an excerpt

Mar. 14th, 2009 09:11 pm
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...from a paper I had to write for class, about my relationship to experimental or metaphysical fiction. It was really supposed to be more narcissistic than it turned out...but I've been wanting to write about my first reading of Infinite Jest for a while now. There's nothing in this piece, yet, about the visceral feelings, about the personal feelings, about seeing my own loneliness expressed in a way I couldn't even have expressed it. But it's a start.

So of course you grow up... )
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"Mario Incandenza's nineteenth birthday will be Wednesday 25 November, the day before Thanksgiving. His insomnia worsens as Madame Psychosis's hiatus enters its third week and WYYY tries bringing back poor Miss Diagnosis again, who's started in on a Pig-Latin reading of the Revelation of John that makes you so embarrassed for her it's uncomfortable. For a couple nights in the HmH living room he tries falling asleep to WODS, an AM-fringe outfit that plays narcotizing orchestral arrangements of old Carpenters songs. It makes things worse. It's weird to feel like you miss someone you're not even sure you know" (589).
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Intrigued by what feel more and more like deliberate nods to Joseph Merrick, AKA "the Elephant Man," in descriptions of Mario Incandenza. The oversized head topped with sparse hair, for instance, and the sly repeat notes about the piles and piles of pillows the bradypnea-afflicted Mario must sleep upon.
The connection is interesting in part because of Wallace's obsession with David Lynch... )


Sep. 18th, 2008 09:51 am
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I won't cross-post all the beautiful eulogies I've read this week; if you're curious, Nick Mantias over at the Howling Fantods has a pretty complete page set up to keep up with the flood of them.

The one I've liked the most so far is Laura Miller's over at Salon. Miller did one of the better interviews with him post IJ back in 1996, asking what I felt were all the right questions (or at least some of the right questions; it's not a long enough interview to nail him down on all of them). Her eulogy this weekend touched for me on the essence of his work, the essential question of empathy and how difficult it is. She articulates a few things about his work that I've always argued, albeit much more poorly:

a few of Miller's quotes )
I have not yet been able to brave McSweeney's, which is currently posting memories from anyone who had contact with him. But I will say it was a comfort to see that Timothy McSweeney is as devastated and as lost as I feel. It really is bizarre psychic territory, to mourn a person I never met but who affected me so profoundly. What do you do to process a grief like that? Hodge thinks I need to write a eulogy myself, though he seems to have an inflated sense of my status as a Wallace fangirl (it does no good to tell him I am one of many; he thinks I might well be the archfan and thus have a responsibility to the internets to write something brilliant). But I'm not sure what I'd say that Miller hasn't said better, and I'm not sure I can eulogize right now anyway. I'm still doing the Kubler-Ross shuffle.

Anyway...thanks for all the patience and concern in the past week, I love you all. I am doing OK. I have mail for a few of you that has been deferred on account of me being a big old mess but hopefully it'll be on its way shortly.
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I'm too baffled and angry to eulogize. Language does collapse at a certain point, the map and the territory too intertwined. I feel certain he'd have something interesting to say about how, living in a country that embraces such a culture of celebrity, we still have no codified ability to mourn the death of someone we don't know, even when that someone has been so important to us. But I can at least say goodbye.

I'm sorry you were in so much pain.

I'm sad that the courage and compassion of your writing couldn't sustain you the way they've sustained me.

I'm angry. I feel guilty for being angry, but there it is. I feel like I've been peddled a lie. All the hope, and wisdom, and nourishment that I've accepted from your work (from you, because wasn't that the agreement, that no matter how cerebral you got you'd always stay human and involved behind the language? should I not have trusted a metafictionist?) look so shabby to me today and I hate you a little for making them that way.

I'm chagrined. All your fictional suicides are so ridiculous, I figured your scorn would keep you safe. But I should have known better than that.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry you were in so much pain.
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So for like the twentieth time since starting this Romantic literature class, I've had to bite my lip to keep from blurting something out about Wallace in class (it just seems like a dick move to be chronically bringing up something apart from our communal syllabus). If you had asked me a few years back what Infinite Jest had to do with Romantic literature I might not have had an expansive answer, but the answer is "actually quite a lot." The cult of genius, the rise of metafictionality, and a very specific flavor of the whole "individual v. community" question...I feel like there's an awful lot of intertextuality.

