david foster wallace - is he a cunt?

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but is he?

jerry curl, Monday, 21 March 2005 14:47 (seventeen years ago) link


tom west (thomp), Monday, 21 March 2005 20:45 (seventeen years ago) link

he's occasionally (and, you know, more occasionally than you might think, even (especially) if a fan) a bit of a twat, but who ain't

tom west (thomp), Monday, 21 March 2005 20:46 (seventeen years ago) link

i must say i like the idea of this as an alternative to "classic or dud" -

tom west (thomp), Monday, 21 March 2005 20:58 (seventeen years ago) link

what is his appeal, to you, as a person?

maybe i should try infinite jest (or anything else, really) before i complain.

he wrote an essay on the illinois state fair that i would very much like to read.

jerrry curl, again, Monday, 21 March 2005 21:07 (seventeen years ago) link

The fair piece isn't one of his best essays, I don't think; there are others in A Supposedly Fun Etc I'd rate much higher, starting with "E Unibus Plurum" and the Lynch article.

nabisco (nabisco), Monday, 21 March 2005 21:25 (seventeen years ago) link

those both fascinate me as well actually. i'll prolly buy the book. i'm esp interested in the state fair essay cuz i currently live in springfield and i was probably at the one he was writing about!

i have not been impressed in the slightest with oblivion.

j.c., Monday, 21 March 2005 21:28 (seventeen years ago) link

it's not a good place to start

W i l l (common_person), Monday, 21 March 2005 21:57 (seventeen years ago) link

A Supposedly Fun Thing may be, though. if you like the first essay and have a decent attention span you may like Infinite Jest. or just start with IJ, most people do.

W i l l (common_person), Monday, 21 March 2005 22:00 (seventeen years ago) link

That Lynch article is only interesting if you're interested in Lynch. Which I'm not. And I couldn't read it, it bored me to tears. The title essay of "Supposed Fun", that is my favorite.

Casuistry (Chris P), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 00:57 (seventeen years ago) link

DFW wrote an article in Gourmet magazine, August 2004, Considering the Lobster, about lobster festivals in Maine. The piece addressed the morality of boiling live lobsters along with giving tmi + footnotes about local culinary customs, marine biology, animal rites, etc. It was pretty unbelievable to see in a slick Conde Nast magazine and actually as entertaining and thought-provoking as intended IMO. I liked "Supposed Fun," but this was better maybe.

lovebug starski (lovebug starski), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 02:09 (seventeen years ago) link

My favourite writer ever, still. I don't think he's a cunt, which doesn't have as much to do with the previous sentence as you might think - I actually thought he was one for a very long time. But... there's a bit somewhere in a interview or essay, I can't remember which, where he says that good writing requires one to run the risk of coming across as naive and ridiculous etc, and that strikes me as a characteristic of non-cunts, as does his general distaste for empty irony etc...

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 02:17 (seventeen years ago) link

I went to a COMPLETELY insane lecture on him which said taking that Lobster's perspective was "a move towards a posthuman perspective", wtf?

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 02:18 (seventeen years ago) link

He is still maybe something of a cunt, thinking of it. Slightly less so Joyce, who seems a sensible comparison in terms of modes-of-cuntery.

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 02:23 (seventeen years ago) link

er, "THAN Joyce"!! That completely reversed the sense, grah.

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 02:34 (seventeen years ago) link

Yeah, not a cunt. I like the essays in A Supposedly Fun Thing... Some are good for certain moods, others for other moods, but they're all quality. And Infinite Jest, well, yes, of course, love, etc.

(And screw the 'posthuman' - wtf indeed - I know what they're trying to say, but it's a silly academic categorization (but my academic tolerance levels are currently low, so...) and there are better/clearer/more informative ways to say it. I'm pretty sure now that it's just a snappy way to sell otherwise dull, rehashed-theory books. ooh, 'posthuman', edgey... pfft, read one Haraway.)

rrrobyn (rrrobyn), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 05:37 (seventeen years ago) link

I've always been irritated by the way David Foster Wallace gets mentioned in the same breath with, say, Dave Eggers. Wallace is writing about the conditions that created Dave Eggers.

Hurting (Hurting), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 05:48 (seventeen years ago) link

Hurting OTM!

A really big question related to the the cuntliness divide is: you can see from the (pre IJ) essays and his own biography that he was interested in tennis, cantorian maths, TV etc, so why did he wait until his third book to tackle these things? Was it that he was waiting to be a mature writer (in which case he is a frightening iceman) or that he realised he SHOULD be writing about what he loved (in which case he is a reformed cunt, now lovely)...

