Sunday, September 14, 2008

what a weekend it's turning out to be

First the Delhi blasts (does anyone really need links?) and now David Foster Wallace.

Part of it has to do with living in an era when there's so much entertainment available, genuine entertainment, and figuring out how fiction is going to stake out its territory in that sort of era. You can try to confront what it is that makes fiction magical in a way that other kinds of art and entertainment aren't. And to figure out how fiction can engage a reader, much of whose sensibility has been formed by pop culture, without simply becoming more shit in the pop culture machine. It's unbelievably difficult and confusing and scary, but it's neat. There's so much mass commercial entertainment that's so good and so slick, this is something that I don't think any other generation has confronted. That's what it's like to be a writer now. I think it's the best time to be alive ever and it's probably the best time to be a writer. I'm not sure it's the easiest time.

From the Salon interview.

Update [16th Sept.]: The Ziegler revenge. [Via] Perhaps I need to add that I think Ziegler's piece is pretty vile. Do read the Valve post linked alongside.


10 comments:

Alok said...

Really shocking. I have read only few of his essays from his essay collection and always wanted to dip into Infinite Jest (I tried once though didn't try hard enough and couldn't get too far). I always imagined him as young, energetic, full of life, even arrogant...it was really a big shock to learn what happened. I hope there is some explanation...

On the other hand, it is weird and terrifying - the news of blasts in India sounds more and more banal everytime it happens! I wonder if the reporters and columnists recycle what they wrote the last time.

Space Bar said...

alok: i know. i had just read oblivion last month (The Valve quotes a passage from one of the stories in that book) and so his writing is very recent in my mind.

it's stupid to do so but one can't help imagining, what if a suicide had changed his mind but because there's no one around there's no going back?

Alok said...

that might be possible but it is hard for me to imagine him or for any writer being so impulsive - a writer whose job is to keep thinking and keep imagining. Well, it's hard to say really. There is no shortage of writers and artists who commit suicide. I wonder if he left any note. Didn't read about it anywhere.

I picked up his first essay collection because of a fantastic essay he wrote on David Lynch. His second collection also had some great essays including one on Dostoevsky. In fact i am sure that dostoevsky essay will read very differently now...

km said...

Really sad.

Have you read his well-known Kenyon college commencement speech? (Thanks to OTP for sending me that link a few months ago.) The reference to suicide in that speech is chilling indeed.

Space Bar said...

alok: yes, there's a lot of reading to catch up on. IJ, for a start.

km: Yes, you linked to it some time ago, and I saved it even.

Cheshire Cat said...

I'm ashamed to confess that the only Wallace piece I've read is the one on Federer, which is one of my all-time favorite essays. He was one of those writers who are part of the zeitgeist - refractions of their spirit in everything one sees, so that it is no longer necessary to actually read them. That's a pretty poor excuse for an excuse.

As for the Delhi blasts, it doesn't shock me, but it does sadden me, that lives in India are held to be cheaper than those in the West.

amruta patil said...

the excerpt was unbelievably wise. one really wonders about whether anyone needs more sticky strings for the cats-in-the-cradle. more people creating more maya that others can get lodged in. hourfiller, secondgobbler, blindbat timepass.

Anonymous said...

Interesting as Zielinger's take is on Wallace a "genius writer", one wonders why he would wait until after the suicide for sweet revenge. When the object of revenge isn't around anymore to defend himself. Seems to me it is indeed pretty "bad form" to do that. His arguments are all the more feeble cos he doesnt state anything to back up his "fraud", "cover-up" theories. Seems like most of this is just a reaction to personal attacks against him from years ago.

Falstaff said...

I have to say I thought the Ziegler piece was fairly putrid. I'm not particularly concerned with good taste / form, but from the piece it doesn't sound like Ziegler has ever read anything DFW wrote except the Atlantic essay about him - which makes one wonder what basis he has for claiming that DFW was overrated. The fact that some pathetic little right-wing radio hack found him eccentric hardly proves he wasn't a good prose writer. And the fact that Ziegler is still smarting over DFW's piece all these years later only makes his judgment all the more suspect.

I can think of several people who think DFW was overrated (James Wood springs to mind) but to maliciously imply that DFW knew this and killed himself because of it (what evidence of this does Ziegler have, except his own small-minded prejudices?) is just cheap.

swar said...

Ziegler must be massively happy with the title of his ed-obit. He must be patting himself for such a masterstroke. May he be The Last Yankee.