Wednesday, March 4, 2009

David Foster Wallace via the New Yorker

Really excellent/intense biographical essay/exploration of Davd Foster Wallace by the good magazine New Yorker.

The Unfinished
David Foster Wallace’s struggle to surpass “Infinite Jest.”
an essay by D.T. Max

I have no knowledge of Mr. Max's work but I did find this site which provides information about him and his work. If, and I'm sure it is, his work is similar to this essay it's worth checking out. This article combines a unique knowledge and extensive research of DFW with a good understanding of his writing and style. In a subtext/footnote to Wallace's interaction with media I wonder in the article when Max mentions 'correspondence' if he is referring to physical letters or email; I am not sure if it matters. Once again based on Wallace's prior use of physical notebooks physical letters are probably a safe bet.
One of the best quotes from this article and in the vein of this evening relating to individuals and entertainment: "Properly handled, boredom can be an antidote to our national dependence on entertainment, the book [Wallace's unpublished work found after his death] suggests"As Wallace noted at a 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College, true freedom “means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you ... Read more construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.” (The commencement speech can be found here.)

The ending paragraphs of this essay are incredibly moving and touching. Max handles this quite well.

One thing that is not speculated on within this article is the possibility of publishing this work as it currently stands. I suspect, especially after reading this article, thatto do this would have caused Wallace no end of agitation/grief and for that reason I hope that the publishers refrain. Though this current economic situation might give rise to various stratagems that would not have been considered otherwise.
I also hope this essay is a continued item in scholarship on Wallace. Even though his recent death has helped to stir interest in his work, this is a writer who needs/requires/invites close scrunity and understanding. Wallace's magnificent style of writing and thinking about the transparent aspects of the world rethink the method of fiction writing. Wallace's fictions/myths do what Kermode claims they should; that is they help us (the reader) make sense of the world. Even if that process of making sense involves asking more questions.

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