Infinite Boston finally comes to the inevitable end of its daily run with the entry now before you; while this is surely not the last time this site will be updated, it is the final installment of my Boston travelogue. And I would like to close with a location that is not actually from Infinite Jest, but from the life of David Foster Wallace.
The house pictured above is 160 Foster (‘No Relation’) Street, situated within the established boundaries of Enfield, Massachusetts. For a time, including the period when Infinite Jest was first coming together, DFW called it home.
I learned about it shortly before my trip from Matt Bucher, a friend who runs the wallace-l email list. He’d found it written on the inside of a teaching copy of The Silence of the Lambs in the Wallace archive at the Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. And so I made certain to pay it a visit, even though it took me a bit off my planned path.
The house is described in the D.T. Max biography, following the lead of its former residents, as a “sober house”:
Wallace’s stay at Granada House finished in June. … [He] moved into a transitional facility on Foster Street, just a few blocks away, with Big Craig and two other men from Granada House. … When the other residents went off to their jobs, Wallace would head for the library in bandana with knapsack to spend the day trying to write.
As Max reveals for the first time in his book, Big Craig is a former live-in staffer at Granada House who happens to be the the model for one of Infinite Jest’s central characters, Don Gately. I’ll let that sink in a moment—David Foster Wallace was housemates with Don Gately. (Or close enough.)
Turning back to the novel with this knowledge, I found that once, and only once, does Gately get the same nicknamed treatment, in which a character opines:
Big Don G.’s a Satanically tough motherfuck: this was his assessment. Said the way he heard it you could fight like you was born in a barfight.
The house at 160 Foster would appear to offer some essential tranquility for recovering addicts and barroom pugilists alike: a pretty, all dormer, three-story home, a front porch end-to-end, set back from an already quiet street, perched above a brief incline in an already hilly neighborhood—the next door neighbors are literally monks, in fact the “Dicalced monastery” we visited early in the series—surrounded by trees, including a large one out front protecting it from looky-loos like yrstruly. Even the power lines in front are like a force field, suggesting that one not get too close. Following a recurring theme in this series, I did not disturb.
And it’s a perfect place to conclude Infinite Boston. While not from the novel, it is of the novel. It also offers a chance to reflect on the real, the fictional and the fictionalized. Like many locations explored in the series, its significance requires special knowledge to appreciate. None remain who could answer the questions I would ask. Yes, this is a house where DFW once lived, but it’s not the same place it once was, nor will be again.
With my words and photos, careful research and chance discoveries, corrections from readers and assists from experts, Infinite Boston has sought to explore hidden corners of a familiar city while bringing new insight to a story experienced by many. Even so: time has passed, absence has entered, memories have faded, and David Foster Wallace’s Boston remains forever overhead.