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Grown-Ups Table

Did you ever wonder what life was like for David Foster Wallace, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Jonathan Franzen before they broke through? According to this, it was competitive, a little sad, and heavy on the self-doubt. Fascinating, if a little gossipy. (New York)
That same summer, Jonathan Franzen, also 28, was living in Jackson Heights, Queens, and feeling �totally, totally isolated.� The neighborhood was an immigrant jumble, and Franzen was a solemn, intellectual guy from St. Louis without much occasion to leave the house. He had gotten some attention and money for his debut novel, The Twenty-Seventh City, but the axis of the planet had not obediently shifted. He was frustrated with living in �shared monastic seclusion� with his then-wife, he says, when he got a fan letter from a writer he knew of but had never read. David Foster Wallace, then 26, was having dire troubles of his own and wrote to praise what Franzen had done in a �freaking first novel.� It was the first time Franzen had ever heard from a peer, he says. �And I was desperate for friends.� Gradually, he found some: first Wallace, then William T. Vollmann, David Means. Through Wallace, who also knew Vollmann, he met Mary Karr and Mark Costello. Later Franzen would connect with Eugenides, Moody, and their other college friend Donald Antrim. A scene was taking shape and growing.

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