Yes, David Foster Wallace read Ulysses… how do I know? Update: Scammed!



Sylvia Plath reportedly went ballistic when someone marked books in any way whatsoever.  I, myself, have been known to lightly pencil brackets or little stars in the margin with a very soft #2 – and sometimes a single word, such as “Phooey!” But take a look at what David Foster Wallace did to James Joyce‘s Ulysses.  (Hat tip Cal Doyle; this is making the rounds on Tumblr.)

mitchumUpdate:  We’ve been had!  The photo was posted on the respectable Housing Works Bookstore in NYC here – so we weren’t alone in thinking it was legit, even though the words aren’t readable on the page. However, several people, including Christine in the comments section below, and on a Facebook comment thread on our friend Mikhail Iossel‘s page, have identified the text as Lee Server‘s biography of Robert Mitchum, Baby I Don’t Care. The words “Robert Mitchum” are in the lefthand page header, and the chapter heading “Phantom Years” on the right. The plot thickens: why would anyone feel the need to annotate a biography of movie star so heavily?  As one Facebook commenter noted, David Foster Wallace’s obsessiveness about his writing, his writing about his writing, and others’ writing about his writing is well known. But Mitchum? Said another commenter:  “I’m sure many writers could confess that Robert Mitchum was a bigger influence on them than Joyce.”

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3 Responses to “Yes, David Foster Wallace read Ulysses… how do I know? Update: Scammed!”

  1. Christine Says:


    Just thought you’d like to know that’s not Ulysses, it’s Lee Server’s biography of Robert Mitchum. The source of the photo also shows no indication that it was annotated by David Foster Wallace.

  2. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Your correction noted in the postscript, Christine. We’ve been scammed!

  3. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Correction made, Christine. Don’t know what you’re looking at, but both Cal Doyle and Housing Works make the claim. What do you consider the “source”?