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 06:49 (seventeen years ago) link

I really like this question!

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 06:49 (seventeen years ago) link

(Aesop gives psychological realism to a fox! Can you say Posthuman!?)

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 06:51 (seventeen years ago) link

(hahaha - I know! I was at a conference this weekend and the panel I was on was titled "Posthuman Worlds" - the guy who presented before me talked about animal representation, specifically in contemp lit - he made sense, cited a few Cdn works that fit the profile (Findley's Not Wanted on the Voyage, Life of Pi, etc.), but still, yeah, I remain unconvinced about the 'posthuman' - its qualities are an extension/evolution/development of being human (not nec humanism-defined) and all that it can encompass.) Okay, back to DFW!

rrrobyn (rrrobyn), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 14:00 (seventeen years ago) link

i would definitely like to hear more abojut this joyce-wallace thing, bceause i like joyce quite a bit, in Portrait and Dublienrs anyway - and i certainly don't see much wallace there. is infinite jest not really comparable to obvlivion at all then? because i think wallace really is a frightening iceman.

jerry coil, Tuesday, 22 March 2005 14:47 (seventeen years ago) link

i should note that i am being generous. i have no idea how one could say joyce (pre-ulysses ie what i've read) is similar to wallace, or, even, a cunt or cunt-like.

HURTING. is probably right, or partly right, based on what i've heard about infinite jest and that latin essay thing. what i maintain is interesting is that he cannot himself escape from that particular prison. infinite jest by his own standards was a failure.

I was listeing to an interview with eggers and he takled about how 'goofiness' isn't valued or something else today. so he wrote a short story where a bird alights on a woman's shoulder and she says 'zippity doo-da' and then her arm disappears. good for him?

j catfish, Tuesday, 22 March 2005 15:04 (seventeen years ago) link

is infinite jest not really comparable to obvlivion at all then?

I mean, they're all comparable once you've read them (he has recurring themes, oh does he ever, and I need not mention his tics style), but if you aren't liking Oblivion but still want to give him a chance, switch to IJ, which is more accessible. (His most accessible stuff is probably the magazine features, like lobsters (supra), title essay of A Supposedly Fun Thing..., Tense Present, or the current cover article of the Atlantic which profiles a talk radio host. Or maybe one of the shorts in Girl With Curious Hair, the Letterman one, perhaps.).

W i l l (common_person), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 17:07 (seventeen years ago) link

Maybe (though it doesn't necessarily matter).

Best starting place in my view is neither Infinite Jest or Supposedly Fun but the short-story collection Girl With Curious Hair. Each story is a universe unto itself, and most are pitch-perfect and short. At the time of GWCH, I don't think he'd developed his DFW shtick of footnotes and hyperselfconsciousness, so they're better acts of ventriloquism.

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 17:52 (seventeen years ago) link

Has this become a S/D?

S: most of: Supposedly Fun, Brief Interviews, and GWCH
D: IJ, and from everything I've heard, the hiphop book

Haven't read and have heard mixed things about the infinity book. I might give it a go sometime. I am pretty much the target audience for it, after all!

Casuistry (Chris P), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 18:15 (seventeen years ago) link

I wasn't saying the writing was comparable to Joyce! I was saying that that the ways one could, if one wanted to, call Joyce "a cunt" (while acknowledging he was a great writer) are often true of Wallace. And vice versa.

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 18:18 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm always pretty surprised to see GWCH bigged up so - the stories in it always strike me as accomplished in a cold, unwelcoming way, but clearly they work for others.

The infinity book is the only thing I've read of his I'd call unambiguously bad. (Maybe also Mr Squishy).

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 18:24 (seventeen years ago) link

Oblivion is (IMO) a sort of hollowing out and interrogation of what he does, which is a very moral or very solipsistic thing to write, depending on how much you like him. It's a horrible book to begin with, anyway.

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 18:29 (seventeen years ago) link

Broom of the System is bad.

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 18:31 (seventeen years ago) link

I think that for all Wallace's, yaknow, Wallaceness, people get fairly radically different things out of him, so it's hard to say what people should read first or, like, at all...

