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Is there a David Foster Wallace character in Jeffrey Eugenides' new novel?
October 10, 2011 6:45 AM   Subscribe

"Madeleine encounters Leonard in the lit crit seminar. He's a hulking, attractive guy who alternates between silence and bursts of intellectual virtuosity. He chews tobacco. He wears a bandanna. He's David Foster Wallace." (via Slate)

Did Jeffrey Eugenides base one of the characters in his new novel on David Foster Wallace? Some reviewers think so (NYMag, Slate). Eugenides thinks that "they’re reading too much into the bandanna."

Excerpt from The Marriage Plot
posted by GraceCathedral (74 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure how you put a bandanna-wearing tobacco-chewing depression-suffering self-analyzing-to-the-point-of-mental-laceration genius into a book without thinking people might maybe perhaps a little think of DFW.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:51 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where on earth did New York Magazine get the idea that the appropriate second reference was "Foster Wallace"? This snoot is appalled.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:00 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I dig living in a future where you can read a book review with an off-hand embedded link to New Order.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:23 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Timeline of literature's finest - your quick guide to 10 million years of writers!

1. Homer (c. 850 BC)
2. Jane Austen (1775 - 1817)
3. David Foster Wallace (1962 - 2008)
4. Abigail Susanne Thripnoddy Jones (2067 - 2122)
5. Robert Akira Carlos Svensson Ng (3476 - 3477)
6. Zoot Binx Slappoo Jigglebutt Farquah King-Kong (6933 - 10954)
7. Aleph-153849 (336772 - 336772.5)
8. Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk (784211 - ?)
9. {^*&;><!} (5436723 - c. 850 BC)
10. fU zA gA gO gO xA gU bI hU bA (8th time parallel - 14th dimension of the infinite grooviverse)
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:28 AM on October 10, 2011 [69 favorites]


I'm not sure exactly why but I love that comment, the quidnunc kid.
posted by sweetkid at 7:46 AM on October 10, 2011


This thread appears to be going nowhere, so let me vainly offer the following.

In my circle in the mid-1980s almost all of my friends were frighteningly intelligent, wore bandanas, and rolled cigarettes. I suspect Eugenides was familiar with a similar group. David Foster Wallace was part of one as well, perhaps.

The point made by shakespeherian is relevant, but raises the question of why authors are expected to edit characters so that they are unlike real people.
posted by Glomar response at 7:47 AM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk definitely doesn't deserve to be on this list; what a poseur!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:48 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your favorite author from the 790th century sucks...
posted by Billiken at 7:53 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Defamation, Glomar response, might explain why authors are expected to edit characters so that they are unlike real people.
posted by notyou at 7:58 AM on October 10, 2011


What crap. Straight from Ng to Slappoo?! That "quick guide" isn't worth its weight in oatmeal if it leaves off 01001000 00101110 00100000 01000011 01101111 01110010 01100101 00100000 01010100 01100001 01110100 01100101 01110010 01110011, a writer unmatched in exposing the cheaply bought glamour and wilie-beguilies of the Nerovian days before the Great Unplugging.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:02 AM on October 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yes, of course Gx8 doesn't. But try taking her off the list. She defined herself onto all lists of authors circa ?-12 units.
posted by ~ at 8:05 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk was fine, but I think her plurunumson Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk took her somewhat cold style and made stories really relevant to ordinary Centarurans.

Also, I gotta say I prefer Aleph-1. He had that certain undecidable quality to his writing.
posted by kmz at 8:07 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm getting a little sick and tired of these literature lists being nothing but collections of sentient individuals. What about all the great works by unconscious but intelligent lifeforms, hive minds, or unknowable eldritch energy fields out there? No, we get pathetic racist tripe like 'of course we don't read their books our minds have a fundamentally different organization' and 'haven't they slaughtered trillions of sentient beings?'. The fact that a work may or may not be comprehensible to a individual sentience, or may or may not have been produced by an entity that regards us as little more than bacteria to be exterminated, is irrelevant to a rigorous critical study of literature.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:14 AM on October 10, 2011 [13 favorites]


One of the mailmen in my neighborhood that I see on my runs I am convinced is DFW in hiding.

Of course, I haven't got a straight on look at his face yet, but from a distance he looks EXACTLY how I imagine David Foster Wallace looks based on close study of the author photos on the three books of his I know.

