Posts Tagged ‘Infinite Jest’

Monday Medley

What we read while hiding from North Korea…

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…

Welcome To My Mind: On The Road With David Foster Wallace

“If by some paradox, this whole fuss could get me some kind of even just like a five-minute cup of tea with Alanis Morissette, that would be more than reward enough”—David Foster Wallace, 1996

In early March of 1996, Rolling Stone sent David Lipsky to join David Foster Wallace for the end of his book tour. Lipsky was to do yet another profile of Wallace, who was then the biggest literary celebrity of the world; his mammoth novel Infinite Jest was being covered in Time and Newsweek, in addition to the traditional literary avenues like The New York Times Book Review. The two spent five days together, at Wallace’s house, in Wallace’s classroom, at the airport while Wallace waited to go to his last book reading, in the car en route to Minneapolis after all flights were grounded, with the Escort who took Wallace to his reading, at McDonald’s, with Wallace’s dogs (Drone and Jeeves), etc.

The profile never ran. Tragically, Lipsky would only get the chance to use this material in “The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace,” which Rolling Stone ran in the aftermath of Wallace’s suicide in 2008 (and which, deservedly, won Lipsky a National Magazine Award).

Fortunately for Wallace fans, Lipsky wasn’t done. He has taken the complete transcript of the audio recordings from those five days and presented them relatively unedited in Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. Continue reading

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and the Condensed Epic

In its review of fiction in the Aughts, New York Magazine implicitly compares The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao—the decade’s “signature novel”—to Infinite Jest—“the big buzzy signature meganovel of the nineties.” According to Sam Anderson, Junot Díaz’s 2007 novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize, represents the Aughts’ literary downsizing, from 1000-page epics like David Foster Wallace’s to 335-page condensed ones like Díaz’s.

Díaz certainly is a meticulous writer and editor: It took him 11 years to write Oscar Wao after his breakthrough 1996 short story collection, Drown. It can take that kind of time, however, when your ambition, like Díaz’s, is to relate the story not just of a single protagonist, but of his lineage and indeed, the culture that created it. In this way, Oscar Wao is a condensed epic: the tale of the de León family as a representative of the Dominican Republic during the Age of Trujillo. It’s a project that would take most writers twice as many pages and Wallace 10 times as many.

The first thing you notice when reading Díaz though is the smoothness of his prose. Liberally using Spanish words and expressions,* Díaz infuses his language with that Spanish quality of words flowing one into the next. There is an effortless fluidity to his prose: Continue reading

Live Blogging ESPN’s 24 Hours of College Basketball: Morning

We’re in the midst of our 22 straight hours live blogging ESPN’s College Basketball Marathon, although you probably should have inferred that from the title. If you want to catch up and take a stroll down Timmy Chang Memory Lane with John S, check out the Overnight Post. Tim will handle the 6 a.m. game between two of his favorite Jersey schools, Monmouth and St. Peter’s, and the 8 a.m. contest matching Drexel and Niagara. John S will be back at 10 for No. 24 Clemson and Liberty.

11:55: Well, Liberty screwed that up too. They’ll end up with 39 points, as Clemson wins the game by 40 points. Get ready for Northeastern and Siena, today’s noon game. We’ll be starting a new post at NPI, and Tim will be taking the reins back for the start of that game.

11:48: At this point, I’m basically just rooting for the teams to put up identical halves. Clemson needs to close the game on a 12-2 run, and they would have won each half 42-19. That would be pretty cool, right?

11:43: It’s a little hard to know how much to take away from a game like this, but Clemson looks like a pretty deep team. They’ve had eleven players score and are getting some nice contributions from Devin Booker, Andre Young, Milton Jennings, and Noel Johnson. If some of those guys can contribute in ACC play and tougher nonconference games, then the Tigers could be a pretty dangerous team.

11:35: The game’s getting pretty sloppy as we head into the final 8 minutes. Both teams are turning the ball over (Liberty’s got 18 on the game) and taking, and missing, bad shots. Clemson hasn’t been much better than the Flames over the last few minutes, but I think their 34 point lead is still safe. I know it’s not over till it’s over and all, but…..this one’s over.

11:25: By the way, Adrian Branch. Was that whole “willingness to compete” thing a veiled shot at Coach Taylor of East Dillon?

Continue reading