A former Esquire fiction editor recounts her time at the magazine and her working relationship and romance with David Foster Wallace.
Miller (The Coast of Akron, 2005) was 25 with three years’ experience in editorial assistant roles at GQ when her boss became editor-in-chief at Esquire in 1997 and hired her to be the latter’s fiction editor. During her tenure, which ended in 2006, she edited four stories by Wallace, “the fiction writer with whom I’d work the most frequently at the magazine.” For a time, they were a couple. In her debut memoir, Miller recounts her years at Esquire, her struggle to grapple with working for a men’s publication in which the “representation of women was problematic at best,” and her relationship with Wallace. Many passages movingly recount the sexism she endured, such as when, after she got the job, a male literary agent told her, “You don’t have any authority to do this job, you know”; or when she discovered that then-unknown Dave Eggers, an Esquire colleague, received twice her salary for similar work. Unfortunately, much of the narrative is unfocused and suffers from weak prose—e.g., “He obviously didn’t exactly hold me in terribly high regard”; “my grandfather, who had died six years before, was still dead.” Many passages read like lines from a romance novel: “His hand was firm, and soft, and warm”; “David promised he’d call. I hoped he’d call. I needed him to call.” Despite her focus on Wallace, we never get a satisfying sense of what made him a unique writer. For the most complete and insightful portrait of Wallace, readers should turn to D.T. Max’s Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story. Miller’s experience as a woman at a male-dominated magazine is unique, but her rendering is flawed.
A scattershot glimpse into the American magazine scene of the late 1990s and early 2000s.