By Emily Gold Boutilier


Wallace's senior thesis in English; an uncorrected proof of The Broom of the System, which grew out of the thesis; and first editions of his books.


The manuscript and first edition of Presumed Innocent

Infinite Jest meets the Superromance

When Michael Kelly came to Amherst last year as director of Archives and Special Collections, there was only one book by David Foster Wallace ’85 in his department’s collection. Kelly set about buying first-edition copies—many signed—of Infinite Jest and other books by the late, famous author. Now those books are on display, along with Wallace’s senior thesis in English (the basis of his first novel, The Broom of the System) as part of a spring and summer exhibition on the novelists of Amherst. “Everybody knows the poets of Amherst,” Kelly says, “but we have just as many—if not more—novelists.”

Including Wallace, who died in 2008 and who would have celebrated his 25th Reunion this spring, more than two dozen novelists are represented in the display. They range from The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown ’86, whose first editions are part of the exhibition; to Deanna Fei ’99, whose new, debut novel, A Thread of Sky, is on display; to William Tapply ’62, who published more than 40 books in 25 years, including some two dozen mysteries; to Anne Ha ’93, who wrote Because of the Baby: Nine Months Later (Harlequin Superromance No. 905) under the pen name Anne Haven. In the future, Kelly plans to acquire even more first editions by Amherst novelists.

Among the others treasures on exhibit are the dot-matrix-printed manuscript of Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow ’70; a Korean edition of Turow’s Pleading Guilty; a draft of Secrets of Eden, by Chris Bohjalian ’82; and uncorrected proofs of many Wallace books. There’s also a spiral-bound manuscript of Wallace’s Oblivion, signed by the author, dated June 22, 2004, and inscribed, “For Andy. I disavow the typos [and] clunkers in this draft.”   

Photos by Samuel Masinter ’04

The Novelists of Amherst, which runs through Sept. 30, is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, with additional hours during Reunion (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 29, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, May 30), in Archives and Special Collections, on the A level of Frost Library.