An Appeal to Rename the DFW Airport for David Foster Wallace

Is it time for the DFW airport to change its name? One commentator makes the case.

By Sean HutchinsonAugust 24, 2015 10:06 am|

In Dallas, some major renovations are underway and, as commentator Sean Hutchinson argues, it’s long past time for an even bigger change at DFW — one that recognizes that those three letters D-F-W also belong to a cultural icon.

David Foster Wallace is among the preeminent literary voices of the past generation. Surely we can do him better than to just settle for a measly movie. Let’s aim bigger. Like Americans. Or bigger yet: like Texans. It’s high time to honor Wallace on a canvas befitting his stature. Let’s go Infinite Jest big. I’m thinking: The David Foster Wallace International Airport.

Hear me out.

Louis Armstrong has an airport. Bob Hope has an airport. John Wayne has an airport. Charles Schulz has an airport. Ian Fleming even has an airport . So why not David Foster Wallace? When will America honor the airport novel with a novelist airport? Now seems the right time.

The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport carries the letter code DFW. Need I say more? The prefix assigned by the International Air Transport Association  normalizes the easily recognizable codes for travelers on baggage tags, check-in desks, maps,  and more. Some of these make perfect sense — like JFK for John F. Kennedy Airport — while others are kind of baffling — MCO for Orlando International is a semi-head-scratchers. Yet DFW is there — like a gift from the literary gods.

Some people would say such a change is outside of the realm of possibility — I know; I ran this idea past them, and they used that exact phrase. In a bit of a huff I might add. The real hurdle is convincing the airport’s board of directors of the merits of sharing the name with an American author. That seems, to me, quite surmountable.

The airport is owned by the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth and operated by a board of directors comprised of businessmen and the mayors of both cities. So only a handful of folks would have to agree to rename DFW to the David Foster Wallace International Airport. Perhaps a few copies of Infinite Jest would sway them toward becoming an instant international literary destination (or layover).

But the connection between author and airport goes beyond the monogram. This is a match that has deeper roots.

Naming an airport after David Foster Wallace would be oh-so wildly appropriate given its relation to his considerable body of work.

Wouldn’t it be the piece de resistance of literary integrity to create the living embodiment of his ridiculously savvy yet sardonic work in a real place for everyone to experience? He was a master at deconstructing the bureaucratic absurdities of American social behavior in confined spaces, and that was just his non-fiction. Reading Wallace makes a person feel more insightful, more aware — and calmer — in the face of a supposedly fun thing you never want to do again. Wallace made us all happier travelers.

Wallace himself celebrated the beautiful complexities in even the most quotidian systems. Here he is in Harper’s in 1991:

I’d grown up inside vectors, lines and lines athwart lines, grids — and, on the scale of horizons, broad curving lines of geographic force, the weird topographical drain-swirl of a whole lot of ice-ironed land that sits and spins atop plates. The area behind and below these broad curves at the seam of land and sky I could plot by eye way before I came to know infinitesimals as easements, an integral as schema.

He’s talking about playing tennis while growing up, but he could just as easily be talking about the layout of a modern airport like DFW.

The letters DFW will always stand for Dallas/Fort Worth — the very names of the towns it serves ensure as much. But they could mean even more. Dallas, you know what to do. Fort Worth, the ball’s in your court. You’re the only twins big enough to make room like this. No other cities can do it. No other cities could do it. Embrace the David Foster Wallace International Airport. That’s no jest.