Why is Eugenides so prickly about the DFW comparisons? It's a smoke screen. DFW wrote his character himself.

I'll post something celebratory when I confirm his identity. Or, he will promise me access to his infinite knowledge in exchange for my silence.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:15 AM on October 10, 2011


and risk the wrath of snoot to call her Gonk Gonk.
posted by victors at 8:16 AM on October 10, 2011


Huh, I thought Aleph-153849 was an excellent selection. Very progressive to choose a star, and a red dwarf * at that!


(*Before you all start jumping down my throat, yes, I know we're not supposed to call them that but I always forget which pc term is in galactic favor at the moment.)
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:17 AM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fer sure there's no Eugenides character in any of DFW's work.
posted by chavenet at 8:17 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


And where are the works by Ba-donk-a-donk-donk-donk-donk One of the most well-rounded authors in all the timelines, and she doesn't show up here? What a worthless list!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:45 AM on October 10, 2011


If David Foster Wallace had habitually worn, say, a hat in the shape of a lobster, and this character habitually wore such a hat, then I wouldn't believe Eugenides when he said that this character wasn't based on Wallace. But Wallace is not the only person in history to wear a bandana.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:45 AM on October 10, 2011


Look, Robert Akira Carlos Svensson Ng's early work is fantastic (May-August '76), but toward the end he really fell off hard.
posted by davidjmcgee at 8:46 AM on October 10, 2011


Well, the big literary shift came in the Year of Quantase Synthohol With Free Synthohol Anonymous Enrollment Flyer, when, following a period of disdain for narrative structures and sentient privilege, the Nobel committee opted to award their prize for literature to a geiger counter bolted to a floor in northern Japan, whose clicks were simulcast across the mesh for anyone who felt their lives were lacking in constant clicking or who needed a sufficiently random Poisson distribution for their day-to-day activities. The piece was published under the name 'Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, You Can't Stop the Decay of the Atomic Clock,' by an Austrian immigrant who took up the stewardship of the piece while simultaneously denying authorship. The award coincided with the descalation of text as the primary form of linear communication, in favor of animated pictograms (called 'Gifs' in the parlance of the times, thought to be derived from the archaic English word 'gift,' referring to a material possession given freely to another) shared by denizens of the mesh. Critics hailed the piece as visionary, a long-playing statement on temporality, error, and the impossibility of true rebirth due to thermodynamic constraints, while also commenting on the deprioritizing of linear forms of communication.

Interestingly, the Nobel was awarded to the same piece of equipment (which had required a few refurbishings in the meantime) some two thousand years later, when it tocked out the sequence (converted from a representation of the local probability density produced by the equipment):
01110100 01101111 00100000 01100010 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100010 01100101 00101100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01100001 01101110 01110011 01110111 01100101 01110010 00101110.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:48 AM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Returning briefly to the present, I don't care much for the aggrieved tone the reviewers or bloggers take, "How dare he write about the David?" DFW has been canonized so quickly and comprehensively that he risks being turned into a punchline. If Eugenides wants to write a DFW character then judge him on the job he does, not on whether or not he had a relationship with Wallace (and therefore, presumably, the right to write about him), or on how his book stacks up against Infinite Jest (as if mentioning DFW in your novel gets you automatically selected for a cagematch with the man himself).
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:48 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Timeline of literature's finest - your quick guide to 10 million years of writers!

We can quibble about "finest," but there's no denying that Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings is the most significant writer Earth has yet produced.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:50 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Meredith Rand, Shane Drinion. If I remember anything from that book it's The Compliance Branch (pdf) and Meredith Rand.

I can't be the only one who was hoping for a personal anecdote about smoking dope with David Foster Wallace.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:53 AM on October 10, 2011



1) I'm going to write a book in which everyone is intense, intelligent, wears a bandana and is named David.

2) I will then emphatically deny that it's about DFW.

3) Profit.
posted by oddman at 8:55 AM on October 10, 2011


I lost my shit at "Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk". Thanks for that.
posted by word_virus at 8:56 AM on October 10, 2011


Wait, seriously? Robert Akira Carlos Svensson Ng gets #5 but Placo Blagvard "Ring Ring" Xu doesn't even make the list? And Zoot Binx Slappoo Jigglebutt Farquah King-Kong? FOR REALS? No one but over-educated mind-harvesters were bothering to read "him" past the 81st century. This list is a freaking joke.
posted by gwint at 8:58 AM on October 10, 2011


Why is Eugenides so prickly about the DFW comparisons?

