David Foster Wallace
Infinite Jest is beautiful. Conflict without resolution.
>>By Capricious (Saturday, 25 Jan 2003 12:58)
The jest. What an incredible compilation of all those pieces of life we tend to overlook... Crossroads without a decisions. Two avenues, and only one cane to help get across. A traffic jam of decision and indecision.
>>By Ryan Swan (Saturday, 25 Jan 2003 12:58)
i'm not that smart, but his books give me hope...
>>By rxchamp (Tuesday, 13 May 2003 05:07)
conflict without resolution-aint life full enough of that shit?this seems to be the big trend in modern novels.i thought infinite jest was the greatest novel i'd ever read till it just stopped.i like to work at my reading but after 1000 odd pages i expect the author to finish their job
>>By goddog (Friday, 3 Oct 2003 21:27)
> i expect the author to finish their job
What was his job? seriously. It's art. Most of the good stuff is meant to disturb. You're disturbed, good job DFW, neh?
>>By greenfyre (Sunday, 5 Oct 2003 22:17)
there are a hell of a lot of disturbing things in this world.the newspaper is full of them,and i dont consider that to be art.personally i think a literary novelist's job is to enlighten us,present a coherent worldview,and tell an interesting story.when dfw just ended things in a flashback he failed to tell an interesting story by failing to tell the story.and he failed to present a coherent worldview by not putting it to the test of resolution.
>>By goddog (Monday, 6 Oct 2003 03:13)
> there are a hell of a lot of disturbing things in this world.the newspaper is full of them,and i dont consider that to be art.
I didn't say disturbing things are art, I said a lot of good art is disturbing
>personally i think a literary novelist's job is to enlighten us,present a coherent worldview,and tell an interesting story.
Must it be all 3? Seems to me these conditions collectively, and even individually exclude a lot of good books.
> enlighten us
Precludes all works that are emotive without necessarilly educating us about anything. I'm not saying they're art, but this still excludes a lot of pretty good books.
> present a coherent worldview
Precludes all works about the unknown and the unknowable, as well as those that seek to present insight into communities, subcultures, places, times, and perspectives for which it is not possible, even anti-thetical. eg holocaust literature, drug subculture, mental illness, different philosophical systems (eg Zen), etc.
>when dfw just ended things in a flashback he failed to tell an interesting story by failing to tell the story.and he failed to present a coherent worldview by not putting it to the test of resolution.
Subjective. I thought it was a damn interesting story. As to resolved, what is resolution? A non-concept in Zen practice. In many works (eg Hardy, Shakespear) the "resolution" is just to kill everybody. Are any issues resolved? The pile of corpses creates the illusion of resolution, but usually little has actually been resolved.
Even more (eg Pynchon, Pellevin, Winterson, Barth) just change the circumstance of the protagonist without necessarily resolving the core issues.
Which is not to say you should like DFW or IJ, just that your or my subjective likes and dislikes do not constitute a basis for an objective criteria of what is good or bad literature. BTW, don't think the ending was a flashback, it was the rest of the book that was the flashback, but then I do need to read it again.
>>By greenfyre (Monday, 6 Oct 2003 14:39)
A fairly cogent argument, considering goddog lobbed it up for you with all those parameters for a literary novelist's artistic creation ('enlighten us'? 'coherent worldview'? I'm no postmodern wank but didn't that jazz die with Henry James?). To goddog I'd just reference 'Ulysses', which makes no pretense of enlightenment, presents 3 worldviews that are barely coherent within themselves, and arguably tells the most mundane story in the history of modern letters, barring perhaps Wallace's own "The Depressed Person" and that story written from the actual perspective of a fly on a wall. Is "Ulysses" literary art? If it isn't, then good luck finding something that is.
At the same time, Greenfyre, you don't really convince me either. What example of Holocaust literature, and I'd say the Holocaust tales that achieves the level of art are few and far between, has its basis in the unknown or unknowable (Levi? Weisel? They seemed to know all too acutely). I have never seen a literary masterpiece that uses either drug culture or mental illness (barring Inf.Jest for the first, maybe...) as a central theme for "present insight".