I mean, you could take any 300-page chunk of IJ and it would *still* be my most favourite book ever, and that's partly because his sentence (in a kind of Room With a View sense, sorta the Platonic Form of his individual sentence) is so perfectly attuned to my own personal, internal one. But it's also a kind of Catcher In The Rye, for me, because I first read it at an impressionable age, it clarified my relationship w/ my father, etc. So I wouldn't necessarily *recommend* it to people who might quite legitimately get neither of those things out of it.

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 18:37 (seventeen years ago) link

Broom of the system is mostly bad, with moments.

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 18:37 (seventeen years ago) link

OMG Vlad the Impaler. I should read that one again.

Your whole second paragraph is how I felt for a year or so after reading IJ. It hit me at a turning point etc.

Infinity book = dud (and I'm pretty much its target audience, too, I think!)

W i l l (common_person), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 18:50 (seventeen years ago) link

'posthuman' is just too funny.

well i suppose i'll get that essaybook shortly and then maybe give ij a go eventually. ij certainly interests me, but i assumed i'd be wiser to pick up a book of short fiction instead of a 1000 page novel i had no intention of finishing anytime soon. looks like i fucked that up.

can we talk about his prose for sec here? does it seem a bit clinical(ly dead) to anyone else?? i mean he's certainly got an immense talent for detail & description, but it reads like some kind of mechanical eye registering every detail and then spouting it out in sheets of crystalline sentences.

ANYWAY um that's based on not much at all, but it's my experience as yet and i'm hoping yall can tell me it's atypical or that i'm way off somehow.

also is the (non-) ending to ij as much as a bummer as everyone says?

j star, Tuesday, 22 March 2005 19:34 (seventeen years ago) link

does it seem a bit clinical(ly dead) to anyone else?? i mean he's certainly got an immense talent for detail & description, but it reads like some kind of mechanical eye registering every detail and then spouting it out in sheets of crystalline sentences.

Yeah, when he's at his best. I didn't find this to be nearly as true of IJ as it is of, say, Brief Interviews, though.

Casuistry (Chris P), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 20:01 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't agree that the prose is clinical or dead. IJ is very very personal in the way the prose is all mushed up with American suburban teen vernacular. It feels very lived, especially the Hal stuff.

Ditto "Everything Is Green" or "Girl With Curious Hair" or "Here and There" or "My Appearance." And definitely the title essay of "ASFTINDA" (the cruise ship one).

What Gravel said--that he find's DFW's sentence is in tune with Gravel's own--would seem to disprove the notion that the prose is robotic. Obviously it's just like the way at least some people process the world. So if Gravel and I are humans, then DFW's prose is human also.

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 20:26 (seventeen years ago) link

i don't really believe anyone (incl wallace from what he's said) could possibly regularly process the world lke that, so i'm just going to asume you guys are android creeps.

paranoid human, Tuesday, 22 March 2005 20:37 (seventeen years ago) link

I am not an android! I do tend to find the guy’s way of thought-processing matching mine, particularly in essay form, and I don’t think it’s about a density of detail, so much—something more like a density of example, maybe, with every thought leading inexorably to sub-thoughts and caveats and associations, to the point where he has to swing you back to the main line with a paragraph break and one of his “so but anyway” constructions. (Like in his grammar-and-usage article, where sidelines lead him off to develop whole example-scenes that later work as terrific shorthand for rather complicated referents.) That and, yes, a little bit of the density that comes from taking the time to write things down: you often see Wallace doing that thing where you prepare to describe something as X, then realize it’s more of an X-sub-Y, or a 2X crossed with a Z, and suddenly you’re finding a way to pack all that stuff into a front-ended description. It’s the opposite of the classic conception of essay argument, which tends to ask you to pare down to straight lines and simple architecture. But with Wallace that stuff isn’t extraneous, and it gives the final thirds of some of his essays a real thrill: he’s developed such a web of associating statements that you get immersed in the process of following them, and it’s terrific when he—here and there—really genuinely manages to bring them all knotting back together into something.

Hahaha: so but anyway I do feel like the thought process is very, very human—even more human than the artifice of clean simple prose. I mean, it admits to the problem of humans speaking, which is that as soon as you open your mouth to make an argument, you’re secretly bringing to bear everything you’ve ever learned about life—and if you really want to support what you’re saying, you could trace infinitely back in every direction through howevermany examples and related points and contextual notes. (You an say “I like the Rolling Stones” but I don’t fully know what that means until you’ve told me how you feel about blues and the Beatles and where you grew up and what music you don’t like and what you do for a living and on and on recursively.) It seems human to me that Wallace pushes back the border a little to include more of that recursive thought; if there’s anything android-like it’s the idea that someone can actually whittle a complex thought down to a clean, well-organized essay!

