10/21/2011 10:47 am ET | Updated Dec 21, 2011

David Foster Wallace's Letter To Harper's Demanding No Edits

Letters of Note has unearthed (via Flickr) a cover letter both funny and deadly serious that David Foster Wallace faxed to Harper's magazine demanding no edits on an essay he wrote on Kafka. His exact words, footnoted of course: "I will find a way to harm you or cause you suffering if you fuck with the mechanics of the piece." Presumably the charming strong-arm worked better here than it might have at the New Yorker. Click over to Letters of Note for an image of the original, complete with Wallace's skull and bones signoff, or read the transcript below. :


From: David Wallace

To: Joel Lovell, Harper's [redacted] (Office [redacted])

This is pretty much the best I can do, I think. I feel shitty sticking a lot of what you wanted in FN’s, but I didn’t see any work to work it into the main text w/o having to rewrite whole ¶s and throw the thing’s Styrofoamish weight off.

The deal is this. You’re welcome to this for READINGS if you wish. What I’d ask is that you (or Ms. Rosenbush, whom I respect but fear) not copyedit this like a freshman essay. Idiosyncracies of ital, punctuation, and syntax ("stuff," "lightbulb" as one word, "i.e."/"e.g." without commas after, the colon 4 words after ellipses at the end, etc.) need to be stetted. (A big reason for this is that I want to preserve an oralish, out-loud feel to the remarks so as to protect me from people’s ire at stuff that isn’t expanded on more; for you, the big reason is that I’m not especially psyched to have this run at all, much less to take a blue-skyed 75-degree afternoon futzing with it to bring it into line with your specs, and you should feel obliged and borderline guilty, and I will find a way to harm you or cause you suffering* if you fuck with the mechanics of this piece.)

Let Me Know,

Dave Wallace

* (It may take years for the oportunity to arise. I'm very patient. Think of me as a spider with a phenomenal emotional memory. Ask Charis.)