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David Foster Wallace: Portrait Of An Infinitely Limited Mind
May 24, 2011 10:14 PM   Subscribe


 
I feel left out. Favoritist bastard.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:17 PM on May 24, 2011


This is fantastic.
posted by koeselitz at 10:27 PM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


The fuck you say. Brickbats at dawn, koeselitz.
posted by mwhybark at 10:28 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Very odd. First and second time I clicked, got paywalled. Three times is the charm on this one.

(now back to article in other tab)
posted by likeso at 10:29 PM on May 24, 2011


tl;dr version: This is where I stick it to everyone I didn't like in that Modern American Literature class that I took, motherfuckers!
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:31 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think its interesting that most of the critiques of this sort of literature come from a conservative viewpoint whereas he seems to be arguing that the authors don't know ENOUGH about drugs and prostitution.

The only thing in the article I have experiance with is the Requiem for a Dream film. The filmmaking is fantastic and Selby's prose in 'Last Exit To Brooklyn' is good enough that I can ignore how didactic they may be.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:33 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


A paywall to the exiled? never in my may years.

I heartily disapprove of kicking a long dead suicide, but have chuckled several times reading this. I still narrow my eyes in enmity, kz.
posted by mwhybark at 10:33 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


On one hand, there are a lot of good points in here, and a couple of pretty sick burns on Eggers.

On the other hand: Jesus Goddamn Christ, what an asshole.

His Wallace parodies ring especially false, and were a tactical misstep. He doesn't have the moxie to pull it off, and it shows. And you you know, maybe old DFW was fudging more details than all of us shallow hipster sycophants (because that's what we all are, apparently) want to admit, but at the end of the day, motherfucker, at the end of the day he could write.

Yeah, fuck this guy.
posted by pts at 10:40 PM on May 24, 2011 [28 favorites]


What is a Ramon Glazov and why do I care what he thinks about all these things?
posted by hippybear at 10:41 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


(seriously, I've googled him, but there is no actual explanation about who he is)
posted by hippybear at 10:41 PM on May 24, 2011


I've decided to like this essay ironically, just to piss off Ramon Glazov.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:44 PM on May 24, 2011 [26 favorites]


This is where DFW’s suicide has really paid off – without a corpse, it’s harder to convince your audience that insincerity qualifies you for victim status, no matter how much you “struggle” with it.

Ramon Glazov of Exiled Online, everybody! Give him a hand.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 10:46 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4086/5021071295_e16e50481b_o.jpg

I looked it up in this table of humor, and it seems like this article is just invective, so I think we can all relax.
posted by lazenby at 10:46 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Aww.. why did he have to lump Wallace in with the rest of that crap? I woulda been all "right on" if he had left out Wallace.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:50 PM on May 24, 2011


I don't know what this Ramon Glazov is, and I don't think I care to.
posted by Hoenikker at 10:54 PM on May 24, 2011


I fall into the "Eggers and Wallace are unreadable" camp, but Vollmann is my man, and so while i can't comment knowledgeably about the other guys, the Vollmann bit is amusing, but weak and cherry-picked, highlighting older material. The best bit of it is this: "a wannabe war-nerd like Vollmann," describing a person who went to Afghanistan with the Afghani resistance during the Russian war and narrowly escaped death via landmine in Bosnia in 1994.

By 'best', of course, I mean 'most amusingly inaccurate'.
posted by mwhybark at 11:01 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


I honestly have no idea what all the "LOL WHO THE FOCK IS THIS GUY?!" comments are supposed to mean, except as some kind of weird play to the DFW-loving crowd around here. I mean, it's not even a real dis.
posted by nasreddin at 11:02 PM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


The best bit of it is this: "a wannabe war-nerd like Vollmann," describing a person who went to Afghanistan with the Afghani resistance during the Russian war and narrowly escaped death via landmine in Bosnia in 1994.

Maybe it's a reference to the fact that most people are at The Exiled to read The War Nerd.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:04 PM on May 24, 2011


I mean, you can break down Gravity's Rainbow as being simply the story of one man's quest to figure out why everywhere he fucks ends up getting blown up by a V-2 rocket and is a simplistic examination of predestination vs. free will.

You could also claim that Ulysses is simply an account of one man's wandering around Dublin for a day.

Or that House Of Leaves is just a spooky story about a house which is larger on the inside.

But in any of these instances, as it is with Infinite Jest, the point of the books isn't necessarily in the plot or how it can be summarized. It lies in the journey the reader takes from page 1 to page last, and how digesting the words on the page is transformative.

So, if this Glazov guy's point is that he didn't like this one book because of what it boiled down to... Well, my reaction after reading Infinite Jest is that... well, it was one hell of a read, and maybe the joke was on me. And you know, I was completely satisfied with that experience. I might even read it again someday.
posted by hippybear at 11:05 PM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


I feel compelled to make a few substantive points.

While Infinite Jest was always too serious a project for me to tackle, the stuff of his I have gotten through (his dictionaries review in Harper's and his county fair piece in particular) are sublime enough to convince me that it is my failings, and not his, that have prevented me from finishing that book.

Eggers, though he can be twee and a bit obvious and I thought even a bit patronizing in Zeitoun, wrote what I thought was a really masterfully honest book in A Heartbreaking Work, the farthest thing from ironic, really, and about a million times removed from whatever pomo form equals function bullshit Jonathan Safron Foer tried to pull off later.

And "hipster irony" is maybe the only thing more obvious to rail against than hipster irony.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:07 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm happy with any slight on Eggers, who is a massive disappointment as far as I'm concerned, but even as someone who hasn't read Wallace (yet), I think I can say with some certainty that a screed against him isn't going to fly in these parts.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:08 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, hey, going to stick this in here: free access to DFW's Harper's pieces.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:09 PM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


And ack, meant to say "Railing against 'hipster irony' is maybe the only thing more obvious than hipster irony."

It's time for bed.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:10 PM on May 24, 2011


And "hipster irony" is maybe the only thing more obvious to rail against than hipster irony.

I'd hardly say "railing against hipster irony" is an accurate description of the article.
posted by nasreddin at 11:12 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey hey hey, where's the love for Pynchon?

By which, of course, I mean the hate.
posted by tspae at 11:15 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


(although of course all the article's jabs at hipsters are tedious and stupid, just like they always are)
posted by nasreddin at 11:15 PM on May 24, 2011


It's more proof of the internet fuckwad theory minus the anonymity.

Also, popular contemporary author who killed himself seems like too easy of a target when you're just looking for attention.

Also, BitterOldPunk has the solution!!
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 11:16 PM on May 24, 2011


David Foster Wallace never claimed to be a music or fashion critic, so why drag that in to a discussion of his prose? Such a muddled article, very disappointing because some of the authors he discusses, especially Eggers, have been hated on more eloquently elsewhere.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:19 PM on May 24, 2011


Hey hey hey, where's the love for Pynchon?

By which, of course, I mean the hate.


I LOVE Pynchon. By which, I mean, I hate him. By which, I mean I feel compelled to read his books. By which I mean I stumble and fumble my way through them and sometimes even know what happened. By which I mean that I find myself completely enthralled by the language and the manipulation of me as a reader. By which I mean I'm completely frustrated by all the random things he throws into the text which have meanings I don't know off the top of my head. By which I mean the flow and sweep of the words and events completely overwhelm me and sweep me away. By which I mean I've yet to finish Against The Day because it keeps eluding me. By which I mean I've tried three times and am in the reader equivalent of olympic training so I can make another attempt. By which I mean a lot of his stuff is the funniest material I've ever read by any author (and I have a tendency to take printed stories too literally and not really find them funny). By which I mean that I LOVE Pynchon.
posted by hippybear at 11:19 PM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


I get the feeling that Glazov hasn't read much DFW or Vollmann. (We can all skip Eggers, though and I've never given a shit about Selby.) I'm calling bullshit. Hipsters gonna hate hipsters.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:21 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I get the feeling that Glazov hasn't read much DFW or Vollmann. (We can all skip Eggers, though and I've never given a shit about Selby.)

The only name here I've actually read is Eggers and he was neither genius nor staggering. You young'uns need to read yourself some Elmore Leonard, or maybe Kem Nunn. Then we can have a serious talk.
posted by philip-random at 11:25 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lovecraft In Brooklyn "Maybe it's a reference to the fact that most people are at The Exiled to read The War Nerd."

Well, it's sure a reference to the War Nerd, I'll give you that. Vollmann's not a wannabe in that department, he's a genuine nerd who has deliberately inserted himself into armed conflict, not to fight, but to observe and write about it. In ways that generally make me uncomfortable, as with most of his writing.
posted by mwhybark at 11:26 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


All hail the Western World and the mighty who manage to find the time to complain about how dead people told stories. Surly this is worth our adoration and envy.
posted by Bachsir at 11:27 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


This makes me want to read Vollmann by the way as do the comments in this thread so any recommendations? Quite liked Infinite Jest, most of all for its ambivalence, and also Last Exit To Brooklyn, for pretty much the opposite reason.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:33 PM on May 24, 2011


Funny. Reminds me of the serial-killer Star Wars critic dude - except in that case he at least knew to make fun of himself, unlike this guy who is a cliche of the nobody angry critic from the wilderness.
posted by stbalbach at 11:35 PM on May 24, 2011


The author of this article is saying that as a DFW fan, I should feel there is something to 'understand' about Infinite Jest? It may be long, and full of plenty of ramblings, and frequently says all manner of... things about a great variety of... stuff, but I never felt as if I was missing some deep, shrouded 'meaning of it all'. It was just simply fun for me to read. Not to say the book doesn't have anything to say. DFW's writing has just always seemed pretty naked to me, while incredibly convoluted. If that makes any sense.

