If owning a timeworn copy of the late great David Foster Wallace's magnum opus, Infinite Jest, has become (sometimes unfairly) known as a status symbol for a particularly insufferable brand of white male intellectual, then having Hachette Audio's brand new vinyl audiobook of the author's famous "This Is Water" speech promises take that occasionally curated image of douche-y literariness to a whole new level. The first release in a series of audiobooks pressed to vinyl—which will include Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin Manuel Miranda and Jerry on Jerry by Jerry Garcia, amongst others—"This Is Water" comes in two different pressings: "a blue-and-white, water-inspired design," available online now, and an orange edition, available at bookstores and record shops.
If you'll recall, Wallace delivered his "This Is Water" speech as the 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College. Since then, the speech has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube, and has even been published as a rather cute-looking coffee table book. The new vinyl is just the latest in a series of posthumous releases from Hachette, capitalizing on the popularity and legend of Wallace, whose stature has only grown in the eyes of the reading public since he tragically took his own life in 2008. Certainly, they're only just getting started.
Cynicism aside, though, the "This Is Water" speech is beautiful, funny, sad, generous, thought-provoking and completely unique—like all of Wallace's work. Fans of his, myself included, surely miss his singular voice, both on the page and in real life (hardly a week goes by when I don't wonder what he could've done with a 10,000 word New Yorker essay on the Trump era, complete with footnotes). For that reason alone, the prospect of owning a vinyl recording of him is tempting. At the same time, my familiarity with Wallace's work gives me pause: it's hard to imagine that, given his notorious discomfort with fame, he would've much liked the idea of people sitting around their living rooms, listening to a vinyl with his voice on it.