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 21:22 (seventeen years ago) link

OTMFM. This idea of the difficulty/impossibility of communication and sharing of experience and what to do about it animates much of Wallace's work, in my experience, from the antimonies of Broom of the System to the wordless Canadian criminal in IJ to the narrative trickery of Good Old Neon and so on.

W i l l (common_person), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 21:48 (seventeen years ago) link

actually, i'd imagine his style would be much much better suited to essays, esp journalistic ones, actually.

i'm talking more about the fiction, which seems (and again my exp is extremely limited here) wholly without poetry, lacking pynchon's intensity or delillo's understated grace or proust's opiate rhythms or nabokov's playfulness or joyce circa dubliner's detatched humanist portraits. instead it just comes across as detatchment cold & clinical. i guess that isn't automatically a bad thing, but for me it's difficult to stomach here.

ok, i'll shut up until i actually finish one of his stories. maybe (seems logical) these are problems that are most visible in the exposition and dissolve as the text progresses, or maybe i've just badlucked across them. but really, i think there's just something about his goddamn writing i can't stand.

j t, Tuesday, 22 March 2005 22:05 (seventeen years ago) link

I guess you just haven't found the single word to summarize DFW with?

Two of my favorite bits of writing in fiction are: in Beckett's Molloy, where he goes for a page or two describing his system of moving 12 rocks from one pocket to his mouth to the other pocket; and Raymond Federman's Double or Nothing, where he describes going through a modestly complex arithmetic problem in his head:

five and four is nine and five is fourteen and nine is twenty-three and
five is twenty-eight and nine is thirty-seven and four is forty-one carry
over four four and eight is twelve and eight is twenty and four is
twenty-four and five is twenty-nine and two makes thirty-one and eight
is thirty-nine carry over three three and six is nine and five is fourteen
and seven makes twenty-one and three is twenty-four and five is
twenty-nine and one is thirty and four is thirty-four carry over three
three and one is four and two is six and one is seven four and one is
five for a grand total of: 574.91

Casuistry (Chris P), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 22:36 (seventeen years ago) link

(If I remember correctly, he then does it again in French.)

Casuistry (Chris P), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 22:37 (seventeen years ago) link

nabisco's latest is probably my ILB post-of-the-year nomination.

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 00:49 (seventeen years ago) link

I believe I meant antinomies, above.

W i l l (common_person), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 01:01 (seventeen years ago) link

kaz i wasn't trying to 'summarize' any of those guys. dick.

jurgens cashley, Wednesday, 23 March 2005 14:40 (seventeen years ago) link

Seriously, read "Everything Is Green." It's three heartbreaking pages and is as human as can be.

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 15:18 (seventeen years ago) link

Who doesn't have a sense of humor now?

Casuistry (Chris P), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 23:11 (seventeen years ago) link

My DFW is limited to Infinite Jest, Girl With Curious Hair and A Supposedly Fun Thing. My take on him is that he's a great if sometimes obnoxious essayist and an interesting but seriously flawed fiction writer. I know he thinks of himself as a fiction writer first, which is too bad, because his fiction won't ever be as interesting or insightful as his nonfiction. I get the feeling it's important to him to be an author, not just an essayist (or, god forbid, a journalist). Infinite Jest has some terrific bits -- a lot of them, enough to at least get me to read the whole damn thing -- but I never really thought it came off. The characters never felt like characters to me, I was aware of the great looming presence of DFW in every line. I also agree that he's a little clattery as a stylist, but when he's on a roll he can build some riotous momentum (people say Pynchon, but in some ways he actually makes me think more of Hunter S. Thompson).

An interesting guy, basically. Smart as hell.

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Saturday, 26 March 2005 09:24 (seventeen years ago) link

On consideration, I think maybe yes.

The more I think about DFW, the less I like him. It seems to me that most of his appeal is superficial, and has maybe too much to do with his audience. i do love his linguistic energy, inventiveness, but the thing that does bug me a lot is his post-grad-MTV-Keanu Reeves(sp?) put on where he interjects a lot of pat, blank, empty teen talk and I can't help but think that he's one of those very irritating post adolescent male cunts who, still in their 30s, seem to be coming to terms with the idea that they were, in their early teens, thought highly precocious, and that, their being aware of this label became for them a kind of badge, which they always draw attention to, ie., cling to, by trying to sound extremely brainy one moment and then offering some kind of anaesthetised teen response which is a kind of ingratiating "apology", for being so smart.

