in the semifinals). It was only days later, on the Friday following, that you killed yourself. In other words, it is essentially outrageous to say Federer was at this point not quite at the bottom of his game, his career, etc.—he had just won his thirteenth overall Grand Slam, and his fifth US Open in a row!
Now, DFW, forgive me if any of this makes you uncomfortable or if I’m just straight up pissing you off, but I feel I have to say something further here. I just have to.
In this essay, which has much merit, Khakpour seems at one point to conclude (although a very careful reading shows that she actually avoids stepping into this trap) that your death, the timing of it and the fact of its being suicide, was in some degree (if semi-abstractly—here she introduces the idea that for you and Federer there may have been a nagging sense that the greatest work you/he could produce was in the past) tied up with the compelling ups and downs of Federer’s career, specifically those of 2008. Other people (including obviously some crazies), in fact, had already made the connection after having read (presumably) your sparkling New York Times piece on Federer and then noting that the date of your death coincided (roughly) with the time period when Nadal was finally breaking through against Federer on major Grand Slam stages other than the French Open in Paris (where Nadal, it was understood, would always be King so long as he was healthy, because of the clay surface).
Anyway, to me, this all seems like quite the stretch. But Khakpour does flirt with the idea that there could be some real connection, some real parallel between the beginning of the downfall (alleged, semi-real) of Federer and the very real, actual, tragic downfall of you, David Foster Wallace. Probably I’ll never know for sure if there was any even tenuous degree of linkage here, but it seems to me that your profound appreciation of Roger’s elegant superlative game and what it represented vis-à-vis the dawn of the era of the lightweight “nuclear” rackets and the punishing strength-and-speed-centered power baseline game adhered to by most other players out there, was probably not much changed by Federer’s loss at Wimbledon that year. And, naturally, it would seem that it wouldn’t be much changed by Federer’s win, following that, at the US Open. What it seems to me also, is that your death probably had much more to do with, maybe everything to do with, what you yourself were going through in 2007 and 2008, that is, the return of your depression with a vengeance, the extreme worry that attached to that, the attempts to find a medication or medication combo that would work, the resort even to electroconvulsive therapy, etc. To me, the idea, theory, implication, that your death, in any substantial degree, had to do with Nadal’s encroachments on Federer’s general dominance in the sport of Tennis or with Federer’s newly revealed (and highly relative) frailty in the context of the sport, is, well, if not all the way absurd, then definitely in all likelihood inaccurate.
Anyway, Khakpour’s piece posits the result of the next Grand Slam that occurred in Tennis, namely the 2009 Australian Open (which, of course—or at least it is assumed—you were not around to witness or hear about) as the most telling moment in Federer’s phenomenal reign/decline in the sport. Here is where the “Federer as Irreligious Experience” comes in, and here is the part of her piece I like the most. Basically, what happened is that Nadal and Federer met in the Finals, and yes, again they played a fairly epic match (not as epic as Wimbledon, but still, well over four hours). And the result was that Nadal prevailed in five sets and Federer—devastated, weakened, could not contain himself. He cried, really cried; we’re not talking just a few sniffles here.
Yes, because there it was: Nadal had finally dethroned him at Wimbledon (on grass, not just the clay of Roland Garros) and then about half a year later he had finally defeated him at a hard court Grand Slam, too, after missing his chance to possibly do this at the US Open by losing to Murray. So Federer broke down. There were actual sobs. Not wailing like a baby sobs, no, they were more elegant, Federer-esque, but nonetheless…There he is, now in his crying action telling the world—at some point no longer trying to hide the raw emotion—that he cares this much, that he wanted to win this match this much. At some point he blurts out: “God, it’s killing me.” For Khakpour, this moment, taking place before so many millions of eyes, represents a profound release for Federer, a kind of coming out. Federer somehow, reduced to tears and obvious vulnerability, embraces the fact, the moment (a very different kind of “Federer Moment” from those you made famous in your piece), and declares to the world (in a way both more complete and much more eloquent than his defeat alone would have done) that he is, after all, human. He shows the world through tears and heartbreak that he is mortal flesh and bone. So many tennis fans had grown accustomed to viewing him as something approaching a God, as a being made of light, but he takes the occasion as a platform and—in a way that is painfully improvised, of course—he admits his naked humanness; he simultaneously announces and embraces the fact that he is not, actually, super-perfection incarnate.
