So very sorry


It's true, I have removed my copy of the beloved DFW commencment speech. As I thought might be obvious, the recent publication of the text in book form brought a stern copyright enforcement letter to my door. I lack the time and money necessary to fight such a thing, so, as much as it meant to me to play a small role in making it known to people, I won't be hosting it any more.

Happy googling.


ooo that sucks. i cant dish out 12.95 for that little book, especially considering the few dollars of that or whatever that would normally go to the author now won't even make it to him. thanks for having it up in the first place...

I,too, regret the removal. It's not just the mean-spiritedness of the publishers, legal though their demand might have been, it's also the net's loss of something articulate, thoughtful, and exceedingly sad. Few articles offer so much.

First off, thanks for posting that speech for the while that you did - I pointed many friends and family to it - it's really one of the more meaningful things I've ever read. DFW will truly be missed, and I think it's inspiring that he put so much thought and effort into that speech given everything he was going through.

I think it's disgusting that Little Brown is cracking down on you and others so that they can make a shameless money-grab right as graduation season is upon us. They should be ashamed.

Thanks again and keep it up!

Not to mention the fact that the published book has been censored and changed a bit...I appreciated the original and I appreciated your decision to put it up in the first place. Thanks!


Were you the first to copy the speech? I am curious of the backstory. Curious if the original video of the speech is floating around out there somewhere. I am giving the text as edit for a typographic assignment and the history of it's publishing and copyrighting is a great lesson.


Also, there is another published version of the text that was included in “The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006”; so it is not the case that Wallace “never published” the address. -LW

There´s some info about this speech on link below:

The NYT article has been revised on the 10th:

Correction: May 10, 2009
An essay on April 26 about David Foster Wallace’s commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005, which has now appeared in book form as “This Is Water,” misstated the speech’s publishing history. It was included in the collection “The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006”; it is not the case that Wallace, who died in September, “never published” the address.

The essay may also have left the incorrect impression that both of the following sentences in the speech were omitted from the text of “This Is Water”: “It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master.” In fact, only the second sentence was left out.

Thank you

Well, thanks to you, somewhere, someone read this who otherwise wouldn't have. And I imagine that was probably to his or her benefit, and maybe (s)he even went off to discover more.

So you've got that going for you. Thanks for it while it lasted.

thanks for hosting (you transcribed as well, no? some effort) and bringing it to the world. Funny how copyright works... who does it serve again? best from australia, reens

Thank you for everything you did.

I bought the book and I plan to scribble in there ... what words I do find missing. When I can read it.

['It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master.' NYT books/review/Bissell-t]

It does a tremendous disservice to censor DFW in this fashion. It is an insult to his life, his enormous struggle, his decision to end his life - and to every single human being who struggles with form of depression / mental anguish / mental illness.

I have an odd little Juliet Balcony that peers down from my bedroom to the main floor of my apartment. When my dearest friend finally was able to visit, she looked up at it and asked me "How can you see that day in, day out and not hang yourself?"

In one of the largest "Don't ask, don't Tell" shame-based scenarios that damage our society's well being, having such a crucial line removed from such a tender and brutal moment of DFW's sharing of truth as he knew it is their stamp of shame and nothing more. They continue the cycle while claiming 'sensitivity.' (To their bottom line and nothing more, I say.)

I contemplate printing up some high quality slips of paper that show what he really said, to insert into every copy of the book I come across. Indeed.

Any chance you have a copy of the speech that you could share with me? I guess I didn't hear about it until it was too late to see it here.

I know that I have sent the speech to dozens and dozens of folks, most of which had never heard of its author. And I know that a good percentage of them upon reading it became fans and went out and started acquiring DFW books. Having it pulled is a terrible loss in so many ways. Primarily to society itself because fewer members will read DFW, but, consequently, also to whomever is making money from the publishing of his books.

Just this past Sunday, I heard of this commencement speech in a sermon at All Souls Unitarian Church, Lexington & 80th Street in Manhattan. It was suggested that all present should read it and share it with young adults, especially students.

And while I certainly wish that I could just lift it off this site and print it out for deep reading and consideration, I think of the widow DFW left behind. I also think of how she may have offered inspiration and support that enabled him to write some of his best stuff. It's often the case that people who receive acclaim and praise have someone behind them in the shadows who are alive in their writing, some of whom we never hear about.