So, in conclusion, false modesty does pretty much qualify you for a cunt. But then again, Martin Amis seems like the biggest cunt around, as far as authors go, and no-one could accuse him of false modesty.

David Joyner (David Joyner), Saturday, 2 April 2005 01:23 (seventeen years ago) link

i really liked that tense present article when i read it in harper's. i thought it was so interesting. i would read more stuff like that. i've never read his fiction. i liked it in the same way that i like nicholson baker's essays on old newspapers and libraries.

scott seward (scott seward), Saturday, 2 April 2005 02:40 (seventeen years ago) link

he has bigger arms than his prose lets on, doesn't he.

tom west (thomp), Monday, 28 August 2006 00:33 (fifteen years ago) link

The big arms of a serious tennis player?

Ray (Ray), Monday, 28 August 2006 06:41 (fifteen years ago) link


Casuistry (Chris P), Monday, 28 August 2006 06:48 (fifteen years ago) link

he hasn't been that since the 70s, though!

tom west (thomp), Monday, 28 August 2006 16:53 (fifteen years ago) link

i also think "e pluribus" is interesting as a critique of dfw's own fiction. my hang-up with his short stories and with infinite jest is that -- for all the smart writing and funny bits -- i can always feel him inside there, trying to get out of himself and his self-awareness as a writer writing a book.

What's doubly funny, though, is that at some point it becomes hard to separate DFW being self-conscious from DFW writing about self-consciousness. For instance, toward the beginning of Infinite Jest there is an incredibly long section narrating a man's sitting absolutely still and watching a bug on the wall while waiting for someone to bring him weed, and getting increasingly neurotic about when this will finally happen, and mentally reviewing a whole bunch of totally obsessive steps he takes to control his weed-binging -- all of which would read to most people as being exactly the kind of self-conscious or clever or even ironic styling that the essay seems so wary of. But on another level that's a hard argument to support, because it's not so much that he's doing that stuff so much as making you think about it; apart from the sheer level of detail devoted to a short period of this guy's consciousness, there's nothing particularly unusual or arch or insincere about the scene. You get overloaded with that vibe not because he's selling it to you, but just because he's thinking about it, and making certain of his characters actually go around dealing with it directly.

Not that this helps! It's still there and problematic, and I think the original statement is most of the time the true one, and while some of his short stories nip over at the kind of naturalism we associate with sincerity, it's nevertheless really really hard to imagine him sitting down and writing, you know, That Way. Which is fine; that's not what he's for, and that's fine; but the result really has been his essays shining brighter than his fiction, a lot of the time.

nabisco (nabisco), Monday, 28 August 2006 22:14 (fifteen years ago) link

i think photos two and three (which is kind of philip seymour hoffmanish) are the best, and the rest are pretty much totally irredeemable.

tom west (thomp), Monday, 28 August 2006 23:11 (fifteen years ago) link

"the kind of naturalism we associate with sincerity" seems to uh nip at some of the uneasier conflations in the essay. there's a lot of slippage from "self-mocking irony is always 'sincerity, with a motive'" to the later letting-it-all-hang-out notion of sincerity he seemingly half-advocates.

i think dfw's "trying to get out of himself" to the uh Sincere Zone is totally a hat he's capable of putting on: c.f. the moving-but-also-kind-of-i-dunno bit where he refers to himself in that one story in oblivion. hats within hats.

i got around to starting my reread of Curious Hair: the first story is odd in that the uh image-fiction bits, which are like maybe two-thirds of the total words, are something that the apparent concerns of the story (that dialogue about waves and poetry and such, i guess) only touch at a tangent.

i really am curious about where TELEVISION actually tries to bring back an external referent, give up on self-referring irony, dig itself out of its own hole, etc.; that said for obvious reasons i'm not au fait with US TV and also this board has "books" in its name.

re: weed: my impressedness with the way DFW structures his thoughts actually kind of went downhill after the first time i got really stoned, because the kind of "oh and another thing" endless associate chains he gets to suddenly seemed on occasion A Little Too Familiar.

i was wondering the other day whether it'd make any sense to think about whether infinite jest succeeds/fails as A Social Novel, as to whether whatever postmodern whatsit you might think of it embodying is kind of not really there.

