What do you think of him? What have you read? Reading Broom of the System now and thoroughly enjoying it, but curious about the critical hype surrounding him and if it's founded or merely spurred on and stimulated by his untimely death. Thoughts?
I've only read his non-fiction, well-crafted essays with which I often disagree. I'm not inspired to read his fiction.
He was obviously a gifted writer. If you argue against that, you probably won't get very far. He was well-respected before he died, though the tragic element of his life may have led to wider awareness.
Plus, I think he's the one who said he would fail a student for using a semicolon, which is idiotic. (I might be misattributing this, or exaggerating it.)
I can't really get into his fiction. I do like his non fiction, E Plurubus Unum (?) was good, as I recall. I think it's available online...
'E Unibus Pluram'
Often cited & quoted. It's the one with all that business about the "real" or "new" "rebels" being "sincere."
Ah, right. I thought his talk about irony being ultimately self-defeating was a prediction of the rise of hipster culture.
How mysterious that something "self-defeating" could survive and thrive, even while everyone makes fun of it. People must be really big fans of self-defeating things.
I question whether irony is thriving. I think it may be on the way out...
I think irony is unavoidable, though certain current expressions of so-called "intentional irony" may fade or be replaced.
I've read both Infinite Jest (one of, if not my absolute, favorite books) and The Pale King (his unfinished novel), and thought they were both astounding works. The Pale King would certainly have reached or surpassed the levels of Infinite Jest, were he alive to finish it. I haven't delved into his essays -- though, as a personal essayist, I really should -- but I imagine they're equally wonderful.
To me, he was one of the greatest minds in literature. It's tragic to be without him.
The humor in Infinite Jest is fantastic. I'm on the second chapter at the moment. It's a little clunky to read. I'm a firm believer in simpler language used to illustrate deeper topics.
But in pure content I'm loving it. Ba ba ba ba ba, Infinite Jest!
Oh god, creepy joke based on the books context.:/
I've read "Broom of the System" and "Infinite Jest", as well as a few non-fiction pieces of his.
He's my favorite author right now.
The great thing about Infinite Jest is that, while it's difficult, long, and requires many re-readings and reading of secondary work to understand a lot of the subtleties of it, it's also possible to get a lot out of it on the first reading (I sure did, at least).
It's MUCH more accessable than, say, a Ulysses.
I'm about 90 pages into Infinite Jest. And the reading has been going slowly.
Right now, I'm about to yell, "The Emperor isn't wearing any clothes."
While I'm sure he was a smart guy, he's trying so hard to seem smart. It's transparent.
There have been some nice bits that lasted a half page or so, buried in what seems to me right now to be a morass.
Maybe I'll change my mind if I can finish it, but right now it's every type of self-indulgent to me.
^^ I'm about to start reading that.
I'm determined to tackle that fucker no matter what.
I think he was a brilliant writer who was too often caught up in his own anxieties and tortures. With Infinite Jest, in the language and in his interviews about the writing of it, there appeared to be a disdain for the reader. When asked a question by Charlie Rose about the prose being so dense as to be incomprehensible and having to be read through two or three times in order to glean full meaning, Wallace said knowing that made him happy. In my view, reading fiction should not be an ordeal. I read the first 150 pages of Infinite Jest and stopped for that reason. Prose should not require reading sections three times and regular interruptions by footnotes. A writing professor once told me that Infinite Jest is the number one book that sits on writers' and writing teachers' shelves unfinished.
This just makes me want to read Infinite Jest even more. I like a challenge. To say that reading fiction should not be an ordeal seems like a prejudice. Reading fiction doesn't have to be an ordeal, but it also can be if it wants to, and if it is then you don't have to read it. However, the rewards of discerning the meaning or purpose or simply the reason of difficult prose can be overwhelmingly fulfilling, just like the rewards of any hard work.
Infinite Jest is NOT difficult to understand, imo. It is difficult to stay awake while reading it. It is difficult knowing why the author wants the reader to wade through all the crap to get to the point.
For example, I just finished reading a bit where the kids at the tennis academy play a game intended to simulate nuclear war. At the end, one of the players goes overboard and the game goes to hell. I totally get the idea how kids would be likely to esculate the situation and break the rules to win, and how this would be ironic in a game about nuclear war. But there are several pages of notes related to this game (There are about 100 pages of notes after the end of the novel), and a detailed description of the game - - detailed to the point of boredom - - that the reader has to wade through.
Someone mentioned this quote, in passing, above:
David Foster Wallace: Yeah, in a certain way. Although the only way that I’m well known at Illinois State is that I am the “grammar Nazi.” And so any student whose deployment of a semi-colon is not absolutely Mozart-esque knows that they’re going to get a C in my class, and so my classes tend to have like four students in them. It’s really a lot of fun.
Which sounds no worse than my lit/grammar instructors and prof at college. So there's that.
I have read IJ, TBOTS, Oblivion, BIWHM, the essay books, most of The Pale King and most of The Girl With Curious Hair, all in the 5 months or so since I have been caring for my Mom who is recovering from an illness. I'm taking a break for a moment though. :)
I'm doing the Yale Post Modern LIt free youtube online course too. Taking a break from that as well.
Time to listen to loud music and process. Or not.
After failing to get more than one-quarter of the way through Infinite Jest, I tried Oblivion, and didn't love it. Then I read all of his essay collections, and thought they were awesome. I think his intellect lends itself more to non fiction. I did like Brief Interviews quite a bit, I think there was a concerted effort to make the characters relatable, plus the format and concept really worked for me.