Conversations with DFW

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. . . & who else gurgling frozen blood, but this[1]none forsook.


December 1, 1984

I walked back from the New York Café and confessed to D, whom I ran into near the mimosas outside the Modern Language, that I had successfully gained the waitress/actress Y’s affection after engaging her in multiple sinuous discourses ranging from the capricious temperament in the critical works of a certain Russian chef, to the heroic striking unions, and dirty, dirty Los Angeles during her smoke break.  “Think she’ll let you pork her?” D asked, one eyebrow raised, the other seemingly still in its scabbard.

“. . .”

He re-adhered his slipping signet to the scroll1a he held in the breeze.  He continued in his aqueous voice: “Yes, but you see, love is the necessary thrombosis.”  As in, yes, you fool, should you refuse to remove your Depend Adult Undergarment you shall sink when you wade in ocean, bottom-exposed sans diaper should you make your way back to beach.  Plaudits from an unknown source ensued.  “You need not bowdlerize for me,” D said.


September 18, 1990   

After fabricating the cover wrap for the biography with a paper grocery sack at D’s unfurnished flat, I opened the text to page 173 and read to him the quoted passage from the author’s ex-wife that most exhilarated me: The aim of literature is the creation of strange object covered with fur which breaks your heart. 1b  D’s robot servant Ginger helped him off with his belt buckle, then rucksack, finally knotted his purple bandanna, and emptied the ashtray.  He asked to touch the cover, rubbed his index finger along the fibrous wrinkles I left crinkled.  A fascinating mediocre meta-quote from a proven alcoholic D said nodding, nodding.

“. . .” I said.

“True, but think more in terms of calipers.”

Of course, calipers I thought.

He turned toward Ginger with a pelvic thrust.  “And you, a Cosgrove-Cog pox upon ye and your dynamo-empty heart!  Just kidding.  Babes, your sweet repoussé face makes my teeth sweat.”  Ginger blushed.

“Consider this, Alvarez: The aim of literature is the suction of the thick tick meant to tickle your tibia.”

“. . .”

“You’re right.  He had the benefit of surreal sculpture before him, alas.”

               “. . .” I said.

“I agree,” said D, “it is beautifully absurd that a robot named Ginger should blush.”

July 23, 1991

“. . .”

“Yes, in fact, my LBJ story1c does not reprehend him, but, rather, is written in an unexpected, unforeseen pathos.  It’s quite strawdenarlly touching, in my opinion moving.”

“. . .”

“That’s right, I said strawdenarlly.”

August 11, 1995

Q.  . . .

A.  A brief interview with a hideous man?  Well, you’re no piece of lemon pie either, my friend.

Q.  . . . Tucson . . .

A.  No, my fiction did not do there.  It did not do, it did not do.  I remember thinking to myself, I shall grow old, wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled before these cats dig what I did, dig?

Q. . . . the sky a bluish gray . . .

A.   But you wrote about piss in half-pint, wide-mouthed Mason jars; I was sketching the Incandenzas and parodying Barth. 1d

Q. . . .

A.   Who’s destroying the way “we” tell stories?  We?  Look, I gotta meet a man about a horse, let me get back to you on this, cool?

March 15, 1990

Overlooking the city of Tucson, AZ, USA 18:25 hrs, from the Tucson Mountains to the west, the sun breaking the base, contagious clouds to pink cotton candy smithereens as it set behind us, rocks slipping from our steps as we treaded toward the nearing peaks, my thoughts cocooning with each stride.  D said something about the haughtiness of silence, stillness.  I chuckled a chortle because he made said statement in a Donald Duck voice.  D spent many a day in San Francisco perfecting his—as he called it—“quack attack”.

“The faceless author1e never met,” D said.

“Awesome footnotes, though,” I said.

“This Japanese student of mine asked me to borrow my lighter so I said sure, next thing I know she asked me to lunch and what could I do I mean she’s Japanese—don’t think me ethnocentric—and I was fascinated because I wondered what sleeping with her might be like, so I took her out but I had to stop myself once I learned that she never read Barthelme, I mean, how could I love a woman who had never read Barthelme?

“. . .”

The sky twined purple into black, the bells of stars roping, pouring illuminations.

“Well porking her’s one thing, I mean, well . . . you know what I mean.  Besides, she had the most curious hair.  Still that matters hardly.  Then there’s all this Tucson down there and I’ve got talent, you know, but no one knows, no one.  This is all too frustrating, Alvarez.  Makin’ it new just won’t do, no it won’t do, it will not do.”

“. . .”

“Don’t be a douche-bag.”

“. . .”

“My criticism . . . don’t you see this is not about literature?  Look at all this Tucson!  Look at all this desert, this emptiness, this, this—”

By this point, D had begun to sob.

I let him have a good cry. I cried a bit as well, but not nearly as much as the passionate D.  Shelley eat your heart out I thought.  We skipped stones down the mountain and got drunker and drunker and Tucson down below got more beautiful and beautiful.  Soon the sun rose, and D assured me that no one must know he cried with me.

Valentine’s Day 1999

I dropped by D’s place to bid him happiness for the holiday.  Unfortunately I had had neither the time nor resources necessary to construct for him the intended shotgun shell wreath I had promised since Christmas.  Nor the diorama representation of the AA scene from his upcoming Infinite Jest.

“Mmmmyello?” D answered over the intercom.

“. . .”

“Truly: a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of synthetic and organic machines: a creature of social reality as well as fiction.  About 10% of U.S. citizens (I included) are cyborg robots.  Artificial skin, boss.  Come on up.”

Inside his newly furnished flat, D introduced me to his recent acquisition of various swords: épées, daggers, cutlasses, rapiers, machetes, stilettos, pen knives, switchblades, scalpels, flyssas, kaskaras, takoubas, falchions, khopeshes, cinquedeas, sabers, döppelhanders, katanas, scimitars, tulwars, pulwars, nodachis, spadones, flamberges, kampilans—all laying there nice and gorgeously aestheticized on his newly purchased glass top table

D eats the pink of his Neapolitan ice cream first.  Ginger hands me a Coors and tells me

“Cheers.  Klaatu barada nikto.”

“Kick back for a minute, I’m just putting the final touches on my manuscript.  Let me finish then we’ll make like trees, then we’ll wage war with the discriminating public after first making an appearance at Che’s.  What are your feelings on pavement not the band?”

The Author
Steven Alvarez is an Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of The Pocho Codex, The Xicano Genome, and Six Poems from the Codex Mojaodicus. Read more of his work at

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