n.b. i don't really think the doom-ridden-attempt-to-escape-a-media-saturated-society creation myth we have for american pomo writing is true. the evidence for this is somewhere in the closing number of take out to the ball game. perhaps. said myth seems kind of typical of how we tend to concertina the cultural developments of the 60s. i could be completely wrong, though.

i don't know why i put the bit about the photos in a separate post, it's not like it's any less logically connected than the rest of this -

tom west (thomp), Monday, 28 August 2006 23:28 (fifteen years ago) link

endless associative chains, that is.

tom west (thomp), Monday, 28 August 2006 23:30 (fifteen years ago) link

this seems like a good place to ask who else has read his hip-hop book (which he actually wrote with another guy, but it's got that dfw-ism all over it). it's pretty interesting as an artifact. and parts of it hold up well. like, i think they gets the roots of gangsta pretty well, considering they wrote this in 1990:

Yr. staff posits that the rapper's is a Scene that has accepted -- yea, reveres -- the up-to-date values and symbols of a Supply-Side prosperity, while rejecting, with a scorn not hard to fathom, what seem to remain the 'rules' for how the Marginal are supposed to improve their lot therein: viz., by studying hard, denying themselves, working hard, being patient, keeping that upper lip stiff in the face of what look like retractions of the last 'great society's' promises to them ... We posit that, for serious rap, these Protestant patience- and work-ethic rules, the really nostalgia-crazed parts of Supply-Side, just don't reconcile with the carrots, the enforced and reinforced images of worth-now as wealth-now, of freedom as just power, of power as just the inclination and firepower to get what you decide you have coming to you.

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 05:23 (fifteen years ago) link

("they gets" is a typo, not attempted colloquialism. for the record.)

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 05:24 (fifteen years ago) link

'90? i thought it predated broom of the system, was maybe published after it was written bcz dfw was a "name" ...

i've read it. the insistence on arguing for rap in terms of "storytelling" is a big hangup, for me.

tom west (thomp), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 13:46 (fifteen years ago) link

Sorry for the long post. Two items here:I dig a lot of his fiction, but I've been ignoring that E Pluribus Unum thing as soon as I finished it. I think this interview is much more illuminating:


My favorite parts:

1) I guess a big part of serious fiction's purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves. Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a sort of "generalization" of suffering.

2) DFW: But I often think I can see it in myself and in other young writers, this desperate desire to please coupled with a kind of hostility to the reader.

LM: In your own case, how does this hostility manifest itself?

DFW: Oh, not always, but sometimes in the form of sentences that are syntactically not incorrect but still a real bitch to read. Or bludgeoning the reader with data. Or devoting a lot of energy to creating expectations and then taking pleasure in disappointing them.

Also from the blog Ed Rants, last week:

"It’s worth mentioning that during his San Francisco appearance with Rick Moody last year, Wallace noted that he had attempted a “sentimental” novel, which he abandoned. "

Mr. Que (Mr.Que), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 14:04 (fifteen years ago) link

'90? i thought it predated broom of the system

it's signed "summer '90" on the last page, and the references to lots of '88 and '89 events make that sound right.

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 22:43 (fifteen years ago) link

I just re-read Brief Interviews, which had sort of stuck and sharpened in my imagination in the five years since I read it obsessively as a 17-yr-old and ws amazed by how different what I liked was - I really enjoyed eg Tri-Stan / Sissee Nar which uh I had somehow failed to realize was FUN before (trying too hard to understand it I guess?) and also 'Begs A Boon', also I understand the 'hideous'ness loads better and recognise it in myself etc? (the Interviews, Popquiz with the dying father-in-law, Think were all still super great though. can anyone defend datum centurio at all? Is it a lexicological injoke?)

I rly don't think it'd be a half the book it is with a different picture on the cover, it's so, I dunno, evocative of all the stuff I get out of it, not jst itself but in my reaction to it?

At the end of the last brief interview, the long one, I was crying a bit and I didn't know why, I feel I should admit that somehow (I don't cry at all really).

I dunno, tell me abt this book and you!

Gravel Puzzleworth (Gregory Henry), Monday, 11 September 2006 22:23 (fifteen years ago) link

Oy gevalt, I've had it for years and never read it. Maybe that's what I need next!

Laurel (Laurel), Tuesday, 12 September 2006 13:13 (fifteen years ago) link

...sentences that are syntactically not incorrect but still a real bitch to read. Or bludgeoning the reader with data. Or devoting a lot of energy to creating expectations and then taking pleasure in disappointing them.