Because he wants to distract everyone from the fact that there's also a character named Mitchell Grammaticus. Which, of course, leads me to suspect that Eugenides' DFW character was originally named Davidio Fostronious Wallanous.
posted by The World Famous at 9:11 AM on October 10, 2011


It's funny because Middlesex is probably better than any fiction DFW wrote.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:16 AM on October 10, 2011


Could have been worse anyway, Rick Moody could have written a DFW character.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:25 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's funny because Middlesex is probably better than any fiction DFW wrote.

Mm. Clearly.
posted by xod at 9:26 AM on October 10, 2011


Upon reading the the FPP quote, I thought Danielle Steele had written a DFW character.
posted by xod at 9:27 AM on October 10, 2011


It's funny because Middlesex is probably better than any fiction DFW wrote.

'Probably'? Like, you haven't read any fiction DFW wrote, so you aren't sure? Or you haven't read Middlesex so you aren't sure? Or like there's an objective aesthetic scale at the core of the universe that hasn't been discovered yet but you're confident once it's uncovered Middlesex will be three notches higher than Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:29 AM on October 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Slate: Why was someone so smart unable to think himself out of depression?

I'm not sure what qualities it takes to write a sentence like that, but 'intelligence' isn't jumping to mind.
posted by gurple at 9:31 AM on October 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


'Probably'? Like, you haven't read any fiction DFW wrote, so you aren't sure? Or you haven't read Middlesex so you aren't sure?

Nah, I've read Middlesex and Infinite Jest and Girl with Girl with Curious Hair. I havn't read The Pale King or Brief Interviews with Hideous Men so I am hedging my bets. If you tell me that The Pale King or Brief Interviews with Hideous Men Are actually DFWs best works I will believe you and dutifully read them.

I am a huge fan of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, so that is why I stipulated fiction.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:37 AM on October 10, 2011


I also went to the Illinois State Fair after reading DFWs piece on. So I am qualified to state that the Illinois state fair is probably the best state fair.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:45 AM on October 10, 2011


I really enjoyed Stanislaw Lem's review of this thread when I read it in 1978.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:48 AM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I only found out about this thread because it was featured in The Talk of The Town in the last issue of The New Yorker.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:57 AM on October 10, 2011


Slate: Why was someone so smart unable to think himself out of depression?

I'm not sure what qualities it takes to write a sentence like that, but 'intelligence' isn't jumping to mind.


The author of the article seems to be holding that question up as something people often wonder about those who suffer from depression. And people do wonder this, as if you can just say, "Hey, it's not so bad! Just take a walk and snap out of it!"

He later quotes, "The sharper your brain, the more it cut you up." So I'm pretty sure he gets it.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 10:29 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Could have been worse anyway, Rick Moody could have written a DFW character.

Hey, I resemble that remark! (I would pay good money to read that, btw.)

If you tell me that The Pale King or Brief Interviews with Hideous Men Are actually DFWs best works I will believe you and dutifully read them.

Definitely not The Pale King, but yes to Brief Interviews and definitely yes to Oblivion, particularly the title story. Wallace is at his best in short stories, and while Girl with Curious Hair is good, it doesn't compare to the latter two collections.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:35 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk Gonk's best work is "The Nectarine Tree", a beautiful meditation on symbiosis.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:42 AM on October 10, 2011


Thanks, I will check those out.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2011


Brief Interviews is far and away my favorite DFW book.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:55 AM on October 10, 2011


Brief Interviews is my favorite as well. I also really liked Middlesex, but I'm not sure how I feel about Eugenides (inadvertantly?) writing DFW or a DFW-like character into an academic love triangle. Even in the excerpt it didn't ring true to me.
posted by GraceCathedral at 11:22 AM on October 10, 2011


Feh. Could as easily been Hank Williams Jr. Except for the smart part.
posted by cookie-k at 11:27 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's funny because Middlesex is probably better than any fiction DFW wrote.

Nah, I've read Middlesex and Infinite Jest and Girl with Girl with Curious Hair. I havn't read The Pale King or Brief Interviews with Hideous Men so I am hedging my bets. If you tell me that The Pale King or Brief Interviews with Hideous Men Are actually DFWs best works I will believe you and dutifully read them.

