Posts Tagged ‘Infinite Jest’

Monday Medley

What we read while hiding from North Korea…

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Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: The Life and Times of David Foster Wallace


“We’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we’ve never even met?”—David Foster Wallace

 

The hagiography around David Foster Wallace—one I’ve devoutly consumed and even added to—has grown to somewhat absurd proportions in the four years since his death. It is thus possible to view D.T. Max’s new biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, as yet another contribution to the cult of DFW; this, however, would miss the substance of Max’s book. Every Love Story… actually goes to great lengths to debunk many of the myths that have grown around Wallace since his death. And although Max is clearly sympathetic towards Wallace, the book doesn’t shy away from being honest about him.

One of the ways Max establishes credibility in this regard is by making clear how unreliable a source Wallace himself is. Indeed, Wallace told a remarkable number of lies about himself: lies about whether or not he had read Thomas Pynchon, lies about who he’d slept with, lies to editors about where he’d been published, lies to friends about graduate school applications, lies to women and family members and interviewers, often about things that hardly seem worth lying over. On some level, this is consistent with the popular image of Wallace as someone intensely afraid of revealing himself to people. But it is frankly troubling to read about how dodgy, immature, and narcissistic he could be at times, and Max doesn’t shy away from these unflattering details. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while immigrating into Arizona…

Going To ’11: Music Videos of 2011

I always think that nobody watches music videos anymore, but then I remember that like 75% of the “Most Viewed” videos on YouTube are music videos that have, collectively, been viewed over five billion times. Nevertheless, it still seems like the cultural importance of music videos have waned. It seems like they exist now for people who want to listen to music on their computer without using iTunes, Spotify, or Pandora.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t cool videos that come out every year. This is a brief overview of the most inspired videos of 2011 (that we saw):

Best Use of Abstract Shapes in a Music Video

“Second Song” — TV On The Radio (Dir: Michael Please)

This is what geometry is for. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while Irene thankfully didn’t affect the VMAs…

The Pale King and the Absence of Finality

DFW's Unfinished Novel

“He felt in a position to say he knew now that hell had nothing to do with fires or frozen troops. Lock a fellow in a windowless room to perform rote tasks just tricky enough to make him have to think, but still rote, tasks involving numbers that connected to nothing he’d ever see or care about, a stack of tasks that never went down, and nail a clock to the wall where he can see it, and just leave the man there to his mind’s own devices.”

“The truth is that the heroism of your childhood entertainments was not true valor. It was theater. The grand gesture, the moment of choice, the mortal danger, the external foe, the climactic battle whose outcome resolves all—all designed to appear heroic, to excite and gratify an audience[…]Gentlemen, welcome to the world of reality—there is no audience. No one to applaud, to admire. No one to see you. Do you understand? Here is the truth—actual heroism receives no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it. No one is interested.”

After David Foster Wallace’s death in 2008, his former literary agent, along with his widow and his editor, ventured into his office to find a 250-page manuscript left on the center of his desk, as if Wallace were offering one last gift to the literary world. As Bonnie Nadell, the agent, told The New York Times, “If there had been a spotlight on those pages, it could not have been more obvious.”

The Pale King is being greeted as a kind of swan song for Wallace, one of the greatest writers in American history. In that respect, it is doomed to fail for a few basic reasons. First, I would be very surprised if The Pale King is indeed the last work that is published under Wallace’s name. Since Wallace’s death in 2008, publishers have managed to find very creative ways to release his older works* and even the inside flap of The Pale King seems to imply that there is more to come (“He died in 2008, leaving behind unpublished work of which The Pale King is a part.”).

* These have ranged from good-faith attempts to expose an unpublished work, to rushed efforts to feed the growing demand for his voice, to downright exploitive attempts to turn his work into a mass-market self-help book.

The other main reason that The Pale King can’t really grant “closure” to his fans is that the work itself lacks closure—the novel remains unfinished. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while Colin Firth managed to give a stutter-less acceptance speech…