Either which way, Glazov needs to take a chill pill. I don't think quite this much vitriol is necessary when doing crit.
posted by arboles at 11:39 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


lol literature
posted by clavdivs at 11:40 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Y'all dissin Eggers probably just never witnessed the brilliance that was Smarter Feller.
this is cube steak
posted by juv3nal at 11:42 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Formicating is not anting, so move on. You have some other points, purloined from other places and not meaty. Sometimes people love a thing because it resonates, however much you cannot hear that tone, it's still moving the molecules.

I'm with him on annihilating hipster irony though. Thoughtcatalog, all of the articles I find on Mcsweeneys, blogs hating authenticity everywhere. They all make me like everyone I don't like a little more.

Was at a country music open mic full of odd times, when the startlingly beautiful lady singer said, "this song is for all the haters."

She made me a hater. Please send a memo to rappers of the past to have the word removed from everything. They will understand. They always do.
posted by Arquimedez Pozo at 11:49 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hmm, so he argues that Infinite Jest is "pure stealth Christianity" and that DFW was a calvinist because the Gately chapters (which are from the perspective of a man mostly in inpatient rehab) contain trite sayings about addiction, because Wallace's musical taste included "torturous crap" like Alanis Morrissette and REM, and because he made some "howler"s of mistakes, such as saying Buspar is a benzodiazepine? That seems a bit specious. Also, his commentary that "This is where DFW’s suicide has really paid off – without a corpse, it’s harder to convince your audience that insincerity qualifies you for victim status, no matter how much you “struggle” with it." shows that this guy was clearly stewing in a giant vat of sour grapes as he wrote this, and is a jerk.
posted by Dr. Christ at 11:49 PM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think the dude was just pissed off and needed to get some DFW related grievances off his chest. Same thing happened to me today, except it was against a local "Adult Alternative Rock" station in KC. It ain't no thang.
posted by hellojed at 11:52 PM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


What is a Ramon Glazov and why do I care what he thinks about all these things?

He's the Tegan and/or Sara of literary criticism! How dare you ask!
posted by orthogonality at 11:56 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I honestly have no idea what all the "LOL WHO THE FOCK IS THIS GUY?!" comments are supposed to mean, except as some kind of weird play to the DFW-loving crowd around here. I mean, it's not even a real dis.
posted by nasreddin at 11:02 PM on May 24 [2 favorites +] [!]


There was a MeTa on this, sorta. (Except in this case there really is no info on this guy.) (Although I suppose we could discuss the ideas without discussing the guy. But we don't seem to be.)
posted by mykescipark at 11:58 PM on May 24, 2011


(Consider me the footnote to orthogonality's reference.)
posted by mykescipark at 11:59 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


This Ramon Glazov guy writes suspiciously similar to John Dolan.
posted by spork at 11:59 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


If this guy was somebody, I would have included that info. Just thought it was an interesting/funny/whatever article.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:00 AM on May 25, 2011


dixiecupdrinking: ...the stuff of his I have gotten through (his dictionaries review in Harper's ...

I don't have much in the way of an opinion about DFW, but MeFi's own languagehat has a pretty good piece that demonstrates how, in this regard at least, DFW is wrong in a pretty substantial way.
posted by Dim Siawns at 12:01 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


This guy is trying way too hard for this to have been a good troll:

If you read Wallace’s conversations with David Lipsky, though, you’ll find out just what sort of torturous crap he really enjoyed – Alanis Morrissette, R.E.M. and Huey Lewis. He admits it right there on page 210 of Lipsky’s book – “I have the musical tastes of a thirteen-year old girl” – and goes on to say:
… But then I’ll happen to hear Alanis Morissette. On the radio. And you know just for some reason – that squeaky orgasmic quality in her voice will just hit me. And so I’ll go like listen to nothing but Alanis Morissette for two months.
And Wallace tells us that the Huey Lewis song, “I Want a New Drug” was “more or less an anthem for me in the 80s.” This confirms what we’ve always known: secretly, hipsters do like all the dreck they pretend to enjoy ironically. The “irony” provides an excuse to enjoy it in a social setting. Nothing more. And there’s no sparing anyone who thinks Patrick Foster Bateman’s personal “anthem” is a good song.


Wallace openly admits that he likes bad pop music, which confirms that hipsters hide their love of dreck. What? If Wallace had listened to Steve Reich and Mum this guy would be trashing him for being pretentious. This whole essay is hipster irony.

And Vollmann, whose 3000+ page Rising Up and Rising Down series is by a "wannabe war nerd"? I suppose he wrote his (very boring) book on fucking Copernicus to swing the fixie crowd. Vollmann is an odd, obsessive character but he seems to follow his own compulsions sincerely and to the utmost lengths.

Dave Eggers activated my "grar popular" hackles when everyone was going on about AHWOSG, but even that isn't so bad compared to other subway favorites like The Kite Runner.
posted by benzenedream at 12:07 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait, he thinks that pomo druggie writers are Stealth Christians??? He thinks that Requiem for a Dream is an art house version of Reefer Madness??? What is a stealth Christian anyway? Someone who promotes Christian values by making ads that discourage meth use? If this is the Australian version of the far right, then color me an Australian conservative.
posted by no mind at 12:15 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait, he thinks that pomo druggie writers are Stealth Christians??? He thinks that Requiem for a Dream is an art house version of Reefer Madness??? What is a stealth Christian anyway? Someone who promotes Christian values by making ads that discourage meth use? If this is the Australian version of the far right, then color me an Australian conservative.

Australia is pretty far to the left of America. I've heard 'Christian' used as an insult. No modifier. Just 'Christian'.

That said, Requiem for a Dream pretty much scared me off of all hard drugs. It's an amazingly well-directed film but how can you argue that it ISN'T hyperbolic, given the lurid fates of all the main characters?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:22 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


If this guy was somebody, I would have included that info.

He coulda been a contender. (And let's face it, Elia Kazan coulda had class. I mean, if we're gonna name names.)
posted by orthogonality at 12:32 AM on May 25, 2011


I love the part where he reveals that David Eggers's older brother is...[gasp!]...a Republican!

Kinda puts a damper on Eggers’ goody-goody pretensions, doesn’t it?


Take that, David Eggers! Trying to pretend you're organizing events to support indie artists and raising money for charities when in reality you have a brother who's a jerk!
posted by straight at 12:43 AM on May 25, 2011 [23 favorites]


Reefer Madness isn't just hyperbolic. Hyperbole is exaggeration, not outright lies. The fact that RfaD is polemical does not make it propaganda.
posted by no mind at 12:49 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ramon Glazovy knows more about drugs and what hipsters really think than you can possibly imagine.
posted by minifigs at 12:56 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


As with most rants, reading this taught me alot more about this Ramon guy than the extensive list of authors he seeks to poop on.

...and now I'll gladly return to a world where I couldn't care less what upsets Ramon Glazovy - a name which, incidentally, reads like a clumsy nom de plume.
posted by Hickeystudio at 1:03 AM on May 25, 2011


Perth seems to be an ever giving font of fantastically contrarian writers. Here are some mailing list messages he wrote while a gradstudent:
One person mentioned that, thanks to me, they would place Activate last
on the ballot paper. This was unintended. I wrote my paragraph about leeches, lice, and watersnakes with the hope of attracting the Addams family vote. I did not wish to defame Activate by claiming that they were planning to flood Union House and turn it into a candiru sanctuary. Their campaign promises are entirely their own! Please vote Activate! You are in no danger of being attacked by unusual animals!.
Solid Gold.
posted by honest knave at 1:22 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've read books by all the people Ramon takes a pop at, but I couldn't make it to the end of his article. I don't think my attention span has shortened that much, so perhaps there's some other reason.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 1:24 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait, he thinks that pomo druggie writers are Stealth Christians??? He thinks that Requiem for a Dream is an art house version of Reefer Madness???

I don't think it's an unreasonable thesis. Books that don't fit the traditional US addiction narrative of sin and redemption just don't do that well. It's not surprising that even the hipsters embrace it -- though they do like to try and have their cake and eat it in this respect.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:09 AM on May 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think I managed about 3,000 of the 8,500 or so words that make up this article, skipping about a little bit to get a feel for the whole thing. Maybe some of the points raised are valid but so much of it is tenuous and irrelevant ranting that I couldn't discern what might have some merit.

The guilt-by-relation point for Dave Eggers, mentioned upthread by Straight was especially strained. Nor did the drug inaccuracies that he details for Infinite Jest seem to be a particularly telling blow; it's not as if the rest of the book is meticulously realistic - the fact that it's set in an unlikely alternate future is a clue towards this.

Also irritating were the wrong-headed assumptions about what people got out of the books:

Most David Foster Wallace fans have a self-mortifying attitude that goes something like this: “I don’t feel I’m even close to understanding Infinite Jest, but I don’t want to think that’s deliberate."

No. Everyone that I know that's read it has a fine and dandy understanding of the book. It may not be a total understanding of every single aspect but it's plenty enough to be going on with. And the stuff that is obtuse is very clearly deliberately so. That's fine.
posted by MUD at 2:48 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Although I suppose we could discuss the ideas without discussing the guy. But we don't seem to be.)

Well, it's easier than arguing his points when he's been rude about one's icons.
posted by rodgerd at 2:52 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


how can you argue that it ISN'T hyperbolic, given the lurid fates of all the main characters?