So, Khakpour’s piece is certainly more good than bad. Indeed, in the article she admits (at least during the period from 2007 when she read your essay to circa 2010, and perhaps well beyond) to being a “Federer obsessive.” And she states that she had long held you in her favorite author spot for many years before that. Plus, her description of Federer breaking down in Melbourne right after that 2009 crushing defeat is rather beautiful. And it was on that score that she concluded: “In the end Federer still won this one […].”
Dear David Foster Wallace,
Here I am in that library again. Today I’m sitting across from a massive shelf packed densely with DVDs. One title leaps out at me: David Lynch’s Eraserhead. I’ve never seen it, but I’ve sure seen plenty of Lynch flicks—Blue Velvet several times, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (also some of the Twin Peaks TV episodes), Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Of course, this caused me to remember the portion of your interview with Charlie Rose wherein you describe your appreciation for Lynch and Things Lynchian. Well, I’ve always had an affinity for this filmmaker, too, although I don’t think I’d ever want to participate in a Lynch movie marathon, since I imagine this might easily nudge me into quite the teetering reality-questioning state. Believe me, DFW, I have to be a bit careful what I feed my mind; I know perfectly well what it is to fly a little too closely over the cuckoo’s nest.
God, it occurs to me I want to tell you so many more things along those lines, and other general ones. And maybe I will, but for now I think I must confine myself to sharing with you my latest extended Federer Moment, or Federer Experience, because, well…what a Moment and Experience it was! Wow, it is well over a month later, and I’m still shaking my head in awe and wonder and, yes, love.
Perhaps you’ll recall something I wrote earlier, that Wimbledon 2012 is where Roger won his seventeenth Grand Slam title (pushing him to three better than the previous all-time leader, Pete). At that time he was one month shy of 31 years old. Okay, so after that, Roger had been playing and playing, and playing rather beautifully, trying to capture his eighteenth Grand Slam title. However, sadly, but (with the further rise of Djokovic and continued fearsome presence of Nadal and Murray) not surprisingly, Federer had not been able to do so. One might think, Well Yeah, With The Guy Advancing Into His Thirties (old man territory in tennis), I’m Sure He’s Been Getting Farther And Farther Away From The Heady Territory Of Grand Slam Finals And Semifinals Appearances. And one would be not foolish in saying/thinking this, but with Federer the reality has been much different. He has gotten damn close to capturing an eighteenth title on several occasions. Most notably, he made the semifinals at the US Open in 2014 and the semifinals at the Australian Open 2016 and the semis of Wimbledon in the same year. He lost to Čilić, Djokovic, and Raonic, respectively. One wonders what might have happened in any of these three matches if he hadn’t had to play a dude with an “Itch” sound at the end of his last name. Anyway, these results would be impressive if they were the best results Federer had mustered in the last few years, but they aren’t. Federer also made it to the Finals of Wimbledon 2014, Wimbledon 2015, and the US Open 2015. In all three matches, though, he ran up against the Supreme Itch, namely Novak Djokovic. Novak took all three matches and titles in five sets, four sets, and four sets, respectively. (There were very many old-style gorgeous Federer Moments during these matches, by the way, and Federer’s fight, as they say, was frequently on grand display.)
In the meantime, Nadal had made it all the way to fourteen career Grand Slam titles before falling off precipitously in his results due mostly to injuries—to the extreme wear and tear that his style of play (I think everyone agrees) is conducive to. The last Grand Slam Nadal won was the 2014 French Open, where he beat Djokovic in four sets. That was his last great triumph, and after that he began a slow-motion tanking in the rankings, with several early-round defeats or withdrawals due to injury from big tournaments, etc. So Federer and Nadal had, for more than two years, been pushed into the background of the sport (although this is kind of a gross exaggeration, especially in the case of Federer, who continued to post awesome results).
