[Reading] ➺ Both Flesh and Not ➰ David Foster Wallace – Papercuts.co

obviously not the exciting essay collections of Consider the Lobster, or A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again, this collection suffices to satisfy my jones for David Foster Wallace and relaxes my need for any based on these basic retreads of pieces obviously not up to making the grade in his previous works The two sport pieces, one on Federer and one about the U.S Open, were both engaging to their core whether you happen to like tennis or not What I liked most about Wallace was his ability to make almost anything he wrote interesting and worth reading No matter what his subject, with the exception of math and poetry, I found his writing captivating and full of his own personality, which is something I am enthralled with in no little measure I am not as enad with David Markson s Wittgenstein s Mistress as Wallace and others seem to regale it, but his essay proved to be one many people read and agree with When Wallace deconstructs poetry and fiction I also rarely agree with him and find his thinking off base, but still, he always makes his words so much fun to read And speaking of fun he even wrote an essay that included Don DeLillo and the fun of writing in it, which is an enormous stretch too as DeLillo, for me, is rarely fun and so intense I generally need to mist to cool off my brain from thinking But his essay on Terminator 2 was so good it made me watch Terminator 1 for the very first time This essay alone made the book definitely worth the purchase price Deciderization 2007 andJust Asking were both very good essays that shed light on our best of series as well as if some things are actually worth dying for I finished the book as if riding my bicycle with my back to a strong wind It was easy and sad and filling, and I think I am done reading any new essay collections or novels of David Foster Wallace just because I don t think he wanted any published, even this one. Not quite up there with ASFTINDA or CTL in terms of sheer stuck to the chair then flung off the same chair in squeeing delight pleasure factor, but BFAN is arguably a eclectic collection than either, treating us to one courtside tennis feature, one neurotic backstage tennis featurette, an unsurpassable academic and not reading of Wittgenstein s Mistress, a deliciously snotty horn tooting we ve arrived, ma for his then emerging fiction contemps, something vague and unappetising about AIDS, a necessary evisceration of Terminator 2, several shavings on being a writer and Borges and writing Best Essay intros, a witty and high level dissection of Math Melodramas, a nasty out of character satirical curiosity on prose poets, and pedantry from his wet dream OED contributions BFAN pretty much traverses the DFW cranium in a startling manner that arguably the other two collections miss given the length and content congruencies of the pieces in those respective pubs, and the inclusion of snippings from his private dictionary between each essay here adds to the swirl of facts and data that DFW made it his life s work to deciderize in charming and unpretentious and intellectually robust ways for his contracted organs and readerships and eventual hardback readers. Brilliant, Dazzling, Never Before Collected Non Fiction, By The Legendary David Foster Wallace, Author Of The Pale KingBeloved For His Brilliantly Discerning Eye, His Verbal Elasticity And His Uniquely Generous Imagination, David Foster Wallace Was Heralded By Critics And Fans As The Voice Of A Generation Collected In Both Flesh And Not Are Fifteen Essays Published For The First Time In Book Form, Including Writing Never Published Before In The UKFrom Federer Both Flesh And Not , Considered By Many To Be His Nonfiction Masterpiece To The As It Were Seminal Importance Of Terminator , Which Deftly Dissects James Cameron S Blockbuster To Fictional Futures And The Conspicuously Young , An Examination Of Television S Effect On A New Generation Of Writers, David Foster Wallace S Writing Swoops From Erudite Literary Discussion To Open Hearted Engagement With The Most Familiar Of Our Twentieth Century Cultural ReferencesA Celebration Of David Foster Wallace S Great Loves For Language, For Precision, For Meaning And A Feast Of Enjoyment For His Fans, Both Flesh And Not Is A Fitting Tribute To This Writer Who Was Never Concerned With Anything Less Important Than What It Means To Be Alive I have a confession Although of course I didn t want or expect to dislike this book, at all, I did want to be able to say something that proves I could be brusque with critical of DFW just as easily as I could gush over laud him I wanted to be able to establish my Howling fandom by accentuating my knowledge of his prior collections, and concluding that this one doesn t quite stack up But alas, I cannot Foster Wallace is as sublime as ever realizing that these essays span many years of his career, and have been accessible in uncollected form for some time , bordering on the awesome, in the real sense not in the bastardized sense that, as Eddie Izzard has pointed out, You got red and yellow socks They re awesome Foster Wallace characteristically provoked many breath catching, head shaking moments for this reader with his ability to essentially speak, in an almost vicarious form, for you well, me at least , but better Nobody needs me to recommend DFW to them, so I am going to provide selected