Pale King and Brief Interviews are fantastic, but IJ is Wallace's greatest work, and - and honestly there are not many pieces of art I'd get so Humean judgment about - it is on a level that Middlesex doesn't approach. Granted, I loved Middlsex; it is an incredible book. But whereas Middlesex is a superb work of fiction, IJ is just...something else entirely. It captures something on a much grander level than simply being an intelligently woven story, great as that story might be. Eugenides, Franzen et al can write one helluva story about a family, but DFW can write a story about a family that captures an entire time and comments/unpacks philosophies and conditions of the current human existence in ways that are just unmatched. It's like you know how when you read a work of old philosophy that was so controversial at the time it was written, and now we read it and are like, 'well yeah, duh? What's the big deal?' because it seems so intuitive? That's the genius DFW has, at least imho.

Of course Eugenides will deny his character is based on DFW. He must; that is what good authors do. It would be way to easy to say simply, oh, I based him off DFW. That be like Beckett coming out and just being like, 'yeah, Godot is God; you guys solved it!" And honestly, perhaps he didn't do it consciously, exactly. But DFW has become such a pervasive figure, especially in the lit world (and ok, sure lots of people wear bandannas, chew tabacco and are depressed literary types - but come on; lots of people probably where jeans a black turtleneck and work in the tech industry, but you can't write that shit down without assuming that people will recognize the most iconic version of it), and I'm sure he will pop up all over the place in fiction in the coming decades - because all good authors will have read him (and indeed even his prose style will remain this sort of influential behemoth that gets absorbed and accepted as just part of art form in the way that Bachian harmony or Beethovenian form has (and no one complains about rips off)), and most will have identified with him in that deep way that people do with DFW, and he's such a character in real life that I don't doubt he will seep in. The question is: is that bad? Or: who cares? I will read the marriage plot and it's probably pretty decent, given its author. And if a character is based on DFW, then cool; I love DFW and it'd be interesting to see a good authors fictionalized version of a young DFW.

This article is like the pointless English major close reading bullshit that makes me wanna scream 'but did you like the fucking book?' Your point about comparing it with some other work to try and 'understand' it is fucking stupid!
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:27 AM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Really the worst part about being marooned in the past is the thought of having to wait 300,000 years before I could ever again mink any of the tactophes based on Aleph-153849's Phro Nem Sheller.
posted by straight at 11:28 AM on October 10, 2011


I know people like the intricate puzzle like aspects of IJ and the grand vision. I like it too, the little images of the phases of the moon, the copious footnotes, the sly little jokes, the explorations of tennis, eschaton, life at the halfway house. They are all great. I just can't help but think DFW was distracting himself with his own virtuosity. I would have liked to see his take on the kernel of IJ without the filigree, I think he was afraid to write about what he meant to explore, family and addiction.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:44 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


as if mentioning DFW in your novel gets you automatically selected for a cagematch with the man himself

This is an amazing idea, and sort of reminds me of the McSweeney's FAQ: The 'Snake Fight' Portion of Your Thesis Defence article.

Imagine fighting Hemingway in his prime. That man would fuck you up like a car crash in about ten seconds. Or Jane Austen, who would simply sit quietly in one corner of the ring, and sip tea in a highly dignified manner, while regarding you steadily until you submitted.
posted by urschrei at 11:45 AM on October 10, 2011


"Swoon-Worthy."
posted by xod at 11:47 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ad Hominem: my reading of IJ (and I hesitate to use the term 'reading', but here we are) conveyed what I consider some of the rawest explorations of inter-family dynamics and addiction in English-speaking 20th-century literature. We could probably go on a whole long thing about possible reasons why this might be so, and why DFW chose the format that he did, which would inevitably degenerate into internecine kaka-flinging about late postmodernism, so I'm just gonna skip it.

TL;DR: I totally understand why people dislike the form of IJ. I am also willing to state that so far as I'm concerned, it was both vitally necessary, and utterly devastating.
posted by urschrei at 11:50 AM on October 10, 2011


I don't dislike it at all. I think there are an awful lot of distractions.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2011


And I say that the distractions are the point.
posted by urschrei at 12:02 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The footnotes that break up the reading are the point? I can see using that kind of fiction effect to constantly pull the reader out of a narrative, but my opinion is that kind of trick doesn't add to the work.