Meanwhile, most recently, the injury bug caught up to Roger too. His back, his knee, you know how it goes. So at the beginning of the New Year 2017, Federer was stuck on seventeen Slam Titles, and Nadal was stuck on fourteen (no fewer than nine of Nadal’s coming on the Paris clay). But then leading into the Australian Open, Nadal had been playing better, with more consistent results. Still, he was nobody’s favorite and he received the ninth seed in the draw. As for Roger, he hadn’t been playing almost at all; he had taken fully six months off, a period which included the US Open. As a consequence, Federer entered the tournament as the seventeenth seed in the field. Understandably, Roger and Rafa were not on anybody’s Realistic Radar Screen when it came to projected winners, or even when it came to those expected to make a good strong run perhaps to the quarterfinals or semis. Of course, topping everyone’s list of who would probably win the title there were, in the following order: Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka. And then maybe Raonic, Dimitrov, one of these up-and-coming young guns.
Well, well, well…well.
Don’t let anyone try to tell you that either of our All-Time Champions whose first names start with R had it easy (though they both did get a little lucky when both Djokovic and Murray got knocked out very early and relatively early, respectively), because the draw was still immensely difficult for both Roger and Rafa.
Okay, look, I might as well just come out and say it since I’m sure you sense what I’m building to anyway…Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal made it all the way to the Finals! Once again, the world would be treated to Federer v. Nadal in a Grand Slam Final, and nobody, I mean nobody, expected it. Of course, this fact made it all the more crazy and magical. Everybody’s dream final.
Here’s how they did it: on his road to the Finals, Nadal had to beat young upcoming star Alexander Zverev, whom many expect to be one of his generation’s greats, and it took him five sets. He also had to beat Monfils, who is no automatic pushover, and then he had to beat Raonic, the tournament’s third seed and who had just made it all the way to the finals of Wimbledon some months earlier (as mentioned, Raonic beat Federer in the semifinals there before losing to Murray). Finally, Nadal had to outlast Grigor Dimitrov in the semis, which was a grueling, near-five-hour five-setter. Dimitrov is widely expected to start winning Slams at some point.
As for Federer? All he had to do was defeat three Top Ten players en route to the finals, plus the guy who had upset Murray, Mischa Zverev (Alexander’s older brother). He beat fifth seed Nishikori in five sets. He beat Berdych before that, in three masterful sets. And in the semis he defeated fellow countryman and multiple Grand Slam champion, Wawrinka, in five sets.
Wow. Federer and Nadal, out of nowhere, they show up in Australia and plow through to set up a head-to-head clash, one more time, on one of the Sport’s four biggest stages.
When the Finals were set (and of course I was completely floored by what was about to happen and nervous as hell), I told my girlfriend—who at the time I was living with, I told her: “Listen, I don’t think I can miss this. I can’t stand the idea of waking up Sunday morning and learning of the result in a stupid instant. My heart will soar or sink depending on the result, but either way it’s not right. I just don’t think I can miss this match.”
Well, this introduced quite a difficulty because with the thing to be played in Melbourne it was scheduled to begin at 3:30 am, our time. The other tricky aspect was that it would be shown on ESPN, and we don’t get any channels beyond the bare bones ones. So to my girlfriend’s eternal credit, she saw how important it was to me, and she rolled with the only plan that could work. I arranged for my mother to pick me up Saturday night (my car is dead, see) whereupon she took me back to her place after a quick stop at the grocery store for ice cream. There I chatted with dear Mom and ate a standing dinner before taking sleeping pills and putting myself down for sleep at about 9:15. I set my phone alarm for 3:10 am, pulled up the covers, my mind and chest steeped in edgy anticipation. I kept telling myself everything would be okay even if Roger didn’t win, even if Nadal took him down yet again almost exactly eight years after the brutish Spaniard felled him on the same stage, the event which prompted the Federer tears that were so meaningful to Porochista Khakpour and to all of us. The pills did their job, meanwhile, and I slept through well enough, till the alarm went off.