DFW news

Jan. 15th, 2008 03:05 pm
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I'm sure most of the hardcore David Foster Wallace fans on my f-list already have the Howling Fantods blog bookmarked, so you've already heard the news...

But in case you haven't, the February Harper's will have a new DFW story in it that is, according to rumor, a part of Something Significantly Longer. Which was of course what he said about the Infinite Jest fragments he read and published before that book was actually finished.

Can I get a hallelujah?
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Via Nick Maniatis's totally rad DFW blog the Howling Fantods (which I should here say I've been following for seven years and is the best source of DFW news online, period), a number of interesting snippets:

First, and most exciting, a new short story entitled Good People is currently appearing at the New Yorker online.

Then, the news (which is apparently not new news, but which was heretofore unknown to me) that "The Office's" John Krasinski has directed a film adaptation of Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, and that the Big Man Himself has given a thumbs up to the script. And it sounds really, really good.

And finally, an interview from Zeit Online, originally published in German. This is really hilarious and also maddening if you've spent much time reading Wallace interviews before, because the interview was published in German and then translated into English (I'm not sure if Wallace himself interviewed in German or if the interview was translated to begin with). Consequently, the language sounds very strained and odd and only vaguely Wallace-like in syntax. But some interesting notes on Oblivion revealed therein, so it's worth taking a peek. 

Okay. Psycho-crazy Fangirl out.
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There are two, maybe three of you tops who might care, but if anyone is into David Foster Wallace (or wants some insight into the nature of my psychotic bug-eyed obsession with said writer), Dave Eggers' introduction to the 10th anniversary edition of Infinite Jest is available here (as reprinted in the LA Weekly). I initially scoffed at the idea of Eggers introducing Wallace, but it's a quite nice introduction and pretty well expresses some of the things that are dazzling about IJ. 

I've been so grouchy lately, it's a good time to put up something I'm excited about. 

In a related note, I used chapter three from my undergraduate thesis for my critical writing sample in my applications (it's on skepticism, faith, and empathy in Infinite Jest). Upon re-reading it I realized it has everything, everything to do with "The Butterfly Mask," which is the piece of fiction I'm proudest of having written. It's probably not the most academically sound thesis in the world, in large part because it concerns itself with compassion in fiction and that's not a terribly hip subject academically speaking, but it has everything to do with what I want to write. It was good to re-read it. It made me realize that my thesis was not the failure I thought it was, but was rather just...not right for academia. Well, onwards.

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Word on the street is that the 10th Anniversary edition of Infinite Jest is coming out pretty quick, which means I'll have to purchase yet a fourth doorstop. Perhaps I'll get rid of the British edition I purchased in order to make more space on the damn shelf. That leaves me my first edition copy, and my thesis copy (complete with embarrassing marginalia like "I <3 David Foster Wallace so fucking much!!!" on various pages). The 10th Anniversary edition is introduced by Dave Eggers, which I think is crap--Eggers was in diapers when Wallace was becoming a polyglot, the little upstart shit. But Eggers is sort of the watered-down inheritor of Wallace's whole genre, so I guess it makes sense.

I also recently discovered this site put together by a guy named Greg Carlisle at Morehead State University. I've barely scanned it but it looks promising. My Wallace-psychosis has been much calmer than it once was (writing a 100-page academic thesis on IJ more or less cured me of the worst parts of the sickness) but I can see myself disappearing into the clutches of Carlise's work in the near future. Considering I'm planning to submit part of the ol' thesis as my critical writing sample at whatever schools need it, and considering how obsessive I'm feeling these days anyway, you might be in for a month or two of totally passe literary commentary on a ten year old book. Sorry in advance. 

My thesis was a total piece of shit, but from time to time I wonder if I shouldn't have tried to clean it up and publish it. Considering there is a ravenous fan base for IJ, it might have been useful to someone. No money, but a bit of fan-girl street cred. Which is of course what us fan-girls live for.

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This speaks for itself:


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