I base this all on what I enjoyed reading, and what I felt was the most effective communicating to me. And Middlesex edges out IJ.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:09 PM on October 10, 2011


At any rate, in additing to reading Brief Interviews and Oblivion, this makes me want to re-read IJ and Middlesex. There are a lot of bits an peices of IJ still stuck in my head. Hal's secret smoking in the tunnels under Enfield. The brutal descriptions of Joelle smoking bits of carpet. Randy Lenz, high on cocaine in his crazy disguise.

I am not however, going to re read Four Fingers of Death. Take that Moody fans.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:25 PM on October 10, 2011


Of course Eugenides will deny his character is based on DFW. He must; that is what good authors do.

I don't think he has to, and in this day and age anyone with any sense knows that denying an accusation to the press leads to scandal. If Eugenides (whose work I like, though not as much as Wallace's -- or, skimming the thread, Rick Moody's) had just said, sure, there are aspects of Dave in there, and there are aspects of other people as well, the story and the hubbub would have vanished. Perhaps I'm naive to think Eugenides would want the hubbub to go away; I don't actually know that much about him as a media figure, just read Middlesex.

One of the articles I read on all this (can't remember if it was in this FPP or if I googled it up on my own) touched on people having claimed Richard Katz in Jonathan Franzen's Freedom also had a lot of DFW in him; that I couldn't see (maybe because of the physical description of Richard as looking like Muammar Gaddafi).
posted by aught at 2:13 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


DFW has a character who is transparently John Barth, in Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way; I can't imagine he'd have a problem with being in a colleague's fiction.
posted by longtime_lurker at 3:09 PM on October 10, 2011


I'm halfway through Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

It seems to be talking directly too me, and helping me realize some things about myself.

Also, its brilliant.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:38 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Compared to Infinite Jest, The Marriage Plot reads as a two-dimensional homage to a dated style.

Ugh. There is no such thing as a 'dated' style. Beowulf still thrills, jazz is still amazing, and realist painting will never go out.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:39 PM on October 10, 2011



Well, the big literary shift came in the Year of Quantase Synthohol With Free Synthohol Anonymous Enrollment Flyer, when, following a period of disdain for narrative structures and sentient privilege, the Nobel committee opted to award their prize for literature to a geiger counter bolted to a floor in northern Japan, whose clicks were simulcast across the mesh for anyone who felt their lives were lacking in constant clicking or who needed a sufficiently random Poisson distribution for their day-to-day activities.


This is what would happen if literature worked like modern art.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:41 PM on October 10, 2011


Really the worst part about being marooned in the past is the thought of having to wait 300,000 years before I could ever again mink any of the tactophes based on Aleph-153849's Phro Nem Sheller.
posted by straight at 11:28 AM on October 10 [+] [!]


Eponyhysterical. (Trust me...)
posted by chavenet at 3:41 PM on October 10, 2011


Hulking.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:19 PM on October 10, 2011


I am a huge fan of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, so that is why I stipulated fiction.

According to Jonathan Franzen (via Eric Alterman's account of a talk at The New Yorker Festival), that book is fiction, too.
posted by zhwj at 6:54 PM on October 10, 2011


Ugh. There is no such thing as a 'dated' style. Beowulf still thrills, jazz is still amazing, and realist painting will never go out.

From the perspective of the artist there absolutely is. Would an epic poem written in the language of Beowulf ever get published today as anything other than a novelty? Could you play straight-ahead Dixieland jazz and get a gig outside of an oyster bar? Styles from the past shouldn't lose their luster to us as listeners, but there's no sense in co-opting those grammars uncritically as creators because they came about as a response to different pressures than the ones in force now.
posted by invitapriore at 9:39 PM on October 10, 2011


Ugh. There is no such thing as a 'dated' style. Beowulf still thrills, jazz is still amazing, and realist painting will never go out.

From the perspective of the artist there absolutely is. Would an epic poem written in the language of Beowulf ever get published today as anything other than a novelty? Could you play straight-ahead Dixieland jazz and get a gig outside of an oyster bar? Styles from the past shouldn't lose their luster to us as listeners, but there's no sense in co-opting those grammars uncritically as creators because they came about as a response to different pressures than the ones in force now.


Beowulf pretty much has a perfectly formed videogame or RPG plot. I listen to a jazz station on digital radio, and my friends and I often wonder about when we can see it live. But we can't, so we usually just go and see rockabilly. You can incorporate a few relatively modern innovations but Renaissance art hasn't stopped being awe-inspiring, Chekhov is still a potent writer, and rock and roll will never die.