explanations of and thoughts on selected essays of the collection.In Federer Both Flesh and Not, our correspondent makes frequent pleas for us to attend a live professional tennis match so that we may witness the beauty and power that television is incapable of exhibiting And you know what I am mostly convinced that it would be rewarding to oblige Well done again, for inciting some interest in tennis, in which, like many of his readers, I was not previously much interested He was not faking his love for the game by any stretch of the imagination Both Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young and The Empty Plenum were, with guillotine like force, jaw dropping in their articulation and insight The former is an inspection of the young writers of contemporary fiction beginning in the 1980 s , and a literary generational gap, and I suspect it is argued actually I ve heard it said , that subsequent literary generations have only gotten worse This is quite contentious, obviously, because it rips a chasm in the old chestnut of what constitutes art It lacks tendentiousness, but not sympathy It may also explain, in part, Bret Easton Ellis s dismay over the posthumous encomium of Foster Wallace, whose work BEE s, that is , even if not mentioned by name in the essay, could have been ascertained by the invented term Neiman Marcus Nihilism, which is truly a bit of genius upon finding out what Neiman Marcus was I m not particularly upper class savvy The latter is the highly praised philosophical exposition of introduction to David Markson s novel Wittgenstein s Mistress, which I have not read, but intend to very soon But the ways that loneliness and solipsism are dealt with are nothing short of utterly piercing Whether it s in pointing out the error of Descartes Cogito ergo sum, because ever since reading him, I never felt he had valid ripostes to his own purported impasses , or the plight of Kate in WM in writing, not speaking, the content of the novel There is no one to speak to, and perhaps no one else to speak of Anyway, reading these two, I felt like a slack jawed yokel being introduced to electricity, to the literal degree that I was babbling incoherently about how incredible they was To demonstrate that I know the definition of literal, I will share excerpts from a conversation I had with a friend right after finishing Fictional Futures omitting my second party s inputs I can t believe DFW wrote like that in 1987Or had those ideas I feel pathetic that it was mostly revelatory to me, or at least the way he articulated it The entire essay Sorry, I justEllis is just one example he used in discussing the whole subject of Conspicuously Young writers of that era, and literary criticism thereafter He was only about 30 when he wrote that essay, which I find peculiar somehow I thought it was really good, but I may be naive and even ignorant about what has transpired in the literary world since then, but also the fact that he felt comfortable speaking that way of his own generation of writers Parts of it, perhaps I feel cold right now, like I don t understand literature, but there were those hints he put in as if to say fuck it all I don t know You ll have to read it I may need to talk about it some I can t do anything but babble right now I can t be coherent, hahahahaha What I meant to say was, I can t speak coherently.By a wide margin, the best parts of Democracy and Commerce at the U.S Open, another tennis one, were the footnoted complaints about the concession stands, and a brief, somewhat sad, yet wholly hilarious, exchange with a woman who, like him, wanted relief from the crowd Back in New Fire explores sexuality in a reserved, but by no means puritanical, and in a particularly serious, yet paradoxically hilarious way, in light of the AIDS outbreak In it, he administers a wonderful and convincing metaphor for sexuality in a knight battling a dragon to rescue the princess and commence coitus He also delivers one of the most painfully true statements ever documented w r t naturally occurring diseases, specifically AIDSNothing from nature is good or bad Natural things just are the only good and bad things are people s various choices in the face of what is But our own history shows that for whatever reasons an erotically charged human existence requires impediments to passion, prices for choicesOkay, I could get into why we would even need to think in terms of reasons I could also take issue him applying the word choices and get into the vexing subject of free will, but those would be digressions for the sake of this statement, which makes a hell of a lot of sense Appropriately labeled F X Porn and the Inverse Cost and Quality Law which statesvery simply that the larger a movie s budget is, the shittier that movie is going to beperfectly sums up what has seemed to have happened to Hollywood A strange subject to be known as prophetic on, but god damn, he nailed it in The As it Were Seminal Importance of Terminator 2 The Nature of the Fun is on the necessity of writing This is the specific one I referred to, in which he is uncannily able to translate the thoughts of, presumably, many writers and indeed many aspiring writers to tremendous effect I m not suggesting that it is necessarily universal, but the plight of a writer seems to be both a shared and mutually understood burden, as well as an unconditional adoration, the likes of which cannot be lived without And, for