I remember reading that Darren Aronofsky, talking about writing the screenplay, said something like, when he was doing a story diagram to figure out who the "hero" was, he couldn't figure it, and he "turned the diagram upside-down" and found that addiction itself was the hero, insofar as there even was one, or something to that effect.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:56 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


This guy has devoted a lot of time to reading people he thinks sucks. I dunno if he had a girlfriend who was really into DFW or what. I mean, if so, I kinda sympathize; I had a girlfriend who was all into Anne Rice in the early '90s and that meant I had to read like Queen of the Damned and all this shit. I guess that made me a little bitter, too.

Some of what he says here is patently bullshit, stuff only an angry guy about twenty years old who has no idea about the way real people live life could ever suggest, much less believe -- I mean things like how Insane Clown Posse spent like a decade being stealth evangelists, their entire career a front for organized Christianity, and David Foster Wallace killed himself so that he'd be above criticism, or whatever is going on in this article, really -- but I do agree that Requiem for a Dream is just Reefer Madness gone pretentious. There's a whole thing one could get out of where the exploitation film meets the art house production, and I'd rather read an article about that, if anyone's got one.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:46 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Generally agree with the "Ooh, unknown guy hates hipster lit" sentiments here, but on the other hand, I'm pretty underwhelmed by the authors he mentions too-- with the exception of Selby. IMO he's kind of unfairly lumped in with the other authors.
posted by Rykey at 3:47 AM on May 25, 2011


...People he thinks suck, even. Wow, it is so early in the morning. Fuck you, sun.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:48 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wish I saw the merit in David Foster Wallace*. I mean, his stuff's ok, I just haven't seen (yet) the mysterious source of the fanboy lust I see on MetaFilter (maybe I have to dedicate the time read Infinite Jest in order to see it). It's like "Little Sebastian" on Parks & Rec. I don't know if you folks don't know how nuts you go for him, or if it's a conscious effort to public out-adore one another or what, but man, it's some serious idolatry.

* every time I see DFW, even on MeFi, I immediately think "Dallas/Fort Worth."
posted by Eideteker at 3:59 AM on May 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


I mean things like how Insane Clown Posse spent like a decade being stealth evangelists, their entire career a front for organized Christianity

ICP did claim this.
posted by orthogonality at 4:01 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Um...sort of. But not really in the stealth/conspiratorial way that he implies, and the article presents a pretty preposterous mischaracterization besides; if you just went by what was said in it, you'd think that these guys were a couple of clean-cut youth pastors who posed as bad rappers in clown makeup or something. It's a stretch.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:07 AM on May 25, 2011


I fall into the "Eggers and Wallace are unreadable" camp, but Vollmann is my man, and so while i can't comment knowledgeably about the other guys, the Vollmann bit is amusing, but weak and cherry-picked, highlighting older material. The best bit of it is this: "a wannabe war-nerd like Vollmann," describing a person who went to Afghanistan with the Afghani resistance during the Russian war and narrowly escaped death via landmine in Bosnia in 1994.

I think the "wannabe war-nerd" thing ties in with what he's saying about Calvinism. He's basically saying that it's permissible to write about fucking prostitutes, or going into war zones, or taking drugs only if the author pretends that he's not enjoying those things.

See also War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, where Chris Hedges goes into some detail about the lies that war correspondents tell themselves and others about why they do what they do. Hedges says that most of them love the wars, they get off on the adrenaline and the sense of meaning, but that isn't allowed. How horrified would you be reading a dispatch from Benghazi that starts "This is fucking great, I'm having the time of my life"?

Similarly, addiction memoirs have to end in horror. No-one wants to read about someone who enjoys taking drugs, even though an awful lot of people do. There's a connection here to temperance movement literature which always end up with the promising young lad ruined by drink and which do not entertain the idea that some people like to drink.

This Ramon Glazov guy writes suspiciously similar to John Dolan.

Yes. John Dolan was one of the first to go after James Frey for making shit up, and his criticisms there are very similar to the tone here. He wrote that there was no way that anyone who knew anything about drug addiction would believe this stuff, but the literati don't know anything about drug addiction so A Million Little Pieces sailed through as a memoir.
John Dolan also hates Calvinism, he once wrote about his reading of 1984 as anti-Irish, anti-Papist racism and xenophobia.

I'm actually pretty sure that this is not John Dolan though, because Dolan is a better writer and this piece would have been much more focused had he written it.

Mark Ames wrote an article a few years ago when he was still editor of The Exile, about visiting as many Moscow prostitutes in 24 hours as he could, and I remember him mocking writers who wrote about prostitution and pretended that they didn't enjoy it.

It's not surprising that a publication so closely associated with Ames and Dolan would publish this, it's right up their alley. (but I don't think this is a pseudonym for either of them)
posted by atrazine at 4:18 AM on May 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


I figured out a pretty long time ago that the only genuine way to make something I dislike stop being popular is to provide something more interesting to distract the people who like the thing I don't like. "Attacking" it like in this article just makes people defensive, and that makes their tastes more entrenched. I guess it would be different if I had the social standing to shun anyone I don't like, and have my entire subculture do the same.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:35 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


No-one wants to read about someone who enjoys taking drugs, even though an awful lot of people do.

Hence the under-appreciation of such unlauded scribblers as Hunter S. Thompson, William S. Burroughs and Aldous Huxley. Come on. And Dolan was hardly the only person to call bullshit on Frey before he 'fessed up, although he apparently likes to think he was; he bitched a lot about The Smoking Gun stealing his thunder, even though TSG did a lot of footwork in finding what little solid evidence could be found about Frey that wasn't covered by confidentiality laws or expunged from the record.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:33 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This makes me want to read Vollmann by the way as do the comments in this thread so any recommendations?

I love You Bright and Risen Angels to death, but it's not that representative - it's his first book, a total gonzo magical-realism novel.

The book after that of his that I've most enjoyed is probably Europe Central, which won the National Book Award in 2005. It is pretty big, but if you're an Infinite Jest fan I guess that's not a turn-off.
posted by dfan at 5:52 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


For an entry into Vollmann, try "Fathers and Crows" or "Europe Central."

He is not typically easy to read--he writes with the obsessive attention to (often irrelevant) detail of an Aspie--but I found "Europe Central" a rewarding read. It is difficult for a historian to effectively illuminate the peculiar parallelism between Hitlerism and Stalinism that impelled the waking nightmare of WWII on the Eastern Front. Vollmann gives as good an account as can be found of the enormity, with an astounding command of the actual historical details to inform his speculative bits.

I would suggest, in light of Vollmann's truly prodigious output of writings, it is somewhat unfair of Senor Glazov to dismiss Vollman so viciously for declining to eat a whore's Tootsie Roll. After all. haven't we all done that at one time or other?
posted by rdone at 6:06 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hipsters may love DFW, but DFW was pretty much the antithesis of a hipster. He saw ironic detachment as the enemy and was desperately searching for a way to end it and bring back sincerity. Read his essay "The View from Mrs. Thompson's" or even Infiinite Jest and you'll find a man yearning for sincerity.

He was a sweet, overly sincere kid from the Midwest who happened to be a genius who suffered from depression. Nothing hipster about him.
posted by callmejay at 6:27 AM on May 25, 2011 [22 favorites]


If you want to get David Foster Wallace read his short essay collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. It is LOL funny. Then read Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, which is utterly mind-blowing and devastating short fiction. Then attempt Infinite Jest, which in my mind is the best book written in the past 50 years in America. Not because it's incomprehensible, but because it's so warm and sad and human. The platitudes that this douchebag quotes are all in character, which he would probably understand if he actually read the whole book, which I suspect he didn't. It does address Christianity and not at all secretly. The characters are often racist too...does that make the author racist?

This person is going to regret writing this kind of vitriol someday, as much as I regret writing similar things about Alanis Morrisette.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:45 AM on May 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Glad I'm not the only one who hated the silly morality of Requiem for a Dream. Both Human Traffic (note: not Traffic) and Go were much better depictions of drug culture (though Go has some pretty silly stuff in it as well).
posted by leibniz at 6:57 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hence the under-appreciation of such unlauded scribblers as Hunter S. Thompson, William S. Burroughs and Aldous Huxley.

Ok, my phrasing was imprecise. It's not that no-one wants to read about enjoying drugs, but those authors would be unthinkable on the talk-show circuit and not just because they're all dead. Can you imagine HST on Oprah? (I'm enjoying the image). All three of those authors were part of countercultures1 that were explicitly in favour of pleasure and idleness for their own sakes, it's telling that those are and were explicitly countercultural views.

I actually think the article is kind of unfair to DFW, but maybe that's just because I actually like his books2. I can't stand Eggers, and I'm kind of neutral on Vollmann. Selby I'm not familiar with, but I thought the Aronofsky film was late 90's Reefer Madness.

(1) I don't know exactly what you'd call HST, but the other two are respectively icons of the Beats and the Bloomsbury Set.
(2) Maybe it's the footnotes?
posted by atrazine at 7:03 AM on May 25, 2011


Yeah it's unfortunate that this wasn't just a killer takedown of Requiem for a Dream, becuase that movie is truly garbage. Maybe I'll write one...no wait, I'm too busy trying to create things that are good.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:09 AM on May 25, 2011


Jesus, do we have to have a BR Myers in every country now?
posted by escabeche at 7:13 AM on May 25, 2011


This is an excellent hate piece. He did lose me once he started on about "hipsters," everyone's favorite strawmen.

