My big reading project for this year was to read everything written by and about David Foster Wallace. Here are the final stats:
- 300+ journal articles (interviews, criticism, etc)
- a few hundred hours of audiobooks, tributes and interviews
- 17 books (~5874 pages .. with Infinite Jest as 20% of the total effort)
It was a good project, a lot of fun and a bit of a challenge to be in that mindset for nearly nine months of reading. It wasn’t exclusive, I also made it through 25-30 other books so far this year.
It’s hard to put into words how DFW’s writing makes me think and feel, to me he’s a goddamned magician.
Every time I read ‘Good Old Neon’ from Oblivion, I wait for the moment. It’s never as good as it was the first time, because it’s not the surprise that it once was. I remember the feeling, in the second floor of the Skokie Public Library, reading bits of ‘Oblivion’ when I should have been studying for my MCSE.
It’s on page 180, about halfway through. The narrator is gone (literally) and perspective has shifted and I remember feeling as if I was floating, as if I was inside the story as a observer, just as the narrator changed to the omniscient view and I saw myself as the character David Wallace.
It’s a goddamned magic trick and I look each time for the misdirection, but never catch it. Now it’s just anticipation and a humming inside my brain that I get when bearing witness to something truly good. It’s art that connects and it feels like an amplifier on my own thoughts. It’s the buzz I get from reading something good and worked over with and eye towards craftsmanship.
I get something similar from “Everything is Green”, but it’s different. While ‘GON’ is showy, its showy in a way that feels like a singular work, no one else could have written it and it’s voice is individual. ‘EIG’ hits me like the work of someone way too clever and is showing off how they can fill a story in so short of a space that still provides the reader with everything they need to know about the characters in three short pages.
Not all of his work has this magical moment, but I enjoy it when I catch it. It’s what makes the effort worthwhile. The digging a little deeper below the surface to find the real art.