Dave Eggers started The Believer in 2003, which is obviously the same year that David Foster Wallace heard about it and decided to procure a subscription for himself. This subscription card was filled out by Wallace, and with this perpetually inquisitive mind, he couldn’t fail to make it amusing as well as to prompt some interesting questions about the way the man’s brain worked—all while writing no more than 22 words, 13 if you disregard his address.
See, Wallace can’t resist copyediting the damn thing. He’s apparently aghast that they want him to supply his credit card information on a piece of “open” communication, but while drawing attention to that illogic is valid as far as it goes, he’s forgetting that he always had the option of putting the card in an envelope.
I suspect that if he could have found a way to incorporate footnotes, as he famously did in Infinite Jest as well as countless shorter works of both fiction and nonfiction, he would have. Since that option isn’t really available to him, the diagrammatic lines, circle, and check box fulfill much the same purpose.
This image comes from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which is sort of the New York Yankees of literary archive collections. They have a McSweeney’s archive there, and this card belonged to Andrew Leland, who was managing editor of The Believer when Issue 2 was being prepared (and, indeed, the first 75 issues). As the HRC points out, the tiny markings on the top of the card suggest that Leland had the card taped to the wall in his office.