what it s worth, I agree that Don DeLillo s hideously damaged infant metaphor is probably the finest that someone could come up with, because even if one s project is irreversibly doomed terminally ill , and will never make it to publication adulthood , it is a component of who one is I feel a strong urge to endlessly clamor on about how apt this essay was, but I ll save it for a drunken conversation with any and all of you folks Rhetoric and the Math Melodrama is a very funny piece on a class of genre fiction that I really didn t even know existed He tells us to call it Geek Chic or Hip 2b 2 While reading, I had no choice but to agree whenever our correspondent opined that he couldn t figure out the target audience for this type of math fiction, because those who would be able to understand its esoteric content, would undoubtedly realize the errors and pulled from their ass algorithms and, um, calibrator sets And those who aren t part of the mathematics elite wouldn t pick the book up in the first place But I may have to read one of these novels now if only to use this essay as a companion piece Written in bulleted notes, The Best of the Prose Poem expresses my anxiety and confusion to a T of what prose poetry actually is, and according to whom, and what its distinguishing features are from flash fiction, etc What do I write that I have the right to deem poetry Was what I just wrote a poem Why not Twenty Four Word Notes helped me with grammar than all of my accumulated English education through high school That is not hyperbolic This made me want to return to everything I have ever written and fix them in all the ways he discusses, albeit I am sure that I have perniciously blundered much of this review itself, by his standards I want of these notes, and I want to commit them to memory DFW has written on Kafka He s written on Lynch He now tackles Borges well, accurately, the biography of Borges by Edwin Williamson, which I own, but also have not read yet This essay, titled Borges on the Couch has not dissuaded me from reading Borges A Life, but has given me reason to take many of Williamson s claims with a grain of salt, particularly w r t the psychological aspects and conclusions that are drawn from Borges fiction I think DFW here points out what is inherently problematic about biographies which causes evenskepticism about his own recent biography by D.T Max , which is thatinterpretations of respective writers work amount to a simplistic, dishonest kind of psychological criticismLadies and gentlemen, I close by saying a la, or credit to, Christopher Hitchens, for dramatic opening line of closing statement something combative perhaps unnecessary and irrelevant as well which I may regret if any fussy European exclusivists or counter counter culturalists happen upon my word type things Anyone who claims that DFW was somehow unintelligent, or was blowing smoke, or was disingenuous, is a fink, and probably rather disingenuous themselves Not everyone has to enjoy him, or even think he s worth much in the literary canon, but the observational evidence does not coincide with such strident allegations as stated supra.David Foster Wallace, we still love you old boy This serves both as an obligatory homage to DFW s use of language and his trademark footnotes. A collection of DFW s essays published posthumously, and hence not one of his best collections because you know, they weren t included in those published when he was still around , but there are still some gems The following piece, which I m typing up here in full, is one of the best pieces of writing on writing that I ve read.The Nature of the Fun The best metaphor I know of for being a fiction writer is in Don DeLillo s Mao II, where he describes a book in progress as a kind of hideously damaged infant that follows the writer around, forever crawling after the writer i.e., dragging itself across the floor of restaurants where the writer s trying to eat, appearing at the food of the bed first thing in the morning, etc , hideously defective, hydrocephalic and noseless and flipper armed and incontinent and retarded and dribbling cerebrospinal fluid out of its mouth as it mewls and blurbles and cries out to the writer, wanting love, wanting the very thing its hideousness guarantees it ll get the writer s complete attention.The damaged infant trope is perfect because it captures the mix of repulsion and love the fiction writer feels for something he s working on The fiction always comes out so horrifically defective, so hideous a betrayal of all your hopes for it a cruel and repellent caricature of the perfection of its conception yes, understand grotesque because imperfect And yet it s yours, the this infant is, it s you, and you love it and dandle it and wipe the cerebrospinal fluid off its slack chin with the cuff of the only clean shirt you have left because you haven t done laundry in like three weeks because finally this one chapter or character seems like it s finally trembling on the edge of coming together and working and you re terrified to spend any time on anything other than working on it because if you look away for a second you ll lose it, dooming the whole infant to continued hideousness And but so you love the damaged infant and pity it and care for it but you also hate it hate it because it s deformed, repellent, because something grotesque has happened to it in the parturition from head to page hate it