23 May, 2015

David Foster Wallace’s ‘Host’ Redesigned

In 2005, I was mostly building big, fairly overwrought multimedia packages for a big, fairly overwrought media conglomerate. I thought it was pretty futuristic, but try finding, let alone watching, any of the Flash I labored over.

My memory of reading David Foster Wallace’s ‘Host’ in The Atlantic was that it was a revelation. I must have read it in print first, as I distinctly remember the ingenious design of DFW’s extensive footnotes, with the highlighted text and sidebars. It read like hypertext on a printed page.

Memory is a tricky thing, I feel like I remember the original treatment online being pretty clever and similar in style to print, but the only record I can find is one with links and pop-ups and without the stylistic panache. This may well have been what ran ten years ago and I’m conflating the two in my mind.

Regardless, The Atlantic has rebuilt the nearly 15,000 word piece to fit not just their latest responsive layout but also reworked the footnotes so they work inline and hew more closely to the original design. It’s incredible work and if you’ve never read ‘Host’ now is a great time to dig in. If you have, a long weekend seems like a fine time to read it again.