Thursday, March 11th, 2010

David Foster Wallace, "Viking Poem"

"Vikings oh! they were so strong"The recent acquisition of the late David Foster Wallace's archives by the University of Texas' Harry Ransom Center will no doubt provide both scholars and fans with countless layers of information to process and debate. It has also provided this poem about Vikings, written by a six- or seven-year-old Wallace, which I cannot help but find both charming and tragic. (Not that I am suggesting there is anything romantic about suicide, because we don't do that here.) There's just a sweetness to this poem and the obvious enthusiasm with which he wrote it that makes me reflect on the joys of childhood that we tend to forget. [Via]

32 Comments / Post A Comment

As a literary archivist, I have to say: the Harry Ransom Center owns fucking everything.

Flashman (#418)

A Gutenberg Bible, and now this.

rj77 (#210)

They're like a multi-million-dollar-endowed Hoover.

As a Viking American, I'm offended by this stereotyping.

Matt (#26)

"He totally would have posted this on his tumblr." — The Tumblr Team

kolk (#3,846)

as an internet addict, i have to say "in before david foster wallace wank."

deepomega (#1,720)

As a manufacturer of concrete longboats, I have to say: go fuck yourself, kid.

OuackMallard (#774)

It's interesting (to me) that he used the Foster even back then.

The weird thing is he later dropped it, then resumed it before getting published. Most people knew him as "David Wallace." So it's strange to see here, in his youth.

Talaton (#3,957)

It was a pen name he started using to differentiate himself from another David Wallace who was publishing then, at the behest of his agent. So it's doubly odd and interesting that he did use it as a child.

The "Foster" is the first thing I noticed, too. SUPERFANS!
(And yes, also that his moms probably smacked him a little for the there/their bit.)

god, tl;dr

gotham (#1,572)

I like how the g is after the v in the title. this is sweet, thanks Balk.

Bittersweet (#765)

Ditto. The 'oho' in the first line tears at my heart a little.

C_Webb (#855)

Me, too. And yet he spells "certainly" right. This isn't helping my posthumous crush ONE BIT.

NominaStultorum (#1,638)

I think that is actually a bubble exclamation mark in the first line, which is no less heartbreaking.

Could the V->g be an attempt at text painting? Capital V = Viking horns; lowercase g = face with beard.

Bittersweet (#765)

Nomina, I think you're right about the exclamation mark…and it being no less heartbreaking. Holy wow.

KarenUhOh (#19)

The article that accompanies it is harrowing, heartrending, and heartbreaking.

I don't revere suicides, either. I want to believe in another solution. But this guy. He built palaces of words around him, trying to locate a passageway to Bliss. In the end, all the secret panels opened into walls.

RickVigorous (#214)

heartbreaking, but I fear true.

GiovanniGF (#224)

I can't wait to read Jonathan Franzen's childhood poem about vikings. He blames them for the death of the novel.

C_Webb (#855)

Eek. It's like the ur-text to "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned."

SDH (#3,956)

"Freer's 'The Viking' moniker is his own invention, and nobody else uses it, instead referring to him as just 'Freer,' and regarding it as a classic pathetic Freer-type move that he goes around trying to get people to refer to him as 'The Viking.'"

Oof, killing me here.

RickVigorous (#214)

The Pale King, April 2011

Tell me a story, Rick.

barnhouse (#1,326)

The awesome thing about this poem is that it prefigures the exact flavor of the adult Wallace's bizarre phobias. Stay away from Vikings! it is saying! ('because they'll kill you very well')

I love the first line, too. (It's definitely 'Vikings oh!' (scansion) also prefiguring the author's exquisite sense of rhythm and punctuation used for dramatic/comic effect.)


Patrick M (#404)

That "there"/"their" mixup in this poem is probably what eventually gave us Tense Present.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Thank you, Mrs. Wallace.

Dave Bry (#422)

So D.F. Wallace was writing pretty much the same thing at age 7 that Robert Plant was when he was 22.

"Dir. of Comp.: 'I made in my assessment deliberate use of lapidary and effete.'"

(Infinite Jest, p. 7)

barnhouse (#1,326)

I keep coming over and reading this all the time. Really, really makes me miss him a lot. (It comforts me greatly, Alex Balk, that you also)

I've been a huge fan for many years and even have a few bits of correspondence from him that I take out now and then, like an elephant stroking the tusks of his departed brethren.

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