Styles from the past shouldn't lose their luster to us as listeners, but there's no sense in co-opting those grammars uncritically as creators because they came about as a response to different pressures than the ones in force now.

It's the quirky little pomo jokes that will fade. DFW takes facile metafiction to task, and his survives because it has real heart shining through.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:44 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh look. Somebody just sent me a listing for a 'triple surf instrumental bill'. Better call them up and tell them to cancel.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:45 PM on October 10, 2011


When {^*&;><!} incarnated as Wallace (bandanna and all) nobody batted an eyelash. Eyelashes had all been replaced by camsafe Faraday cages.
posted by benzenedream at 11:12 PM on October 10, 2011


DFW has a character who is transparently John Barth, in Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way; I can't imagine he'd have a problem with being in a colleague's fiction.

Not that this necessarily invalidates your point, but he considered that story an abject failure at what it was an attempt to accomplish, so I'd season lightly any conclusions that involve it.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:54 AM on October 11, 2011


Beowulf pretty much has a perfectly formed videogame or RPG plot. I listen to a jazz station on digital radio, and my friends and I often wonder about when we can see it live. But we can't, so we usually just go and see rockabilly. You can incorporate a few relatively modern innovations but Renaissance art hasn't stopped being awe-inspiring, Chekhov is still a potent writer, and rock and roll will never die.

I think you missed my point. There are plenty of works made today that are inspired by elements from works of the past, and that share a lot of elements of works with the past, which is trivially true because if they didn't they wouldn't be recognizable as human output. You keep telling me that things from the past are still awesome!!!, and I agree with you, but you're engaging in some slippery rhetoric by increasing the scope of what you consider a style far beyond what it was in the sentence you quoted -- realist painting, rock and roll, the short story? I read "style" in your quote as referencing something on the level of granularity of, say, Tin Pan Alley songs, which is a style that I wouldn't expect anyone to be especially moved by if I wrote in it today, and not as a result of any inherent want on its part. When you talk about a "dated style," "dated" doesn't apply to the works originally made in that style, it refers to how a new work in that style (in that style, i.e., not just adapting select elements of it) would be received now.
posted by invitapriore at 9:58 AM on October 11, 2011


First Amis, now this?

Middle aged authors writing what could be considered as coming-of-age novels tend to make me suspicious that they're pulling manuscripts from the back of the drawer. Dated, indeed.

Though I could be doing them an injustice.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:12 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read "style" in your quote as referencing something on the level of granularity of, say, Tin Pan Alley songs, which is a style that I wouldn't expect anyone to be especially moved by if I wrote in it today, and not as a result of any inherent want on its part.

What if Rufus Wainwright wrote it?

But seriously if the rockabilly kids put down their psychobilly affectations and flame shirts and started playing proper, straight from the 50s rockabilly people would be moved. Literally, since you can't not dance to that stuff.

When you talk about a "dated style," "dated" doesn't apply to the works originally made in that style, it refers to how a new work in that style (in that style, i.e., not just adapting select elements of it) would be received now.

That's my point. I think that people should try and perfect styles, to the point of almost making a pure form. Like, instead of forming a screamo band, why not just try and write the best Ramones song you can?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:24 PM on October 11, 2011


Because I'm a screamo artist interested in making screamo music?
posted by xod at 1:23 PM on October 12, 2011


Because you're not solving any new problems. One of the joys of art, to me, is seeing how my peers take in the world they've been given and what they put out in response. Their writing a perfect Ramones song doesn't tell me anything besides the fact that they're good at aping the Ramones and they like the Ramones enough to put that much effort into it.

Also, personally, I'm much less interested in the static process of distilling a form down to its Platonic ideal, partly because it's a fools gambit in light of the nature of human communication and partly because watching forms mutate in transmission is much more interesting and moving to me.
posted by invitapriore at 2:32 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, personally, I'm much less interested in the static process of distilling a form down to its Platonic ideal, partly because it's a fools gambit in light of the nature of human communication and partly because watching forms mutate in transmission is much more interesting and moving to me.

But I guess I'll have to settle for a few brief moments,
And watch it all dissolve into a single second,
And try to write it down into a perfect sonnet,
Or one foolish line


I want THAT.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:57 PM on October 13, 2011


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