The whole thing was a bit crazy, I admit, but necessary. And even though I wasn’t actually traveling very far, the sense of doing something rare coupled with the extreme conditions presented by the gulf between the time zones, made it feel as if I were making a kind of pilgrimage. If I had had to, I suppose I might have walked barefoot many miles—perhaps over burning sand or through thorny woods—to see this match, even just on TV.
One aspect of my feeling that I had to do this was the fact that I had not witnessed the 2009 Final between these two. At the time I was living in the Pacific Northwest, with a different girl, and we didn’t get any good channels there, then, either. I woke up to the news on the radio, the bitter announcement of Nadal’s triumph and talk of a “tearful Federer.” I was pretty devastated the rest of the day, though the Super Bowl managed to distract me a little.
So…what of it all? I mean: I suppose I should tell you what happened at the 2017 Australian Open between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, huh? Well…they both played very well…And then, perhaps inevitably, the match did indeed go to five sets…And was it epic? Well, yes, of course—only 3 hours and 38 minutes, but with the quality of the play and the context and subtext, the history, the stakes, Yes It Was Of Course Entirely Epic!
Let me paint a picture: Nadal has just won the fourth set 6-3, evening the score at two sets all. Federer has just come back out from the locker room after a medical timeout. Nadal has captured the momentum, and my chest is softly pounding with fear. It seems to me that Nadal, the feistiest and fiercest and just-fucking-most-ridiculously-pumped-up competitor ever seen on a tennis court, will have the edge in the fifth set. Also the definitive mental edge, because Federer had lost three times to Nadal in Melbourne (and never yet beaten him there)—once in that 2009 Final and again in the 2012 semifinals and once more in the 2014 semis (in five sets, four sets, and three sets respectively).
So I’m pretty scared at this point. In fact, I’m telling myself: Here it comes. Here’s where Nadal streaks like a tank on fire (driver on PCP) to the title. Here’s where Federer’s preternatural talent and graceful strokes get maybe just a little muted, and tentative and error-prone, in the face of such apparent Physical Brutality and Aggressive Grunting and Rote Determination. Here’s where Nadal’s Will and Muscles and Speed together combine into something insurmountable, even for the all-time-greatest Federer. Here is where Nadal proves again that he is Roger’s kryptonite.
So, as if to confirm these runaway thoughts and fears, Nadal breaks Federer in the first game of the fifth set. Fuck. He’s already up a break. Then, though Federer makes it close, Nadal holds his serve to make it two games to zero. Damn, damn, damn, damn…etc.
I can’t remember the exact sequence of things, but at some point here Federer is seen by the trainer again, in his chair, thigh treatment. Basically, it’s not looking promising at all for the Swiss master. With Nadal out there, he’s really against the ropes now.
But Fed gets it to 2-1. Then he puts pressure on Nadal’s serve, though Rafa is able to take it to 3-1. Then, though Rafa’s putting significant pressure of his own on Roger, Fed gets it to 3-2. And then…well, that’s when pure fucking magic happened. That’s when Federer came up with some of the most monumental, and absolute gutsiest, tennis of his entire career. On Nadal’s serve, that sixth game of the set, Federer put tons of pressure on his opponent. I don’t know how many times they landed on Deuce (maybe not that many times but it seemed like several times), and I don’t recall how many break points Fed had, or how many game points Nadal had, I only recollect that they went back and forth with scintillating tennis and it was both exhilarating and terrifying.
I was no longer sitting tensely but pacing back and forth, more like in circles, behind the couch, hands often pressed into the sides of my head. I was alternating my gaze between the TV and the nearest window which looked out upon the dopy countryside with morning’s first light filtering through heavy cloud cover.
But something was happening during the course of this sixth game. Something wonderful, mysterious, amazing: Federer was gaining momentum, strength, and confidence. With the crowd’s reactions and the echoing whacks of the ball back and forth, it might have been mistaken for some kind of innovative and majestic musical composition building to a crescendo. And then, finally, to great roars from the fans, Federer broke through with the break of serve following a stellar rally and the set was leveled at three games apiece! E.P.I.C.—Epic, Epic, Epic, Epic!!!
