David Foster Wallace and the Great New York State Fair

It would have been easy enough to write an essay of ridicule. That’s what state fairs, with their abundance of fried food and the overfed, carnies and hucksters, freak shows and 4-H-raised llamas lend themselves to most easily. But the heart of this assignment – to write an homage to David Foster Wallace, who in 1994 published his iconic “Ticket to the Fair” in Harper’s, and who hanged himself two years ago this month – poses a task weightier than merely satirizing the 12 days of New York State Fair that recently wrapped just outside of Syracuse.

As in any comedic tradition, we promise to make you smile before we make you sad. A tour-de-force of emotion, after the jump.

August 31, 4:15 p.m.

I am no dummy; I will not endure this trip alone. As DFW had his Native Companion, I have my Faithful Escort – a photographer, conveniently enough, who during our sojourn will risk life and limb to consume multiple fried Snickers bars and elephant ears, ferry us through the Haunted House, navigate a real-life sighting of the chupacabra, and entreat me to ride the Ferris Wheel.

Of course, we must first bicker about where to park. Then we hoof it a half-mile to the fair – which is, fittingly enough, on the other side of both interstate and railroad track – before arriving at our nirvana.

Photo credit: Joe Lingeman