Here is the first paragraph of David Foster Wallace’s “Good People” rewritten:
They were up, up being not down but up, at that park at the lake, by the edge of the lake really we mean it when we say that the park was situated not just at the lake but at its edge because these details are important, with part of a downed tree, downed not upped get it, in the shallows half hidden as opposed to wholly hidden by the bank, by which we mean a lake bank and not a place where you deposit checks. Lane A. Dean, Jr., son of Lane A. Dean, Sr., who generally went by just Lane A. Dean when filing his tax returns, no senior thank you very much, and his girlfriend, who was not related to the Deans except carnally and with only one Dean, both in bluejeans and button-up shirts, contemplating why they had decided against button-down shirts. They sat up, not down and certainly not like a downed tree, on the table’s top portion and had their shoes on the bench part that people sat on to picnic or simply to put their shoes on the bench part or fellowship together in carefree times without a care in the world. They’d gone to different high schools but the same junior college, and in college they contemplated why they had gone to different high schools, where they had met in campus ministries not in high school but in college. It was springtime, not summertime, wintertime or autumn, and the park’s grass was very green as most grass is and the air suffused with honeysuckle and lilacs both, which was almost too much and certainly not as much if it had been just honeysuckle or just lilacs. But because it was honeysuckle and lilacs both, this was serious business. The air was suffused, I tell you. There were bees, big bees and small bees, and the angle of the sun, in contrast to the sun’s angle, made the water, water that could be found in the lake in which the park they were now sitting in could be found along its edge, of the shallows, shallow for shallows, look dark. There had been more storms that week, and less storms last week, with some downed trees, all downed, and the sound of chainsaws all up, like Lane and his girlfriend, and down, like the trees, his parents’ street. Their postures on the picnic table, quite up as we have established, were both the same forward kind with their shoulders rounded, forward and up, and elbows on their knees, perhaps to ward off the bees. In this position the girl rocked slightly, still up and forward, and once put her face in her hands, down down down like the downed trees still downed, but she was not crying, for people sitting up and forward do not cry unless you taunt them. Lane was very still and immobile and looking past the bank of the lake that was conveniently located next to the park at the downed tree in the shallows, which had certainly remained downed, and its ball of exposed roots going all directions, not just up, down and forward and not in collusion with the bees or the honeysuckle or the lilacs or all of it, and the tree’s cloud of branches all half in the water, either half-empty or half-full like the glass of water I am now observing on my desk which I cannot decide to be optimistic or pessimistic about, or perhaps up, down, or forward about. The only other individual, not Lane A. Dean, Sr., Lane A. Dean, Jr. or Lane A. Dean, Jr.’s girlfriend, nearby was a dozen spaced tables away, not a baker’s dozen but an absolute twelve tables, by himself, standing upright, not downright and this was up like Lane and his girlfriend we must remind you. Looking at the torn-up, not torn-down, hole in the ground, where you often find holes, there where the tree had gone over, downed as befitting a downed tree. It was still early yet and all the shadows wheeling right, a new direction pay attention, and shortening. The girl, girlfriend of Lane, wore a thin old checked cotton shirt, button-up or button-down, with pearl-colored snaps with the long sleeves down, not up, I believe you catch the auctorial drift, and always smelled very good and clean, not very bad and dirty but we’re leaving the up/down question up in the air for your interpretation even if we must remind you that wafts travel up, like someone you could trust and care about even if you weren’t in love, or like, or hate, or divorce proceedings. Lane Dean, the son not the father, had liked the smell, very good and clean, of her right away. His mother, not named Lane but certainly named Dean, called her down to earth, up to earth a concept beyond her ken, and liked her, though she was good people, for being up not down, you could tell – she made this evident in little ways, ways that were certainly not enormous. The shallows, remember them, lapped from different directions, and can you keep track of all the directions I’ve given readers, at the tree, downed we must remind you, as if almost teething on it, bite bite bite. Sometimes when alone and thinking, because he could not think when he was with her, or struggling to turn a matter over to Jesus Christ in prayer, all this while praying, he would find himself, up down, putting his fist in his palm, teething like the downed tree, we could suggest, and turning it slightly, up down, as if still playing and pounding and teething and upping and downing his glove to stay sharp and alert in center, center being a position that was neither up nor down. He did not do this now, it would be cruel and indecent and entirely disrespectful to the teething downed tree to do this now, or to do it now later, or to later do it now. The older individual, still twelve spaced tables away, stood beside his picnic table, still twelve tables away – he was at it but not sitting, certainly standing up like Lane and his girlfriend we’re sitting up and forward – and looked also out of place in a suit coat or jacket or skirt or hat or cap or the kind of things that are on my mind when I consider the sartorial offerings, up and down, over the past century or really just the kind of men’s hat Lane’s grandfather, who was not named Lane Dean but had sired Lane Dean, who in turn sired Lane Dean, Jr., wore in photos as a young insurance man, certainly not old in these photos. He appeared to be looking across the lake, new direction. If he moved, Lane didn’t see it or discern it or distinguish it or any number of verbs you would associate with observation. He looked more like a picture, a picture reminiscent of Lane’s grandfather who was named Dean but not Lane Dean, than a man. There were not any ducks in view, damn damn damn downed trees getting in the way not up but down and not across but occluding the ducks.
DFW’s paragraph is 502 words. My revised paragraph is 1,209 words.
© 2007, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.