Talk about a Federer Moment. Oh. My God. Awesome.
Okay. Then Federer held serve, but this time quickly. And fluidly, with beautiful placement and palpably surging confidence. So it’s 4-3 Federer now, on serve. Then what? Well, wouldn’t you know it—Federer is again heaping pressure onto Nadal’s service game, surely sensing in every cell of his body that all of a sudden he has earned this incredible chance to not only win the match but win it soon. Again, though I can’t recall clearly each twist and turn, it seemed the two swung back and forth around Deuce, with each struggling heroically to win just that one more point that would give them the critical game. Finally, with both gorgeous and aggressive (and utterly flawless) tennis, Federer broke again! Five games to three, Federer: he would now be serving for the match.
Okay, look, he did it. But Nadal didn’t make it easy; he was never going to relent of his own accord. Federer had to dig back from Love-30 in this last game, but dig back he did, and the game went to Deuce. Then, after saving two break points and on his second Championship point Federer hit a gorgeous looping forehand winner which appeared to connect with the sideline to Nadal’s backhand side. Because it landed a bit short in the court Nadal didn’t attempt to track it down. Instead he challenged that the ball was out, with a puppy dog look in the eyes and a shrug of the shoulders. Therefore, Federer’s apparent win was put on dramatic hold, and everyone held their breath as they watched Hawk-Eye’s replay of the trajectory of the ball…In. It was in. Fed painted the line perfectly in one of his greatest, and undoubtedly most improbable, Grand Slam triumphs ever. At 35 years of age. Against Rafael Nadal. After being out six months with injury. Despite having to play four World Top Ten players—Berdych, Nishikori, Wawrinka, Nadal—en route to the trophy (an equivalent feat hadn’t been done since Mats Wilander in 1982 at the French Open). And despite being down 2-0 in the deciding fifth set of the Championship Match against his arch-nemesis.
To say the least, DFW, I was ecstatic. Of course I watched, indeed gloried and reveled, in all the post-match ceremonies—Fed and Nadal were both very gracious—and interviews and commentaries. And then I took a steamy shower and watched the match again (they replayed it on ESPN 2 or whatever), only this time much more comfortably with bowls of strawberry cheesecake ice cream studded throughout the viewing.
In a word, it was bliss. Following all the collective emotion and agitated energy and sheer anticipation of millions, the Fed victory was intensely felt. And for me personally, somehow my pilgrimage had turned out okay; things had gone the right way. Beauty and grace and variation (and yes, power, too), had once again tamed outright power and machine-like aggression.
But then, wasn’t this also revenge for Federer? Yes, but it felt more like redemption. And transcendence. Roger had achieved Perfection, again. So, for me and for so many out there (I’m quite sure), this was very much a “Roger Federer as Religious Experience” kind of moment…
Oh yes, hell yes, it was.
Dear David Foster Wallace,
More tennis. And a bit of déjà vu. I’m back at my parents’ place, so Tennis Channel is available. Up at my friends’ pad my onscreen entertainment took an unexpected turn, and I ended up watching all four Hunger Games movies in the course of six evenings. I don’t know if you know anything about these movies or the books they are based on, but I’m not going to get into it now. Actually, a quick look online reveals that the first Hunger Games novel, by Suzanne Collins, was released exactly two days after your death. So, DFW, you just missed the whole big fucking phenomenon of The Hunger Games. But don’t worry, I don’t think I can say you’d be terribly sorry if you knew what you were missing (though I could be quite wrong in this guess). For me, certainly, although I enjoyed viewing these films with my friends, it’s tennis that I find to be much more compelling, more beautiful too. Among other things, it’s just such a steady stream of Kinetic Beauty, you know? Of course you know—that’s your phrase, one of your many, many phrases.