But his writing on Ellis and Selby was good. although "Requiem for a Dream" is such an easy target. don't know anything about this David Foster Wallace guy, but i was enlightened by this skewering:

Sure these jaded Los Angeles kids are a “lost” generation, but why’s it so bad that they’re “lost”? They have plenty of sex, drugs, threads, cars and cash. Lacking a Christian Hell, the writer needs an equally powerful lie to prop up the narrative – either they pretend that insincerity is an emotional hell no amount of money can make up for, OR, they pretend that members of the Hollywood brat pack have the same life expectancy as Ethiopians, dropping like flies from an endless parade of overdoses and Lamborghini accidents, rarely hitting 30. The second option usually requires the writer to massively exaggerate the dangers of drugs, since they’re the easiest way to kill off rich characters without using your imagination too much. Naturally, this has lead to lots of books portraying your Ellis-Frey type as the sole survivor emerging from the wreckage. In the end, this is worse than if these brat pack authors were openly Christian – Augustine’s Catholic Hell would be just as scary if sex and drugs had no material consequences at all. It’s the terror of the hereafter that counts, not the pain of the present. Ellis can’t grasp this. He begins American Psycho with the words “ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE,” but can’t find anything fearful enough to keep that promise.
posted by eustatic at 7:51 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Re: Vollman -- Before Fathers and Crows, I would recommend The Rifles. It's possibly the best novel in the 7 Dreams series, as well as maybe the shortest, and displays pretty much the full spectrum of Vollmann's peculiar talents, including drawings, historical notes and detailed accounts of his field research woven into a harrowing recreation of a doomed polar expedition and a grimly detailed look at contemporary Native American life in the Arctic Circle. The Ice-Shirt, about Vikings in Greenland, is also terrific. And I may never find the motivation to tackle Rising up and Falling Down, but I found the introductory essay in the abridged edition to be one of the most powerful things I've ever read.
posted by newmoistness at 8:15 AM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


That was shabby-bad.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:23 AM on May 25, 2011


Funny. Reminds me of the serial-killer Star Wars critic dude - except in that case he at least knew to make fun of himself, unlike this guy who is a cliche of the nobody angry critic from the wilderness.

Why should he have to deprecate himself just to have an opinion on a famous author? What's wrong with him being a "nobody?"
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:24 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ellis can’t grasp this. He begins American Psycho with the words “ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE,” but can’t find anything fearful enough to keep that promise. All his supposedly damned narrator can do is assure us that “there are no drugs, no food, no liquor that can appease the forcefulness of this greedy pain.” Pain which Ellis pulls out of nowhere.

The McSweeneyite clique that nurtured David Foster Wallace is slightly less mass-market than Frey and Ellis, but still a hive of bland, wholesome crypto-cons.


I'm enormously confused about why I'm expected to believe that Glazov has read anything past the first sentence of American Psycho.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:47 AM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


This makes me want to read Vollmann by the way as do the comments in this thread so any recommendations?

You might want to check out the condensed version of Rising Up and Rising Down, which is sort of a mix of philosophy, history and his attempt to build a moral calculus of violence. The full version is seven volumes long, but the condensed version is just one huge book. Check newmoistness's link for a sample.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:48 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now that I actually have time to sit down and read the piece, it's quite good. His comments about Infinite Jest have merit, and his critique of "Requiem for a Dream" is, at the very least, comforting. Despite having the adoration of millions, I've never seen someone else articulate just what I didn't like about it (the film, admittedly haven't read the book). It seems contrived to do nothing more than torture the protagonists, and the comparison to Jack Chick isn't misplaced. If it's really supposed to be a commentary on the American Dream, it falls far short, focusing only on a narrow interpretation of it at best. And though I love American Psycho, I think his criticisms of Ellis' Less Than Zero make sense, too. I mean, I can see some point in Ellis, as his narrative seems to say, "This is all there is, your money and power can't buy you comfort, not completely," which is a valid point (as much today as it was in the 80s). But yeah, growing up as a poor kid, i found it hard to feel sorry for his protagonists. But that doesn't mean I can't feel sorry for their situation, for their myopia, their inability to see beyond their own immediate fears and concerns. And anyway, I'm not convinced I'm supposed to feel sorry for them.

Later on, though, his definitions get a bit muddy. He claims what the hipster loathes is "didacticism," when really, what they don't like is obviousness (and authenticity is an undercurrent here, SEE Danger, Harvey; Authenticity, 2000), not so much lessons. Poor word choice, maybe. But then he switches to talking about all of Gen Y... so we're all hipsters? Hardly a subculture, then!

Still, good points about Wallace, and probably the best explanation of what actually goes on in Infinite Jest (rather than "just read it") that I've gotten on the Internet.
posted by Eideteker at 9:23 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was in college, there was a girl I didn't like much, so I edited her papers in the same spirit that this Ramon person wrote this little tract.

Her response was to say that I basically defecated on her papers, and she was absolutely right. That's what this guy is doing.

He has no real point, he's just dropping turds on authors whose success he resents.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:24 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hipsters may love DFW, but DFW was pretty much the antithesis of a hipster. He saw ironic detachment as the enemy and was desperately searching for a way to end it and bring back sincerity. Read his essay "The View from Mrs. Thompson's" or even Infiinite Jest and you'll find a man yearning for sincerity.

He was a sweet, overly sincere kid from the Midwest who happened to be a genius who suffered from depression. Nothing hipster about him.
I would like to think this, but I don't. If you called him a struggling, recovering elitist, I wouldn't disagree. It seems to me like the real point of Ramon's rant is to disspell DFW's messianic aura.

Read the interviews: DFW knew he sometimes wrote bitch sentences just to show off. He hated being like that.

As someone who — like a big chunk of MetaFilter, I presume — actually feels serious identification with good old Dave, I do still see him less like a paragon of resolve and virtue and genuine goodguyitude, and more like a paradoxical, fucked up anti-hero. And I think something like that is why we fall in love with him and defend him. We feel his serious flaws and his genuine recognition of them and nevertheless his frustrating failure to really come through and just be the kind of person he wants to be. It's a serious existential dilemma that haunts a certain subset of people who are too clever and weird to be straightforwardly kind. :(
posted by mbrock at 9:34 AM on May 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the recommendations on Vollman, much obliged. It's very much something I would be interested in and will definitely read.
As for Mr Glozav, probably not so much. Reminds me of Robert Hughes, of all people, mainly in his intent, who at least was useful for a moment in the 1980s.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 9:38 AM on May 25, 2011


Partially successfull troll only partially successful.

William Vollman's recent article about death in the november Harper's was excellent. I can't seem to find it online ...

I fall into the "Eggers and Wallace are unreadable" camp, but Vollmann is my man

I do like both Wallace and Vollman a LOT, but this statement makes me chuckle. Vollmann is by far the least accessible, imo.

I get the feeling that Glazov hasn't read much DFW or Vollmann.

That was the feeling as well, though to be fair, he only really criticizes IJ, which he does seem to have at least read.

That’s what most of his style adds up to, taking easy concepts and pretending they’re harder to explain than they really are.

I am actually curious what he thinks of Everything and More. I'm not a mathematician of any sorts, and I really enjoyed it. I thought he took a very complicated (for me), abstract subject and made it somewhat understandable.

He has no real point, he's just dropping turds on authors whose success he resents.

Yeah, the pharmaceutical nitpicking indicated that to me as well.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:59 AM on May 25, 2011


DFW knew he sometimes wrote bitch sentences just to show off. He hated being like that.

What's a "bitch sentence"? I've never heard that term. I'd love to see an example from DFW, if you have one. If it means what I think it means (perhaps similar to "a bitchin' sentence"?), I'm guessing that Don DeLillo can write "bitch sentences" with the best of them.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:03 AM on May 25, 2011


Lot of weak defenses in the comments here, and a lot of ad hom. attacks on Glazov. Would anyone who actually read the article (not just parts of it before "giving up in disgust" or whatever) like to calmly refute the points he's making? Given what he's said in the article, how would you convince me to read Infinite Jest?
posted by Eideteker at 10:04 AM on May 25, 2011


But...there isn't any actual criticism in this. This...this is just another angry dude who can't make it a writer so he's just bashing people to make himself feel better.

I don't get it. I mean, haters gonna hate. Anymore going on here? No? Ok.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:12 AM on May 25, 2011


mrgrimm, sorry, I was thinking about this answer from the interview with Larry McCaffery.
DFW: But I often think I can see it in myself and in other young writers, this desperate desire to please coupled with a kind of hostility to the reader.

Q: In your own case, how does this hostility manifest itself?

DFW: Oh, not always, but sometimes in the form of sentences that are syntactically not incorrect but still a real bitch to read. Or bludgeoning the reader with data. Or devoting a lot of energy to creating expectations and then taking pleasure in disappointing them.
posted by mbrock at 10:14 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Which interview also, by the way, contains one of my favorite quotes:
If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.

posted by mbrock at 10:17 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Would anyone who actually read the article (not just parts of it before "giving up in disgust" or whatever) like to calmly refute the points he's making?