Sounds like an abusive marriage to me.

Aimless (Aimless), Tuesday, 12 September 2006 13:48 (fifteen years ago) link

devoting a lot of energy to creating expectations and then taking pleasure in disappointing them.

this is the m.o. of i.j. to a t. (or maybe not. i'm not positive he was enjoying the disappointment. more like he felt it was inevitable.)

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Tuesday, 12 September 2006 20:07 (fifteen years ago) link

New U.S. paperback cover, ten year anniversary edition. Due out November 13.

Jeff LeVine (Jeff LeVine), Tuesday, 12 September 2006 20:31 (fifteen years ago) link

Sounds like an abusive marriage to me.

Oh, let me take you to the BDSM 101 workshop down the hall.

I felt almost bad about how much I enjoyed Tri-Stan, since it was so clearly the sort of thing I ought to enjoy. Back in the day, that is.

Casuistry (Chris P), Wednesday, 13 September 2006 03:41 (fifteen years ago) link

Wuv "Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko."

New IJ edition will have intro by Dave FUCKING Eggars. WTF? Inferior! Derivative!

Sorry, intoxicated.

xero (xero), Wednesday, 13 September 2006 04:41 (fifteen years ago) link

oh dear. i was just thinking "wonder who's doing the introduction" too

i find the current uk edition presently brickish, and have on more than one occasion found it hard to stop myself buying a second copy

tom west (thomp), Wednesday, 13 September 2006 14:03 (fifteen years ago) link

The last "brief" interview was the best - it really stood out, at least for me. Don't be ashamed of crying a little, I had that sort of feeling too. The average was good for these but the standard deviation was high.

vignt regards (vignt_regards), Wednesday, 13 September 2006 14:23 (fifteen years ago) link

seven months pass...
listening to michael silverblatt interview DFW is like literary NPR voice overload in the best possible way. i'm only really familiar with 'brief interviews' and 'oblivion,' but i have to say that on a sentence-to-sentence basis this guy blows away, say, someone like bret easton ellis.

earth mystery, Monday, 7 May 2007 21:14 (fifteen years ago) link

itt a butt


cankles, Thursday, 10 May 2007 03:24 (fifteen years ago) link

three months pass...


thomp, Monday, 3 September 2007 22:54 (fourteen years ago) link

one year passes...

reviving, sadly. r.i.p.

tipsy mothra, Sunday, 14 September 2008 05:07 (thirteen years ago) link

too soon

the internets ideal (velko), Sunday, 14 September 2008 07:09 (thirteen years ago) link

hard to write a sincere message here given the post's name. Still, this came as a terrible shock. Hardly made a mention in the Australian media.


David Joyner, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 23:27 (thirteen years ago) link

it is a regrettable thread title. i could change it probably, but i don't like to change things. free speech and and all that.

i was really shocked by this too. i didn't know about his depression/years of medication. knowing that certainly makes it all much more understandable.

scott seward, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 23:48 (thirteen years ago) link

actually, maybe i couldn't even if i wanted to. i don't even know if i'm still a moderator on nu-nu-ilb. maybe chris knows.

scott seward, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 23:50 (thirteen years ago) link

lot of discussion on the ILE thread: david foster wallace: classic or dud

gr8080 (max), Wednesday, 17 September 2008 00:05 (thirteen years ago) link

it's sad he was a writer

you don't make friends with salad (Jordan), Wednesday, 17 September 2008 02:15 (thirteen years ago) link

i would vote for changing the name. i am still upset over this.

thomp, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 15:39 (thirteen years ago) link

you could, you know, not bump the thread

gr8080 (max), Wednesday, 17 September 2008 15:49 (thirteen years ago) link

I am surprised at how shocked I've been about this. I've been at home with a cold and it's just been the toughest couple of days. I'm stuck in the loop of walking past the bookshelf and casting a furtive glance at his books, resisting and then failing to pick them up and leaf through. Have mostly gone for Obliviion, and I don't know about anyone else but have found it hard to do. I've thought about his "Good Old Neon" for so long but reading it again is too hard.

David Joyner, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 23:18 (thirteen years ago) link

three months pass...


bunniculingus (Curt1s Stephens), Wednesday, 14 January 2009 03:31 (thirteen years ago) link

.. what?

thomp, Wednesday, 14 January 2009 18:01 (thirteen years ago) link

seven years pass...