So I mentioned déjà vu. Well, here I sit writing to you in my parents’ bonus room atop their country house, in the evening, and the wind is howling fierce round the tall windows, and then what do I see playing on television here before my eyes? Why it’s nothing other than Juan Martín del Potro versus Novak Djokovic! And once again the tennis is very competitive and perfectly interesting (it’s a super-gritty, gotta-dig-deep kind of battle). Novak took the first set 7-5, and del Potro is serving up a break, at 2-1.
They’re out at Indian Wells, and this is only the third round. They are playing in what’s been called the “quarter of death,” since among the players included in this section of the draw there are not only these heavyweights but also Nick Kyrgios (who is supernaturally talented at 21 years of age and today beat fellow up-and-comer Alexander Zverev impressively in straight sets) and then also two guys called Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Wait, did I not mention it? Federer plays Nadal tomorrow, in the fourth round! Yeah. Federer-Nadal, tomorrow. Obviously I can’t wait to watch that.
Meanwhile, I’ve been having a tough time. Since returning from my friends’, I’ve not been able to write much and have been steeped in tasks around the house, which my parents will be listing on the market here in about two weeks. They really need to sell, downsize, as they are both getting frail. My father, diabetic and dependent on a cane, has the problem of numb feet and legs. Going up and down the stairs to feed the dogs or let them out is an increasingly perilous proposition. My mother on the other side is full of pain, mostly all around her back and neck, and flights up and down the steps exacerbate this. Anyway, I’ve been doing the dogs, taking out the trash, easy things. Then too I’ve been cleaning baseboards, wiping dust and smears off certain hallway walls, trimming bushes out front and then, most notably, removing wallpaper—upon the real estate agent’s recommendation—with a wonderful device called a power steamer (and then also a scraper and my plain old tearing glove-fingers). It’s this last task that really takes something out of you. I spent almost all Saturday doing the dining room, and then five hours Monday doing about half of my parents’ bedroom. This is something I’ve never done before, and it’s funny because I find myself actually enjoying it but then by the end I start getting impatient to be done (and to clean up which is so much less fun), and I notice my mood beginning to come down with my decreasing energy store. It’s extremely un-mysterious, I find, that process. Like any kind of machine, any sort of organism.
Did you ever remove wallpaper? If so, how did you feel about it? Did you enjoy all the thinking? Did you fall into a kind of zen or whatever? For me, I like finding the equilibrium between the need to focus on the tedious task—which is sort of satisfying as you go along scraping and edging and revealing a little bit, then a little bit more, of that nice smooth wall underneath—and the long slow swirl of thoughts that come and go like clouds.
Update: Del Potro just hung on to take the second set, so it’s one apiece. A third set upcoming, quite exciting (like last time).
Djokovic has been struggling too. Not in this match, but in tennis generally and life. And that’s interesting, but of course more interesting because of all the immense success he’s had in his career and especially recently (you’ll see what I mean: if he’d only ever won one major or two, then dropped off, it wouldn’t be such a story). For instance, from 2015 to 2016 Novak won thirty Grand Slam matches in a row. Yes, amazing. He won Wimbledon, then the US Open, then Australia, and then (finally) the French Open. But then he lost in the third round of Wimbledon. After that, he almost won the US Open but was beaten by Wawrinka in the Finals. Then, most recently, he lost in the second round at the Australian Open. Meanwhile it was reported, and he admitted, that some personal problems have played a role in his falling back down to Tennis Earth. His coach, famous champ Boris Becker, quit on him. In the midst of it all, Djokovic commented that he’s trying to be not only a great tennis player but also a great husband and father (he’s got a young family now). Of course, there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that per se; the sentiment is admirable. But he’s also had problems with motivation and, according to Mary Carillo tonight, has sometimes appeared “almost listless” during matches. And, indeed, I can see all of this at play in his eyes. He is struggling, yes, to stay motivated, to stay maximally focused and engaged point to point; that inner battle is real and observable. But I’m happy to say that for the most part tonight (and last time I watched him) he seems to be pushing through and playing great. Then again, he’s also talking agitatedly to himself at times and shooting looks of obvious frustration at his team in the seats, and gesticulating a bit loosely when he screws something up. But hey, this is The Djoker, after all; he has always been quite the human ball of personality.