It does appear that Glazov read Infinite Jest, but it also appears that he's either misunderstood a great deal of it or is deliberately misinterpreting/misrepresenting it. He says that the depiction of the Entertainment fails because Wallace gives a detailed description of it, which either ignores or misses the fact that we're never actually sure, in the book, which rumors are true, which of JOI's films were practice-runs for the Entertainment, or what the contents of the Entertainment are. We're fairly certain of there being a certain actress in it, but we don't even actually know whether her face is horribly disfigured by acid or whether she is the most breathtakingly gorgeous woman alive. There are all sorts of such ambiguities and mysteries threaded throughout the novel, and Glazov seems to write as though none of these ambiguities exist, or that they're easily collapsible, or that they aren't meant to be ambiguous. Similarly, he complains about Wallace using words like 'Kekulean,' even though the passage in question is first-person narrative from a preternaturally intelligent kid who specifically tells us that he's reading through the dictionary and has a photographic memory.

Glazov is either being disingenuous, or he's not a very good reader.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:23 AM on May 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


and a lot of ad hom. attacks on Glazov

Oh, come on, the guy devotes space to dissing DFW's musical tastes. I'm not sure he actually deserves fair criticism.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:46 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Her response was to say that I basically defecated on her papers, and she was absolutely right. That's what this guy is doing.

He has no real point, he's just dropping turds on authors whose success he resents.


Look, I disagree with this guy (I love DFW's work, and Infinite Jest is one of my top five favourite books of all time), but this is just nonsense.

If he'd taken a cross-section of successful writers and just said "they suck", that would be one thing. There'd be nothing to that "criticism" but an unexplained preference, no reason to consider it.

That is not what Glasov is doing. First of all this is not just a broad sample of contemporary American writers, it's a group of writers who he believes are doing something similar with their work. What he perceives as a weird sort of secular neo-Calvinism is the locus of his disapproval. I think he's seeing things that, at least in Infinite Jest, are not there, but it just doesn't make sense to me to claim that "he has no real point".

Also, dismissing any criticism as resentment is kind of childish, isn't it?
posted by atrazine at 10:48 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, you can break down Gravity's Rainbow as being simply the story of one man's quest to figure out why everywhere he fucks ends up getting blown up by a V-2 rocket and is a simplistic examination of predestination vs. free will.

Simpler than that, Gravity's Rainbow is about good vs. evil.

Given what he's said in the article, how would you convince me to read Infinite Jest?

Infinite Jest is a very well written speculative-future novel about a teenage boy at a tennis academy, a ex-con addict in a halfway house, and the convergence of their lives, which is fueled by a developing political macro-plot in which a mysterious videotape is enslaving all viewers who watch it and Quebecois wheelchair terrorists (and their double agents), are slowly infiltrating the modern Boston area in order to control the master copy of the tape, which was created by the father of the teenage boy at the tennis academy and possibly leaked to the world by his disgruntled brother, who may or may have not had sex with their domineering mother, who's philandering was likely the impetus for their father's suicide by microwave.

Doesn't that sound like a good story? Plus there is the PGOT (prettiest girl of all time) who also hosts a experimental midnight radio show as Madame Psychosis and who may or may not have disfigured her own face with acid, and who may or may not be the star of the aforementioned videotape.

However, if you do not like unconventional novel endings, you will probably not like the ending. It may make you mad and/or feel "cheated," but once you take a few deep breaths and think about it, everything will be "OK."

Lot of weak defenses in the comments here, and a lot of ad hom. attacks on Glazov.

!=

Who rarely gets mentioned, though, is his older brother William, an equally ghoulish-looking neocon who was once Director of Government Reform at the Koch brothers’ free-market Reason Foundation. He is also a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an ultra-right Republican think-tank whose other members have included Charles Murray, author of an infamous book (The Bell Curve) arguing that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites.

Kinda puts a damper on Eggers’ goody-goody pretensions, doesn’t it?


What's that called? Association fallacy? Eggers is a bad person because his brother is? I'm not an Eggers fan, but that's nonsense and seems like it should have been cut from a professionally edited article.

it’s the rehab clinic chapters of Infinite Jest where Wallace’s prejudices really come out

I read those chapters from the perspective of the patients, not the author.

I did read the whole article. The essence seems to be that the criticized authors are anti-drug and/or not pro-drug enough and/or objectifying addicts.

By definition, benzodiazepines are not “lightweight tranqs,” but drugs with a benzene and a diazepine ring fused together. 60s psychiatrists did call them “minor tranquilisers” (along with some other drugs) because they were less debilitating than antipsychotics. However, unlike antipsychotics, they turned out to be addictive, so the “major” and “minor” stuff went out of fashion. Since no one given a choice uses antipsychotics for fun, “lightweight tranqs” is a meaningless phrase on the street.

And that is a "howler"? I believe that was in a footnote.

And yeah, the parodies are bad. Others have done better, though the scarcity of them indicates how hard the style is to imitate.

That’s all Infinite Jest boils down to. An anti-intellectual (yet amazingly pretentious) Calvinist cautionary tale that makes the same death threats about thinking that Requiem for a Dream made about drugs

Infinite Jest is based on the structure and plot of Hamlet. In the shortest terms, it's about depression, sadness, and family. I would agree with anyone who says that the treatment of drugs and addiction in the book is fairly conservative, but again, most of that is coming from the perspective of rehab patients, i.e. people who have been almost killed by drug addictions.

tl;dr - the article is a mess. Read it for yourself and decide, but it is all over the place with not much to say, full of inaccuracies, and loaded with nitpicking and annoying complaints about things that have little to do with the primary aspects of the work of the authors criticized.

justmy2c, but i'm mostly wishing i hadn't read it or commented on it now.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:53 AM on May 25, 2011 [15 favorites]


Lot of weak defenses in the comments here

Possibly because Glazov's piece reads like a giant troll, so what's the point of even engaging with it? To "calmly refute the points he's making," Glazov's basic rapid-fire, sentence-by-sentence bad faith invective, would be a significant waste of time.

It's like Glazov is the guy at the bar, three shots too deep, gone on a colorful fifteen-minute rant about The Godfather is a shitty movie, and how shitty you must be if you even gave the movie a second thought. You're welcome to step up and say, "Why, good sir, I'd like to take exception! I think points #1-#432 might be flawed ..." What's the point, though? Dude isn't looking for some kind of dialogue, he's looking for a fight.

As someone mentioned upthread, just take a look at languagehat's piece about the DFW/Garner piece from Harper's. Yes, it's negative, incredibly nit-picky, etc.-- these are of the same charges that you could level against Glazov; but, languagehat's piece doesn't absolutely reek of bad faith like Glazov's. Languagehat's criticism is more or less even-handed and well-measured. Glazov's is the opposite, which is why it seems kind of foolish to even engage with it.

And yes, the HE'S HATING BECAUSE HE'S JEALOUS stuff is pretty weak.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a Vollman fan and have defended him here and elsewhere - Glazov's burns on him are funny and well-put, but the argument seems to amount to "don't read him because he's really not a nice guy, and he's not being totally honest with himself or his readers about the motives behind his icky behavior." To which I nod and say, so what? Since when do we dismiss artists because they happen to be self-contradictory creeps?
posted by chaff at 11:28 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, dismissing any criticism as resentment is kind of childish, isn't it?

Dismissing criticism as resentment is childish, agreed.

But Infinite Jest and DFW has this special breed of critics. There's this whole thing about the massive acclaim he and the book received, combined with it being a difficult book, combined with what could be described as anti-reader moves within the book*, combined with a natural reaction to the passion of his fans, that makes this group really love to hate it. I mean, it's a natural thing we all do.

But if you spend much time liking DFW, it's something you run into again and again, and I feel like I can recognize this phenomena when I see it. For instance: any metafilter thread on him will have someone joyfully calling Infinite Jest awful garbage. And it's not that. It is, like, objectively, measurably not that (I'm sort of joking with this statement). I can totally allow that a person can not like it. I can see that there are several potentially frustrating elements to it, and several that look fairly pretentious. But I feel like any honest appraisal of it would have to be along the lines of "there are elements of it that I find frustrating to the point of it tipping the scales off being good" rather than "awful garbage". And so when people use certain language or display a certain glee in disliking it, I feel like I can identify that the "disliking it as some sort of social phenomena" is happening and not the "disliking it as literary work". Of course it's possible to do both, but if they want to honestly be engaged it's on them to bring their discourse into the realm of like healthy conversation.

And this guy doesn't. The title of his essay, the snorting about Huey Lewis, the completely-ignoring-the-context "Kekulean" thing...he's grinding an axe. Which is fine, and can be fun if you also don't like the subject of his Own Personal Beef, but it also means that I'm fine skipping the rest of the essay without feeling like I need to carefully read it and refute it.

Infinite Jest is partly about the things we give ourselves over to: entertainment, competition, drugs, sex, etc. I don't ever get the impression that it holds drugs to be in some special category that We Must Frown Upon.** He seems to be drawing the parallels between all these things, and not ever really saying "this one is good" and "this one is bad", that I can see.

*I don't think they're really anti-reader at all. The book is also about our prioritization of passivity and ease, and that theme is reinforced by several structural elements e.g. copious footnotes, initially indecipherable chronology, and certain never-explained plot holes forcing active engagement. This might sound annoying and high-concept, but it's actually pretty fun and I would talk about it more except it gets pretty spoilery.

**His portrayal of marijuana is pretty weird, though. I've been pretty confused by it, and am not sure what to make of it. I know he had various drug issues (though I don't really know how serious any of them were) and I've wondered if his experience with marijuana was coloured by interaction with his antidepressants. Or if his depiction is intentionally weird. Or if his personal experience was just honestly different from mine. It's strange, though.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:28 AM on May 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


> What's a "bitch sentence"?

I read it as a flashy sentence that the reader might appreciate for it's skill but is too showy-- too much the product of the writer gratifying his or her own ego.

