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review 2015-09-08 19:06
Interactive Feedback Loops
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men - David Foster Wallace

I forgot, going into Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, about the experimental David Foster Wallace. After some time away from his work, I remembered the most distinctive parts - footnotes/endnotes, long recursive discussions  about sincerity vs. appearance, elevated vocabulary - and forgot his abilities as a storyteller and the ways he played with voice and structure. Every feature we associate with Wallace and many that get forgotten are deployed in some story or another in Brief Interviews.

The story, "Datum Centurio," for example, is written as a dictionary entry (from the future). "Octet" starts as a collection of pop quiz/thought experiments that quickly breaks down into some confessional digression on the gulf between feeling and expression, what  the writer wants to say and what the reader perceives. Adult World (II) appears to be authors notes for what a story yet to be written and, of course, the titular series of interviews with men who have IDEAS about sex and power and relationships and what those ideas reveal (the inquisitors contributions replaced simply with "Q.," a method he used in parts of Infinite Jest as well).

Experimentation can, of course, be Difficult, and the rewards are not easy. There is a lot of melancholy in  Wallace's works and one need only read the list of titles including "The Depressed Person" and "Suicide as a Sort of Present" to understand that these stories will be plumbing some depths, but, if you can reckon with these subjects, you can find plenty of humor as well and solid storytelling, particularly (the storytelling) in the Interviews, I could not put the last one down.

Of the Wallace that I have read, the stories presented here are the most obsessed the viewer/performer hall of mirrors, the idea that the writer or character is trying to be honest and sincere and wants to get that across but can only do so by insisting that is what they are doing, which, of course, be seen as a narrative ploy and so the writer/character then sees how the reader is perceiving their attempt at sincerity as maybe not sincere and must try to convince the reader that really s/he is dropping all pretense, which can be perceived as etc. ad nauseam.

(This all adds an interesting fold to the ongoing debate about the conflation of the works of David Foster Wallace and who he was as a person, the constant stressing of sincerity and pieces such as "Octet" which discuss breaking that fourth wall and appealing directly to the reader. Is it that our culture that demands to know the man behind the art or that this man seemed to invite us to look beyond the art? That's all I will say on that.)

This, like all Wallace I've so far read, is a rewarding experience, but expect the difficulty both in thought and emotion that is a hallmark of his fiction. It can be work, but like exercise it is asking you to push beyond what feels good, to think harder and deeper so in daily life you will be up to the task. Brief Interviews does not rise to the height of Infinite Jest, a ridiculous mark to judge by in any case, but many of the same elements can be seen here making it good for those familiarizing themselves with his work or looking for more after reading his masterpiece. 4 Stars.

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review 2015-04-08 03:53
Fuck yeah Markson
Wittgenstein's Mistress - David Markson,Steven Moore

I ordered myself a copy of this again, because I have a thing where I impress books upon people -- often late at a party, when the confetti has ground in and the eyes water with fatigue and drunk -- and then I never see them again. Or, that's not precisely true. Sometimes they come back years later, with an apology: I can't stand this. Or a perplexity: why me? Best case, my weaving self did right. My copy of this has been off in other hands so long that I decided it wasn't my copy anymore. We'll see if they pair.


This new copy has an afterword by the venerable DFW (which seems fitting for structural reasons). About 5 pages in, I began getting angry: my god, this is so freaking good, so brilliant and fey and weird, that I wanted to tear out all the pages and roll around in them. Which is perfect, you see, because that's my response to Markson as well. Old that I am, I even started a tumblr of Wittgenstein's, whenever it was I read it first, because it seemed to presage the loneliness of social media, the ghosts of personalities telling anecdotes Into the void.


The coolest thing DFW's afterword did for me was position this is a tradition of philosophical fiction, writers acting out their philosophies or critiques of philosophies with all these character words. I know shit from philosophy. I am impatient with it, and I do not mean this as some sort of humblebrag where I am too Zen present to engage with all that brain chess. As someone more headbound than is often wise, I see its merit, but I just don't bend that way. DFW knows his shit, though, and I was able to appreciate some otherwise inaccessible complexities.


Which, fuck yeah Markson.


& DFW. 


Someone is living on this beach. 



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text 2014-02-19 03:15
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace

"The book is 1,079 pages long and there is not one lazy sentence. The book is drum-tight and relentlessly smart, and though it does not wear its heart on its sleeve, it's deeply felt and incredibly moving. That it was written in three years by a writer under thirty-five is very painful to think about. So let's not think about that. The point is that it's for all these reasons--acclaimed, daunting, not-lazy, drum-tight, very funny (we didn't mention that yet but yes)--that you picked up this book. Now the question is this: Will you read it?"


--Dave Eggars, in an essay about why you should read Infinite Jest. The essay later became a foreword, one of several.


This paragraph right here is a better review of the book than any I've read and of course better than I could ever sum up because this book defies reviews, summaries, explanations, etc.



(what is up with Booklikes' quote scripts??)

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text 2014-02-01 15:07
January Wrap-Up



1. Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace              5/5 stars

2. Just One Day - Gayle Foreman                     1/5 stars

3. Throne OF Glass - Sarah J. Mass                  2/5 stars

4. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Libba Bray   3/5 stars

5. This Is Water - David Foster Wallace           4.5/5 stars

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text 2013-09-04 14:27
Meine Lieblingspassagen bei Unendlicher Spaß

So gegen Ende blicke ich zurück und denke nach, was mir in diesem Universum, das David Foster Wallace da vor mir aufgespannt hat, am liebsten war. Hier meine Auflistung:


  • Mario Incandenzas erste Liebeserfahrung (mit USS Millicent Kent)
  • Marios Film über Hals Tennis-Leben
  • Die Ansammlung von Aussagen aus den Protokollen von Insassen-Gesprächen mit der Leiterin von Ennet House oder mit Don Gately
  • Eschaton!
  • Don Gatelys Kindheit
  • Orin wird zum Football- und Frauenheld
  • Ken Erdedy wartet auf seine Gras-Lieferung
  • Unterhaltung zwischen Hal und Seiner Selbst
  • Die Ausführungen zum Videophon-Stress
  • Tiny Ewells Kategorisierung aller Tattoos in Ennet House
  • Eigentlich alles über die AA-Treffen
  • Marios Film über die Verhandlungen rund um die Interdependenz
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