Meanwhile, regarding why Djokovic has struggled in the last eight months or so, here’s my very brilliant theory (yes, I’m sure): After being so remarkably consistent, so spectacular and stubborn as to win four Majors consecutively (only he and Rod Laver have accomplished this on the men’s side in the Open Era), the poor guy emerged incredibly happy, incredibly satisfied (especially because this achievement was completed with his finally winning the French Open—the only major he hadn’t conquered to that point), and so he probably felt like kicking back just a little bit and trying to enjoy it all, and when he was doing this, he probably became increasingly aware of how much his astoundingly hard-earned and extremely rare accomplishments had taken out of him. I mean, maybe you’ll recall my struggle with exhaustion after two days of wallpaper removal? Yeah. I think playing, and winning, and winning big, no, winning HUGE, in Professional Tennis, is even more intensive and taxing than that, so, yeah…
It’s just a theory. But then, people have been talking about his allegedly weird diet, and his desire to run restaurants and to start thinking about the rest of his life, and they talk about this new coach that he’s got (or had, I’m not sure if he’s still with him) whom some call a “guru” while hinting snickeringly that anyone who hires a “guru” must be nuts.
Regardless of all that, what’s happening right now is that Novak is rising like a lion, and roaring with competitive passion. He has summoned old-school Djokovic greatness and “Heart” and “Fight,” and he is storming to victory. In fact, he just sprinted through the finish line; he just totally caught fire there, and it wasn’t easy, believe me, but Novak has taken the third set 6-1. Well-earned. And now he’s got to face Kyrgios (whose name is pronounced, at least by most voices on Tennis Channel, such that it rhymes with Cheerios).
So, tomorrow at Indian Wells we have Djokovic and Kyrgios (the latter just beat the former, by the way, down in Acapulco) and then another little match called Federer-Nadal (“Fedal” for short). Pretty compelling.
Indian Wells. Coachella Valley, southern California. Fifteen miles from the San Andreas Fault, they say. About an hour and a half’s drive, on I-10, from Claremont, California…Claremont: where you were when you died, when you were last alive.
Make no mistake, DFW, one thing I think a lot about when I’m removing wallpaper is you, and how sad it is you’re not around.
And now as I sit writing it makes me sad to imagine that if you were around and still living in Claremont then maybe you would have come out to watch Roger Federer live and in person again—taking the opportunity without having to travel terribly far. It makes me sad, but also happy, imagining you there in the seats… imagining that seeing Federer, and the other stars, was bringing you endless inspiration and then, maybe also, pure and simple enjoyment.
Dear David Foster Wallace,
It is March 27. I haven’t managed to write in a long while. The main reason is that I’ve gotten caught up in a whirlwind of tasks regarding my parents’ house. Then, when I haven’t been power-washing the walkway or hauling out hefty junk, cleaning windows and the like, I’ve more often than not been at my girlfriend’s place (where I used to live and where I still might live beginning sometime soon), helping her finish her book. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but she has been writing an interdisciplinary big-ass academic book for five years, and finally she’s through to the finishing stretch—you know: contacting publishers and editors, query letters, a synopsis, reviewing all the material. There’s not time or space for it here, but suffice it to say the book is at its core about a semi-famous but underappreciated American from Missoula, Montana (which, as it turns out, is where David Lynch was born; I guess he is “from” there, but his family moved around to numerous places when he was young so it’s hard to really say that. By the way, Lynch is reviving Twin Peaks this year with new episodes—it’s the 25th anniversary of the show’s beginning, and I can’t help but wonder if that would’ve been something you and Karen would have watched together. Anyway, it’s not really my business, sorry.).
So, where was I, I’ve been very busy with all manner of tasks—which is not to say I haven’t been watching tennis. I have, and here’s a report: Indian Wells is long over. Third and fourth round matches are already being played at Miami now. In fact, Federer is gearing up to play del Potro in about an hour, third round action. (Meanwhile, I hear my parents stirring downstairs, and undoubtedly one of them will be readying to call up soon regarding lunch.)