At one of Ginsberg's readings of Howl he says [40:50] "I don't read it often because it's too much of a bravura piece, and I don't want to get hung up on it..."
posted by morganw at 11:39 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I can't believe I read this entire article. It barely had a point, though if he'd either cut out the stuff about Ellis and Eggers, or at least made the slightest effort to correct those parts of the article to the rest of them, it might have been better. But really the main point of it seems to be I KNOW MORE ABOUT DRUGS THAN DFW! I mean, really? The problem with these novels is that they're insufficiently laudatory about the benefits of hard drugs?
posted by whir at 11:52 AM on May 25, 2011


Also, dismissing any criticism as resentment is kind of childish, isn't it?

Dismissing any criticism as resentment is childish, but that doesn't mean that dismissing all criticism as resentment is childish. I know of what I speak. I used to be a resentful critic.

I spent a few years working as a music critic, which was never a problem for me because I never dreamed of being a musician. I wrote my music reviews from the view of a consumer trying to help other consumers find cool things. But when I switched over to film criticism while suppressing my own desires to succeed as a writer, I wrote some bad critiques of films. I wrote unfair things, attacking things that I secretly thought I could do better (but never did). Fortunately for both myself and the filmmakers, I recognized what I was doing, quit writing about movies and television and focused on my own writing. It was one of the best and healthiest things I've ever done in my life. More critics should spend some time looking in the mirror and mapping out where the bile comes from.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:01 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yeah, at the beginning of the article I was wondering what the deal was with Glazov painting Infinite Jest as some sort of "difficult" tome that needs to be decoded. There's not that much to get about Infinite Jest - it's got plenty of ambiguity, but it's not classically "difficult" in the manner of say, Finnegan's Wake. But then by the point at the end where he gets into a critique of Infinite Jest, it really does seem like he's completely missed the point of the book.

The early bit about Kafka is pretty weak sauce, too. "I assert IJ is in the tradition of Kafka. The character Hal is similar to Gregor Samsa. Samsa's defining characteristic is poverty and self-sacrifice. But Hal is rich and smart! Therefore Wallace is a terrible writer." Or in his own words, maybe Wallace thinks that Samsa’s muteness is just as cruel inflicted on a pompous 17-year-old tweedmeister as a sad, fin de siècle Jewish wage-slave, but I beg to differ. Take that, completely made-up equivalency that I just concocted out of whole cloth!
posted by whir at 12:03 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am actually curious what he thinks of Everything and More. I'm not a mathematician of any sorts, and I really enjoyed it. I thought he took a very complicated (for me), abstract subject and made it somewhat understandable.

Except that if you are mathematician it reeks of manure.[pdf]

DFW always struck me as surfing a wave of his own horse-shit, and got pulled under... it's hard being a boy genius your whole life, but I'm not all that sympathetic.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:19 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's like Glazov is the guy at the bar, three shots too deep, gone on a colorful fifteen-minute rant about The Godfather is a shitty movie...

I prefer The Money Pit.

Except that if you are mathematician it reeks of manure.[pdf]

Good thing I'm not a mathematician! ^_^

I didn't get "manure" from your PDF. I got "infelicities," of which DFW noted (and casually absolved himself of).

His portrayal of marijuana is pretty weird, though. I've been pretty confused by it, and am not sure what to make of it. I know he had various drug issues (though I don't really know how serious any of them were) and I've wondered if his experience with marijuana was coloured by interaction with his antidepressants.

I thought it was pretty clear from IJ that DFW had/has a serious problem with marijuana. It happens (not for me, though--I smoke pretty much every day).

DFW always struck me as surfing a wave of his own horse-shit

I think he definitely took liberties with information (to which the pedantic pharmaceutical corrections attest (if they are correct)), but his writing is far from horse-shit.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:53 PM on May 25, 2011


Oh, not always, but sometimes in the form of sentences that are syntactically not incorrect but still a real bitch to read.

Heh. In The Pale King, the sentences are both grammatically incorrect and a bitch to read.

I know it's not his finished product, but that boggled me most about TPK. For a self-avowed prescriptivist, the multitude of sentence fragments seem very weird...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:58 PM on May 25, 2011


DFW always struck me as surfing a wave of his own horse-shit, and got pulled under... it's hard being a boy genius your whole life, but I'm not all that sympathetic.


See, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. The guy kills himself because of his battles with depression and we get weird, semi-gloating stuff like this.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:02 PM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


For a self-avowed prescriptivist, the multitude of sentence fragments seem very weird...

I don't think Wallace ever described himself as a prescriptivist. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought where he came down at the end of 'Tense Present' was that Garner steered a clear path through the language wars by creating a descriptivist prescriptivism: discovering what usage was already present and accepted in professionally published contemporaneous culture and adhering to that as correct.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:11 PM on May 25, 2011


I actually really enjoyed IJ, but it wasn't without its faults. The plot was kinda goofy and gimmicky, and there were really only a few characters that I thought were "real". And as much as I hate to admit it, I do feel like Wallace's suicide lent the book an extra measure of gravitas. For example, we really don't have too much reason to care about Hal -- he's certainly not one of the more memorable characters in the book -- but he becomes a lot more important (and tragic) once you realize that he's a stand-in for DFW, and that DFW did in fact kill himself.

However, those are minor quibbles, as far as I'm concerned. I mostly enjoyed IJ for DFW's writing style. I loved picking apart his byzantine sentences and figuring out why they worked. It was like mental gymnastics for me, and I really really enjoyed it. Sure, this isn't for everyone, but why shit on something just because you ain't feelin' it?
posted by Afroblanco at 2:30 PM on May 25, 2011


he becomes a lot more important (and tragic) once you realize that he's a stand-in for DFW, and that DFW did in fact kill himself.

I think if you delve into DFW's personal life, Mario, Hal and Orin are all stand-ins for himself in one way or another. As is Don, probably. And both Maranthe and Steeply. The more I read DFW, the more I think all the characters are representations of himself. Solipsism extreme!
posted by mrgrimm at 3:11 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Phlegmco(tm): "This makes me want to read Vollmann by the way as do the comments in this thread so any recommendations? Quite liked Infinite Jest, most of all for its ambivalence, and also Last Exit To Brooklyn, for pretty much the opposite reason"

Hm, Vollmann can be hard to get into. His early work centers on ill-advised and squicky adventures, as Glasov notes. That material is also relatively short, compared to what comes later. I personally strongly prefer the prose in his later work, and as noted upthread, in my opinion by the mid-ninetles he had developed a very strong use of technique, such that in general he will adhere to internally-consistent rules within a given work. He doesn't point them out, but once recognized, it adds a layer of enjoyment to the act of reading.

In addition to the Bosnia piece I linked above, I have a clear fondness for the following three books:

The Rifles - He writes about the disastrous failure of the 1845 Franklin expedition.

Argall , in which he tackles the Pocahontas story.

Europe Central, in which he writes about the German invasion of Russia.

The first two are part of his Seven Dreams cycle in which he attempts to investigate and write new versions of specific historical encounters between Native American cultures and European ones.

The other books in that cycle are "The Ice Shirt," about the Norse colony at L'Anse-aux-Meadows in Newfoundland; and "Fathers and Crows," about the Huron conversion and Kateri Tekakwitha.

I was surprised, but surely should not have been, to see Into the Forbidden Zone: A Trip Through Hell and High Water in Post-Earthquake Japan, a Kindle single. If you have a kindle, maybe give that a shot and keep digging.

There is of course a great deal available apart from these novels, much of it essayistic explorations of identity and privilege. It is my impression that he exerts careful formal control over the prose and structure of that material as well, but it is the novels that stay with me.
posted by mwhybark at 3:18 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


For those looking for a good intro to William T. Vollmann, his recent ebook about life in the Japanese nuclear evacuation zone is pretty awesome.
posted by Scoop at 3:19 PM on May 25, 2011


(Argh! mwhybark beat me by 1 minute!)
posted by Scoop at 3:20 PM on May 25, 2011


mrgrimm: "I do like both Wallace and Vollman a LOT, but this statement makes me chuckle. Vollmann is by far the least accessible, imo."

Fair enough. For me, when Vollmann's stuff grabs me, it really grabs me. Eggers and Wallace, my mind just slides right off the prose like fried egg off a tilted plate.
posted by mwhybark at 3:23 PM on May 25, 2011


I remember reading that Darren Aronofsky, talking about writing the screenplay, said something like, when he was doing a story diagram to figure out who the "hero" was, he couldn't figure it, and he "turned the diagram upside-down" and found that addiction itself was the hero, insofar as there even was one, or something to that effect.

Hmmm.
Reminds me of a blog that claimed the Overlook Hotel was the protagonist of The Shining. It works. Addiction/the Overlook have a clear goal and after many obstacles they succeed.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:47 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I LOVE Pynchon. By which, I mean, I hate him. By which, I mean I feel compelled to read his books. By which I mean I stumble and fumble my way through them and sometimes even know what happened. By which I mean that I find myself completely enthralled by the language and the manipulation of me as a reader. By which I mean I'm completely frustrated by all the random things he throws into the text which have meanings I don't know off the top of my head. By which I mean the flow and sweep of the words and events completely overwhelm me and sweep me away. By which I mean I've yet to finish Against The Day because it keeps eluding me. By which I mean I've tried three times and am in the reader equivalent of olympic training so I can make another attempt. By which I mean a lot of his stuff is the funniest material I've ever read by any author (and I have a tendency to take printed stories too literally and not really find them funny). By which I mean that I LOVE Pynchon.