As for the whole subjective thing; again, not to pull the pomo card, but we could argue about the "objective" criteria for literature for ten years and never get close. In fact, people way, way smarter than us have debated just such a thing-which must be why libraries banned Ulysses, Catcher in the Rye, and Huckleberry Finn, and why no university will touch Hemingway at the moment, the misogynist bastard.
>>By Ortho Stice (Friday, 19 Dec 2003 21:55)
I have never seen a literary masterpiece that uses either drug culture or mental illness (barring Inf.Jest for the first, maybe...) as a central theme for "present insight".
Sound and the Fury
As I Lay Dying
Confessions of an Opium Eater
Man With the Golden Arm
Under the Volcano
Don Juan series by Carlos Castenada
I think the earlier group is better, but people haven't really been writing of the drug culture long enough, nor has it been around long enough to weigh against mental illness -- but clearly, mental illness is critical to literature, just as are writers who conduct their practice while stoned or drunk (Sartre for instance, wrote heavily juiced up) Joyce himself said he was possibly insane while writing Ulysses -- High art always broaches the limits of sanity, and thus it is a constant theme. Though I believe him God, Jesu was undoubtedly insane, and if you look at the parables as if you were analyzing high art, you find the discontentment of the so-called clinically depressed -- i.e, as Shakespeare himself alludes, God is and was insane.
I'm a writer and though I've never read DfW, a lot of friends say I should, that my work resonates with a lot of his themes and styles, as well as his length.
>>By No Qualities (Friday, 19 Dec 2003 22:36)
Ah, but does it resonate with his girth? That, as some female associates of mine say, is the true measure of reader satisfaction. Then again, Borges managed to please a great many people with his small offerings.
No Q, you whacked me on the mental illness front. I didn't give that nearly enought thought before typing it out. 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' alone would have shut me up. Still, I don't agree with your collection of drug inspired novels, or, rather, I don't agree that drugs are the engine that fuels their insight. 'Under the Volcano', 'Man w/ the Golden Arm', 'Junkie', 'Basketball Diaries', 'The Quiet American' etc... are all fantastic works, but they use chemicals-much as you say the authors do/did themselves- as devices to explore already existing themes rather than constituting the central themes. I realize the distinction is thin, and possibly non-existent.
And I can't credit that deceptive fruitcake Castaneda with anything but visiting New Agey/Healing Stone/Earth Mother living hell upon me through the residents of my acid-casualty barefoot patchouli-reek neighborhood.
>>By Ortho Stice (Saturday, 12 Jun 2004 00:33)
In the midst of IJ right now, just finished the Eschaton chapter, where the players simulate World War, quite possibly the most tragically hilarious, profoundly slapstick chapter I've encountered. I got that fleeting epiphonetic feeling I normally get at the end of a powerful novel when I finished the chapter, and then I realized I'm not even half way done with the book.
If anyone remembers the chapter, would you agree with my assertion that the chapter is an allegorical exploration of the post-modern literary transformation that entailed writers becoming aware of their own presence in the works they write, and subsequently incorporating themselves indirectly into novels that were before imagined to be separate, omniscient stories.
Wallace discusses this post-modern condition, negatively to some extent, in this really long interview that you can find on Google if you type, "Irony David Foster Wallace." It's the second URL from the top.
>>By granther (Saturday, 12 Jun 2004 01:26)
inspirational for me but thats what writing is all about.We are all victims or celebrants of our own reality when we read anothers work.
How do I love thee
let me count the ways.
Fortunately or not, certain pieces or phrases resonate in a similar fashion and allow us to celebrate or berate said work.
Perhaps I will post some of my line and test your realities
Here,s wishing us all a degree of sublime being and a tremendous belly laugh at the Infinite Jest of life.
>>By sutcliffe (Monday, 18 Jan 2010 12:48)
The discussion board is currently closed.