Hungerford, however, does not see the gain of “love” in the work of another contemporarily canonical icon, David Foster Wallace — she sees the cost of hatred. On the basis of preliminary evidence of Wallace’s “misogyny” found in selections of his short stories and in D. T. Max’s biography of Wallace (Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, 2012), Hungerford declares that she will “not read any further in Wallace’s work” and proposes: “If there was something rotten in Wallace’s relationships with women [ … ] might there be something rotten in the writer-reader relationship, too?” She suggests that if Foer’s writer-reader ethos is “lovemaking,” then Wallace’s is “fucking.” Thus she posits — as “heretical” as it may seem — that every act of reading can be an “act of choosing.” In the case of herself and Wallace, she “refuse[ s ]” her consent.

In September 2016, Hungerford published a version of her Wallace chapter as an article, “On Refusing to Read,” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which sparked competing cries of support and dissent. As Tom LeClair notes in his Full Stop review of her book, Hungerford’s Chronicle article has a different argumentative thrust: she refuses Wallace in order to resist the “market imperatives” which led his publishers to “dare” reviewers to read the tome-like Infinite Jest and then led those reviewers to assign it critical value as recompense for their cognitive and temporal losses. While this argument is also in Making Literature Now, it takes a backseat to Hungerford’s misogyny claim which, in turn, is absent from the article. LeClair reads this omission as a ploy on Hungerford’s part, a “defanged” teaser to her book’s melodramatic “two takedowns” of Foer and Wallace. I have to wonder instead whether the misogyny argument is absent because Hungerford had trouble placing an article about misogyny. In Making Literature Now, she notes that upon pitching an article about not reading Wallace on the grounds of misogyny, she was met with the advice to read more Wallace to find more misogyny. Hungerford sees this as an assumption “that Wallace’s work ‘about’ misogyny must somehow be revealing or smart about that subject.” This is the assumption that she wishes to interrogate.

j., Sunday, 18 December 2016 01:11 (five years ago) link

I think he was more of a misanthrope than people generally realize and I stopped reading "Oblivion" because I found it kind of unpleasant. But the rape/consent metaphor this writer uses for refusing to read an allegedly misogynistic author is too loaded. And claiming the authority to mount a comprehensive takedown of an author without undertaking the labor of reading them is dumb.

Treeship, Sunday, 18 December 2016 02:13 (five years ago) link

I don’t think Hungerford is suggesting, here, that literature courses should never confront misogyny — or other iterations of hatred — but that seeing as teachers hold the readerly consent of their students in hand, they should choose their texts and authors carefully. To me, Hungerford’s affective-interpretive “worth” system reads as fair: if a reader must pay the cost of imbibing hatred, the author must offer the payback of equivalently potent critical “insight.” Any less is hatred for hatred’s sake. And hatred is worthless

This is such a transactional take on reader response theory. I don't think much good can come from analyzing literary texts as a balance sheet with "value" in one ledger and "cost" in the other. Isn't art supposed to be a repository for kinds of knowledge -- emotional, experiential -- that can't easily be translated into concepts (much less quantified)?

Treeship, Sunday, 18 December 2016 02:25 (five years ago) link

What do u think of that article j.?

Treeship, Sunday, 18 December 2016 02:26 (five years ago) link

making literature now...with McSweeney’s and Everything Is Illuminated and DFW? yuck. thanks, trump!

scott seward, Sunday, 18 December 2016 03:35 (five years ago) link

she must have been sitting on that book for a good ten years waiting for the right time to strike.

scott seward, Sunday, 18 December 2016 03:36 (five years ago) link

three months pass...

i re-read his tracy austin piece -- i think hes otm abt her just lacking introspection/depth; ive come to really like her as a commentator, shes astute but every bit of analysis is p surface level idk not knocking her

johnny crunch, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 23:59 (five years ago) link

j. never explained what he thought about the tendentious la review of books piece he linked to.

Treeship, Thursday, 6 April 2017 01:51 (five years ago) link

four years pass...

Recently read Adrienne Miller's In the Land of Men and I am voting cunt

mom tossed in kimchee (quincie), Friday, 29 October 2021 19:23 (seven months ago) link

You push a woman out of a moving car, you’re an undeniable cunt

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Monday, 1 November 2021 10:21 (seven months ago) link

was she wheel shaped though?

Chappies banging dustbin lids together (President Keyes), Monday, 1 November 2021 14:04 (seven months ago) link

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