I am so glad I'm not the only one. Will be making my fourth attempt at Gravity's Rainbow this summer.

Know what kills me? Not knowing the melodies to all the songs. Drives me batshit insane. First time I ever desperately needed a soundtrack with the book.
posted by Thistledown at 3:52 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironically, this article has convinced me that I really need to take another crack at Infinite Jest. It's a bit big to carry around - would the iBooks version still give me the same experience?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:05 PM on May 25, 2011


Know what kills me? Not knowing the melodies to all the songs.

It's non-canonical, but this might amuse you.
posted by hippybear at 4:05 PM on May 25, 2011


would the iBooks version still give me the same experience?

I've never read it as an iBook (or anything as an iBook), but I think that there is something purposefully enjoyable/frustrating/funny/annoying about having to leaf over 900-odd pages to get to a particular endnote even when you're in the middle of a sentence or clause or whatever only to find out that the endnote is '(allegedly).' Or of being in the middle of a sentence in the main text, hit an endnote number, then you page over through hundreds of pages and there's like a 28-page endnote that contains a complete narrative, with its own footnotes, and you read it and it's in tiny print and the whole time you have your thumb over on page 473, vainly trying to hold your place in the middle of that sentence. I think that experience would be very different if the endnotes are just hyperlinks or however they do them on the iBook. I mean, it will still be substantially the same book, but I think part of Wallace's intentional uphill-climbing enterprise as set out for the reader is maybe slightly diminished.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:33 PM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


As is Don, probably.

I don't know. Don seems more like a (very insightful) amalgamation of the type of people you meet in 12-step programs.
posted by jonmc at 4:57 PM on May 25, 2011


also, I've never read an article from the exile that I didn't hate. Fuck em.
posted by jonmc at 4:58 PM on May 25, 2011


While I think shakespeherian is largely correct, LiB, I'd say just go with whatever makes you most likely to read it. Don't sweat it too much.

Don is such a beautiful character. Christ.
posted by neuromodulator at 5:08 PM on May 25, 2011


Oh, yeah, I didn't mean that to be a discouragement at all. By all means, read the book scrawled on a series of a billion post-it notes. It's a great book.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:16 PM on May 25, 2011


who's philandering

WHOSE

thanks to public shaming, i will never forget


Know what kills me? Not knowing the melodies to all the songs

On the advice of someone I don't remember, I sang them all the last time I read it and quite enjoyed them much more, i.e. actually paid attention to the words instead of saying ugh a song what is this tolkein.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:28 PM on May 25, 2011


mrgrimm: "I sang them all the last time I read it and quite enjoyed them much more, i.e. actually paid attention to the words instead of saying ugh a song what is this tolkein"


I actually read LOTR out loud to my wife before the movies came out. This meant I had to come up with tunes for the songs on the spot. In general, I imagined them as the work of a dwarven heavy metal band and would sing them thusly, in a dwarven falsetto, with air guitar and dweedle dweedle dweedle fakey solos. Often we would have to stop reading for the night to laugh helplessly after or during.

posted by mwhybark at 5:33 PM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think that there is something purposefully enjoyable/frustrating/funny/annoying about having to leaf over 900-odd pages to get to a particular endnote even when you're in the middle of a sentence or clause or whatever only to find out that the endnote is '(allegedly).'

A good portion of the "meta" of reading House Of Leaves is having to deal with all those footnotes and footnotes of footnotes and pages of text which go THROUGH a stack of pages and then turn around and come BACK through the pages again....

But yeah. Read Infinite Jest in whatever form works well for your lifestyle. It's an interesting experience.
posted by hippybear at 5:53 PM on May 25, 2011


having read and regretted reading the linked article, a caterwauling mess the sole purpose of which would seem to be to announce the debut of a small-minded pseudo-critic as loudly as possible, i am totally going to pretend i never read it and cannot remember the word-vomiter's name, and instead segue into this wallace/pynchon discussion. as callmejay wrote, wallace was completely anti-irony, and name-checked pynchon in another interview with mccaffery:

We seem to be in an era when oppression and exploitation no longer bring a people together and solidify loyalties and help everyone rise above his individual concerns. Now the rap response is more like “You’ve always exploited us to get rich, so now goddamn it we’re going to exploit ourselves and get rich.” The irony, self pity, self-hatred are now conscious, celebrated. This has to do with what we were talking about regarding “Westward” and postmodern recursion. If I have a real enemy, a patriarch for my patricide, it’s probably Barth and Coover and Burroughs, even Nabokov and Pynchon. Because, even though their self-consciousness and irony and anarchism served valuable purposes, were indispensable for their times, their aesthetic’s absorption by the U.S. commercial culture has had appalling consequences for writers and everyone else. The TV essay’s really about how poisonous postmodern irony’s become. You see it in David Letterman and Gary Shandling and rap. But you also see it in fucking Rush Limbaugh, who may well be the Antichrist. You see it in T. C. Boyle and Bill Vollmann and Lorrie Moore. It’s pretty much all there is to see in your pal Mark Leyner. Leyner and Limbaugh are the nineties’ twin towers of postmodern irony, hip cynicism, a hatred that winks and nudges you and pretends it’s just kidding.


Wallace was the original anti-hipster, whatever that godforsaken word means. which is all quite amusing, really, wallace is attempting to climb up and over pynchon et al to rediscover some kind of sincerity, and whatshisname is trying to do the same to wallace, but then i don't think our critic manqué actually has any idea where he wants to end up, except maybe to go right back down to the fake machismo of hemingway? one gets the impression that wallace's sincerity would be too much for him.
I read this interview after having read and loved gravity's rainbow, so wallace was in my bad books from then on, and on my first attempt at infinite jest i gave up almost straight away. the college intake interview scene with all of the ridiculously esoteric paper topics on things like the feminist erotics of byzantine art or whatever (i can't remember and i'm not going to check, dammit) just rubbed me the wrong way. i think i was feeling insecure in my lack of being a prodigy. pride! ouch! anyway, i eventually got over that, hell, it was probably even good for me, and finished the book and was impressed, not so much by the verbal pyrotechnics, though it was occasionally very funny, but by the very non-judgmental, non-ironic representation of addiction, the don gately story to accompany the entertainment as addiction strand. the whole AA/NA etc phenomenon is fascinating, and to belittle the power and effects of addiction as our pretend-critic does through his "you're all just drug haters!" approach is just, plain, sad. maybe our koala (soon to be extinct!) critic can do all the heroin he wants and stop anytime he likes, but i can't get the image of cartman on maury out of my head. i think both personas are as "authentic" as each other.
back to pynchon, though, i never found his stuff deathly "ironic," or maybe i find that kind of black humour more sincere than anything else. But to anyone who has struggled with gravity's rainbow, have you ever tried mason & dixon? that is possibly my favourite pynchon novel. you're much more invested in the two main characters, and it is superbly written. not to mention funny as hell and all historical and shit. possibly his last great novel? i much prefer it to against the day, which just didn't hold together for me at all, or the entertaining but slight inherent vice, although i am only halfway through that last one, so... and i shall be quiet now.
posted by los_aburridos at 6:07 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


A good portion of the "meta" of reading House Of Leaves is having to deal with all those footnotes and footnotes of footnotes and pages of text which go THROUGH a stack of pages and then turn around and come BACK through the pages again....


Oh man I'm getting nightmarish flashbacks.
BTW, what was the name of the villain in Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who episode? And how did he mess with Amy and Rory? And what is the thing that makes the House of Leaves so scary? Think about it...
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:13 PM on May 25, 2011


I really enjoyed the article - it was like meeting a weird guy at a party who had too much to drink and started declaiming his Theory of Everything. He was completely unfair (and often objectively wrong) but it was entertaining. My favorite bit was when he explained that Eggers raised his little brother (and wrote a memoir about that time in his life), and later wrote another book about the Lost Boys of the Sudan - and somehow tied those ideas as though Eggers was some kind of creep who takes advantage of little boys. He all but accused him of pederasty! Also, I am confident that he has no idea what a Calvinist is, because he deploys the word as though it were just a nasty pejorative meaning "Christian" - I mean, really. Selby? A Calvinist?!? Because he "believes in a loving God"? The nastiest bit, though, was when he quoted Jonathan Franzen out of context as though Franzen agreed that DFW, his best friend, killed himself just to be an asshole.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:29 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


BTW, what was the name of the villain in Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who episode?

I think there were three villains in that episode. Boredom, Disbelief, and Incoherency.
posted by hippybear at 7:12 PM on May 25, 2011


The only Irony here is that Foster Wallace was, if anything, the anti-Hipster. Genuine to the dead center of his bones. In one of his interviews he talks about teaching a writing course and how the #1 thing his students hated to be seen as was sentimental. They were willing to appear perverse and awful and cruel, but sentimental was the ultimate diss. And he hated that, and I think it shows in his work.
posted by GilloD at 7:13 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


as callmejay wrote, wallace was completely anti-irony

(the following is mostly copypasted from a Memail conversation I had yesterday about this very thing:)

First of all, I think it's important to distinguish between irony in general and the reflexive kneejerk irony Wallace is criticizing in 'E Unibus Plurum,' the essay which is always being alluded to when discussions about Wallace and irony spring up. Wallace critiques the way(s) in which television, over the last however many years, has begun to couch its necessary advertising in ironic don't-we-all-hate-advertising messages, apparently critiquing itself before you even get a chance to and thus removing any objections you might have towards the advertising, which is a cynical sort of move which sort of congratulates the viewer for being smarter than all those other rubes who fall for advertising, because you're smart enough to know that it's just an ad for Pringles, and ads are for suckers, and Pringles knows that, and Pringles knows that you know that, so let's go laugh at those suckers and why not have some Pringles? The chips for people too smart for advertising. In the essay, Wallace explores the ways in which this defensive and cynical irony has snuck into fiction. The best example I always think of is that South Park episode where the kids don't want to play softball and the whole thing is structured like a cheesy Disney sports movie, with the same lazy plot beats and the Big Game at the end and the one slo-motion game-ending gesture-- which, South Park is making fun of the tropes, but it's also relying on them, and while it's encouraging you to laugh at the sorts of morons who like those simplistic stories it's also entertaining you with exactly that same simplistic story.