Now, where I had left things before, I was telling you Federer was going to play Nadal again out in California. Before that, as you’ll probably recall, I’d been telling you about the “quarter of death” there, in which Federer was stuffed with Nadal and Djokovic and del Potro and Kyrgios in the same section, and only one of these top-notch players could emerge into the semifinal.
Okay. Drumroll, please… Alright—first: what happened in the Federer-Nadal match? I’ll gladly tell you, DFW: Fed whipped him. Yes, the Federer Express was brilliant, ultra-confident, whacking backhand winners galore, bewildering everyone including Rafa and the match commentators. Federer over Nadal, 6-2, 6-3. (Of note, this marked the first time in their careers that Federer had beaten Nadal three times consecutively).
So: The Federer Sun has for the moment trumped and tamed Planet Nadal, putting it back into docile orbit. Further, that same sun seems fully risen (again) as regards the wider tennis firmament. And that is because, yes, it was Federer who came through that quarter of death and went on to win Indian Wells (without dropping a set, in fact, and suffering a grand total of one service game break, which came in the final against Wawrinka).
Therefore, once more, it is Mr. PeR.F.ect who is standing at the pinnacle of the sport. Believe it, DFW. Tell me, should we call it a Resurrection? No, I don’t think so. It just is what it is—and what it is is: so damn beautiful.
But now, as predicted, I have been called to lunch.
Dear David Foster Wallace,
This will be the last segment of my letter. You’ll probably be relieved, though part of me suspects that part of you will be disappointed. I’ve tried to be informative and interesting and I’ve tried to be unassuming, and I’ve tried to be like a friend. I certainly like to imagine you and me as pals.
But I’m unsure how to go about ending here.
I just took the doggies out. They’re medium-sized, boy dogs, one black and white like a cow, the other mocha-colored. Both are benign and friendly enough. Their names? Domino and Rascal, though I call them Sniff-n-lick and Bigger-doggie, respectively. Actually, they could both well rep the name Sniff-n-lick, I’ve noted. I didn’t have pets growing up, and never really have, but my parents in their old age decided to go for canines on account of pleasing my nieces, see. Anyway I enjoy them, and pet them kindly as they go about intensely smelling my pants and shoe bottoms and forearms and fingers; I tell you, they really love to apply those cool little black noses of theirs! Funny old doggies.
Listen: thank you. I don’t know what all exactly for, just everything. Another thing: I’m glad I picked up on your scent, man, even if twenty years later than everyone else…
And so now, I guess, I hope you won’t get upset if I quote you—just something I really like and which always resonates beautifully when I read it. It’s from your 2006 piece, though it seems pretty consonant with recent developments. Here goes: “Roger Federer is now dominating the largest, strongest, fittest, best-trained and -coached field of male pros who’ve ever existed, with everyone using a kind of nuclear racket that’s said to have made the finer calibrations of kinesthetic sense irrelevant, like trying to whistle Mozart during a Metallica concert.”
Wow, DFW, you sure could turn a phrase. Love it. Like beautiful women dressed to the nines suddenly seen walking down the street, your prose inspires double and triple takes, and then sometimes ogling stares.
Hey man, I just thought of something. Maybe someday I’ll see you walking down the street. I mean, I don’t know how, but maybe there’s a chance.
In any case I hope you don’t mind if, for now, while bound here to earth, I hold onto the thought, this simple thought: that someday in some place, you and I will meet and get a chance to hang and talk, or maybe just connect for a time—face to face or, indeed, light to light.
Warren J Cox
P.S. (3/30/17) Federer and Nadal are into the Miami semifinals, opposite halves of the draw, so you know what this means. Will the world be soon treated to “Fedal XXXVII”? And if so, will Fed beat Nadal four times in a row? I guess only time will tell.
Warren J Cox hails from the Washington D.C. area but has long settled in central Virginia, where he works as an editor, writer, and visual artist. Most of his time is divided between his many creative projects and escapes to the mountains or sea for much-needed renewal. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Fluvanna Review, Coup d’Etat, and The Creative Truth.