Hopefully, some of the piddling $12.95 to purchase this book will go in royalties to his widow -- I'm sure she's deserving of it and that if DFW could look back he would want her to have the benefit of it -- so if you loved him, buy it!

I read in an article by Sam Anderson in New York Magazine in Spetember 2008 that DFW had struggled with depression all his life. Perhaps there was some chemical imbalance he was suffering from (I mean really suffering from) that he had to fight every single day of his life until he could no longer bear it.

We all wish we could be present for people in such excruciating despair but at least we can be as present as possible to the people in "The Water" all around us.

Hi, Did anyone manage to print out a version of the speech before Marginalia was forced to remove it?
If so I would love a photocopy.

I wouldn't mind paying the $12.00 for the book if they hadn't edited his words but they did.

Does someone mind making a copy for me? I'd be more than happy to send a self addressed envelope or if they can email it even better. Thanks!!!!!!!!


Mary & Juan,

The speech is available on the very first comment of this page!

Wonders of cache memory.

I had hoped to hear Wallace himself and am disappointed that our laws protecting intellectual property have created an impediment. I read what I believe is a rather long excerpt of the speech in the WSJ (9/19/08. Being an academic I have attended a number of graduations. Of its kind, it is the very best. I wish that I could have been at Kenyon with the graduates.

I bought the book...worth every penny...never heard of Wallace before...making sense is a sacrement...I know Jesus blesses that...I pray that when my son reads it it will be light to his eyes and lead him to see how God sees him

omg those bastards made you remove it? shame shame, and more shame after the way they turned dfw's great massive paragraphs into nothing more than teeny tiny one sentence sound bites. i am an american bookseller who is mightily discouraged (though not at all surprised) by a publishing mentality which would treat the treasure it owns so disrespectfully.

this may not be the smartest idea of mine, as i imagine more attention on this site will result in the speech being forced from there also. nonetheless, someone copied the speech directly from marginalia into their own blog...

thanks so much for bringing this speech, and in fact dfw, to my attention. it makes the world of difference some times.

Thank you Brock! I'd wanted to send it to a student/intern and found it was no longer available. This is the sort of knowledge (really, wisdom)that wants to be free.

Could someone who has the book enlighten me please - I've never figured out what the mystery word is at the end of the phrase "the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]". What is it??

And I agree with Knifemouth - it's a damn shame that they saw fit to remove "They shoot the terrible master". It's the phrase that stands out most for me in the original text. Vividly grim, yes, and in the light of DFW's suicide, doubly uncomfortable (though he didn't use a gun), but it's an image that makes his point brilliantly - don't let your own mind become the enemy.

Will someone send me the tex?

can you send me a copy of the video?

matt tannenbaum: those short paragraphs make it all seem like Chicken Soup for the Literati Soul. DFW would likely laugh at this final absurdity.

Go to and click the hyperlink to print the speech. You can copy and paste to Word.

Just a guess, but I'm thinking Mr. Wallace would be tres unhappy about the demand letter.

Hey all, the link in the first comment is the DFW speech. However, if that link ever fails, please write me at, I have the text saved to my hard drive and will gladly send it to you.

p.s. If you're reading this in 2030 I still mean it!

Dear (initial) Author (of this blog entry),

I wonder if you happen to have an audio recording or something of the speech ? I'd be glad to know ;)

Cheers n best wishes to all of you!

I just read the Kenyon speech again for the 4th time. And each time it reveals something new, or something that I missed: the pauses following the colons; what default setting am I in? But knowing so many others have taken inspiration and guidance from DFW's own thoughts, I don't feel so alone. This must be a good thing?

Google will not fail thee, fair friend. Thou shalt find the speech and it shall be online and it shall be free also.

I am so grateful to have been able to read DFW's commencement speech. I stumbled across him and his work and I have been trying to collect as much info about him so I can to better understand him and his work. I continue to be humbled by what surely was nothing short of a Herculean effort for him to work while dealing with his depression. He is missed....


I used parts of that speech in video projects, sent his words on the friends, and kept them for myself as a beautiful reminder I'm sorry the publishers have control over words that were given as a gift to so many.

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This page contains a single entry by was published on May 10, 2009 10:36 AM.

Weschler on Trevor and Ryan Oakes was the previous entry in this blog.

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