Earlier in March, word of the literary archives of the late David Foster Wallace landing at the Harry Ransom Center at UT-Austin caused considerable fanfare, for understandable reasons. Now fans and scholars — not to mention biographers — would have a chance to delve inside the working mind of the author of Infinite Jest (who committed suicide at the age of 46 in 2008) and pore over notes, an eclectic book collection, letters to and from noted literary colleagues like Don DeLillo and Jonathan Franzen, and course syllabi for the many classes Wallace taught over a decade and a half, most recently as a tenured (and highly-regarded) professor of English Literature at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
Since his death, Wallace’s position at the college has been left vacant. But this spring, after a quiet campaign taking place over the course of several months, Pomona College will choose among three candidates — Jonathan Lethem, Chris Abani, and Edie Meidav — to succeed Wallace in the Roy E. Disney Professorship for Creative Writing.
According to Pomona’s school newspaper The Student Life, which has covered the professorship search extensively, the college garnered 75 applications for the position after placing ads in publications such as the New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement and reaching out to 36 writers deemed to be fitting candidates. From there the search committee interviewed seven candidates via video conferencing, and then whittled down the list to four finalists, each of whom would visit the campus to give a seminar and read from their most recent work.
Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winner for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao , had already visited Pomona in the fall of 2008, where students praised him for sharing “his compelling upbringing and potent wit.” The paper reported, however, that Diaz withdrew from consideration for personal reasons. (Attempts to reach Diaz were not responded to by press time.) That left Lethem (The Fortress of Solitude , Chronic City ) and Meidav (Crawl Space ), both of whom visited Pomona in mid-February, and Abani (Song for Night , Graceland ), who did the same on March 4-5, in the running.
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