Which isn't to say that there isn't some interesting stuff going on in that episode, but at the same time, there's something pretty deeply cynical about a bit of art that gets away with its cliches by pointing at those cliches and saying, 'These are cliches.' In 1993, Wallace saw that sort of thing creeping into US fiction, and the cultural purview as a whole, and he saw that it was simultaneously creating this atmosphere in which anyone who did something sincerely, for the pure crystal pleasure of it, was seen as naive or unsophisticated or just kind of dumb, and that bred in people the need to sneer at anything and everything as a primary response. Which is pretty shitty.

That's the sort of irony and ridicule Wallace is talking about, which isn't to be found, at least for the most part, in Infinite Jest. There's a lot of joking around in the book, and a lot of humor and yes even irony, but there's also a large helping of sincerity and emotion and humanity, and the real hero of the novel (Mario!!!!) is a man wholly and literally incapable of laughing at others or judging something before examining it.

So I don't think it's fair to say that Wallace is completely anti-irony: He's anti-irony as a way of life, as a shield, as an excuse to crawl inward and hide from engagement with the real world and responsibility for one's decisions and applications. Wallace liked a good bit of irony as well as the next fellow-- but not as reflex.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:38 PM on May 25, 2011 [11 favorites]



So I don't think it's fair to say that Wallace is completely anti-irony: He's anti-irony as a way of life, as a shield, as an excuse to crawl inward and hide from engagement with the real world and responsibility for one's decisions and applications. Wallace liked a good bit of irony as well as the next fellow-- but not as reflex.


This sums up my sentiments exactly. I haven't read the article yet, but having seen so many people post their regrets upon reading it, I'm not sure I should? But I guess I should. But I just -- I love when DFW threads pop up because I feel like this is the only place I can really read thoughts from people who understand him and what it means to read him, much more than I do, and I'm glad the thread is here for that i guess. But anyone who writes something like -- "his is where DFW’s suicide has really paid off – without a corpse, it’s harder to convince your audience that insincerity qualifies you for victim status, no matter how much you “struggle” with it."
I'm sorry, that's disgusting, inhuman and nowhere near something that should be a part of any literary criticism.
posted by sweetkid at 8:02 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


ah, fair point, shakespeherian, i had intended the reference to callmejay's post to indicate that i was referring to "ironic detachment," but it certainly wasn't clear. that's what i get for being lazy. although... i would almost be tempted to stand by the position as read, that he is anti-irony as such, because one could perhaps argue that though he does employ irony it is because he cannot escape it, it is so culturally ingrained, and hence when it does appear it is in an attempt to undo itself. just because he uses it doesn't mean he has to like it. but it's been too long since i've read the book, so i shan't.
still, in reference to your south park example, not every parody is cynical, surely. sometimes it is done for "the pure crystal pleasure of it," no? sometimes it's just plain funny, and a hell of a lot more entertaining than watching the mighty ducks.
posted by los_aburridos at 10:00 PM on May 25, 2011


I did read the article, but what I really regret is reading the comments on the exiledonline site, which are so fist pumping and yay and "I have never read a word of David Foster Wallace, but I love this and so agree..." THE HELL.
posted by sweetkid at 10:04 PM on May 25, 2011


enough with the trophes already
posted by clavdivs at 10:36 PM on May 25, 2011


Nothing hipster about him.

I imagine ax-grindy and superficial essayists might be fooled into thinking so by all those bandanna-wearing author head-shots on his books' dust jackets.
posted by aught at 6:10 AM on May 26, 2011


I think the dude was just pissed off and needed to get some DFW related grievances off his chest. Same thing happened to me today, except it was against a local "Adult Alternative Rock" station in KC.

I know WTF. You can't call yourself fucking "modern rock" and then play an Offspring song from 1993!

What is a Ramon Glazov and why do I care what he thinks about all these things?

He's the Tegan and/or Sara of literary criticism! How dare you ask!


That's a ridiculous comparison. Tegan and Sara have 54 million plays on Last.fm, have released six albums, won numerous awards, etc etc.

Ramon Glazov is "a slightly strange student who writes pretentious poetry, intriguing prose and brilliant emails"

I think "who is this guy and why should we care" is a valid response because the content on its own is not strong enough to stand. The only way the post could possibly be interesting is if this Glazer guy has some special relationship or insight (or background, credibility, experience as a critic, etc.) that could add some value to his spewth.

It is a bad post, imo. I certainly didn't flag it b/c I love both DFW and Vollmann (and to be honest, I haven't read much Eggers and didn't finish ASHW... but I will always like him for Might Magazine), so I'll take whatever discussion I can get. :D
posted by mrgrimm at 8:17 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Y'all dissin Eggers probably just never witnessed the brilliance that was Smarter Feller.

DFW totally stole that dog puppet idea for The Pale King. He just changed the Rottweiler to a Doberman.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:24 AM on May 26, 2011


all those bandanna-wearing author head-shots

I don't know if you're aware, but the bandanna thing was because he would pour sweat and the bandannas made him less self-couscious about it. He had problems at book readings where it would start actually dripping off his head onto the page, which I imagine is sort of terrifying for any self-conscious person.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:47 AM on May 26, 2011


He had problems at book readings where it would start actually dripping off his head onto the page, which I imagine is sort of terrifying for any self-conscious person.

Which, re: David Cusk, goes to show once again that every character in his novels is actually David Wallace.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:53 AM on May 26, 2011


Including when they're actually David Wallace.
posted by neuromodulator at 3:06 PM on May 26, 2011


Huh. I didn't know the guy on the left had a column in The eXiled.
posted by shadytrees at 1:45 PM on May 29, 2011


"Oh, come on, the guy devotes space to dissing DFW's musical tastes. I'm not sure he actually deserves fair criticism."

The thing about responding to critics is that you're not really responding to the actual critic. Unless you harbor the same kind of "omg imagine if this actually got his attention and he read what I wrote!" fantasy that a lot of people seem to be attributing to Glazov here. You can respond to him in that fashion, but really, you're responding on behalf of the folks who might read his review and make judgements on it. Again, I'm not saying it's your job to do it, but if you are going to refute what he says, folks are going to take you a lot more seriously if you make an actual valid critique of his essay.
posted by Eideteker at 6:23 AM on May 31, 2011


I've never read it as an iBook (or anything as an iBook), but I think that there is something purposefully enjoyable/frustrating/funny/annoying about having to leaf over 900-odd pages to get to a particular endnote even when you're in the middle of a sentence or clause or whatever only to find out that the endnote is '(allegedly).' Or of being in the middle of a sentence in the main text, hit an endnote number, then you page over through hundreds of pages and there's like a 28-page endnote that contains a complete narrative, with its own footnotes, and you read it and it's in tiny print and the whole time you have your thumb over on page 473, vainly trying to hold your place in the middle of that sentence. I think that experience would be very different if the endnotes are just hyperlinks or however they do them on the iBook. I mean, it will still be substantially the same book, but I think part of Wallace's intentional uphill-climbing enterprise as set out for the reader is maybe slightly diminished.

I got angry just reading that. ENDNOTES? I always assumed they were footnotes. ENDNOTES. Well, I am officially never reading that book, the rage would certainly be fatal.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:17 AM on June 6, 2011


I think part of Wallace's intentional uphill-climbing enterprise as set out for the reader is maybe slightly diminished.

Hm. I like the endnotes, but I would actually prefer being able to quickly link. Like most people, I just used a bookmark for the endnote place.

I guess I don't think flipping to the back of the book is that much different experience than clicking a link, loading a new page, and then clicking back, etc...

intentional uphill-climbing enterprise

I don't think it's "intentional uphill-climbing" - I honestly believe DFW when he says you can read the book without reading the notes. I disagree with him completely, but I believe he was sincere when (I think) he said that.

the rage would certainly be fatal.

!!
posted by mrgrimm at 8:23 AM on June 6, 2011


I also think the point with endnotes, even if they do contain primary (not supplementary) info is that you can read them at your own choosing, i.e. when the notes appear or all together at some grouped point (e.g end of section). They are certainly not critical to the primary story flow, imo.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:25 AM on June 6, 2011


I got angry just reading that. ENDNOTES? I always assumed they were footnotes. ENDNOTES. Well, I am officially never reading that book, the rage would certainly be fatal.

Yeah, the endnotes sort of sunk my go at the book - 2lbs+ and flipping back and forth over a thousand pages does not make for a friendly commute read. If there was a footnotes edition, or a link-enabled ePub format, I would snap it up in a heartbeat.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:37 AM on June 6, 2011


The endnotes thing was frustrating until I realized that you really, really need two bookmarks. Then it magically becomes No Big Deal at all.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:21 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even with double bookmarks, I still had trouble with it on the bus. Moral: Public transport hates literacy.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:13 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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