because its deformity is your deformity since if you were a better fiction writer your infant would of course look like one of those babies in catalogue ads for infantwear, perfect and pink and cerebrospinally continent and its every hideous incontinent breath is a devastating indictment of you, on all levelsand so you want it dead, even as you dote and love and wipe it and dandle it and sometimes even apply CPR when it seems like its own grotesqueness has blocked its breath and it might die altogether.The whole thing s all very messed up and sad, but simultaneously it s also tender and moving and noble and cool it s a genuine relationship, of a sort and even at the height of its hideousness the damaged infant somehow touches and awakens what you suspect are some of the very best parts of you maternal parts, dark ones You love your infant very much And you want others to love it, too, when the time finally comes for the damaged infant to go out and face the world.So you re in a bit of a dicey position you love the infant and want others to love it, but that means you hope others won t see it correctly You want to sort of fool people you want them to see as perfect what you in your heart know is a betrayal of all perfection.Or else you don t want to fool these people what you want is you want them to see and love a lovely, miraculously perfect, ad ready infant and to be right, correct, in what they see and feel You want to be terribly wrong you want the damaged infant s hideousness to turn out to have been nothing but your own weird delusion or hallucination But that d mean you were crazy you have seen, been stalked by, and recoiled from hideous deformities that in fact others persuade you aren t there at all Meaning you re at least a couple of fries short of a Happy Meal, surely But worse it d also mean you see and despise hideousness in a thing you made and love , in your spawn, in in certain ways you And this last, best hope this d represent something way worse than just very bad parenting it d be a terrible kind of self assault, almost self torture But that s still what you most want to be completely, insanely, suicidally wrong.But it s still all a lot of fun Don t get me wrong As to the nature of that fun, I keep remembering this strange little story I heard in Sunday school when I was about the size of a fire hydrant It takes place in China or Korea or someplace like that It seems there was this old farmer outside a village in the hill country who worked his farm with only his son and his beloved horse One day the horse, who was not only beloved but vital to the labour intensive work on the farm, picked the lock on his corral or whatever and ran off into the hills All the old farmer s friends came around to exclaim what bad luck this was The farmer only shrugged and said, Good luck, bad luck, who knows A couple days later the beloved horse returned from the hills in the company of a whole priceless herd of wild horses, and the farmer s friends all come around to congratulate him on what good luck the horse s escape turned out to be Good luck, bad luck, who knows is all the farmer says in reply, shrugging The farmer now strikes me as a bit Yiddish sounding for an old Chinese farmer, but this is how I remember it But so the farmer and his son set about breaking the wild horses, and one of the horses bucks the son off his back with such wild force that the son breaks his leg And here come the friends to commiserate with the farmer and curse the bad luck that had ever brought these accursed wild horses onto his farm The old farmer just shrugs and says, Good luck, bad luck, who knows A few days later the Imperial Sino Korean Army or something like that comes marching through the village, conscripting every able bodied male between like ten and sixty for cannon fodder for some hideously bloody conflict that s apparently brewing, but when they see the son s broken leg, they let him off on some sort of feudal 4 F, and instead of getting shanghaied the son stays on the farm with the old farmer Good luck Bad luck This is the sort of parabolic straw you cling to as you struggle with the issue of fun, as a writer In the beginning, when you first start out trying to write fiction, the whole endeavor s about fun You don t expect anybody else to read it You re writing almost wholly to get yourself off To enable your own fantasies and deviant logics and to escape or transform parts of yourself you don t like And it works and it s terrific fun Then, if you have good luck and people seem to like what you do, and you actually start to get paid for it, and get to see your stuff professionally typeset and bound and blurbed and reviewed and even once being read on the AM subway by a pretty girl you don t even know, it seems to make it evenfun For a while Then things start to get complicated and confusing, not to mention scary Now you feel like you re writing for other people, or at least you hope so You re no longer writing just to get yourself off, which since any kind of masturbation is lonely and hollow is probably good But what replaces the onanistic motive You ve found you very much enjoy having your writing liked by people, and you find you re extremely keen to have people like the new stuff you re doing The motive of pure personal starts to get supplanted by the motive of being liked, of having pretty people you don t know like you and admire you and think you re a good writer Onanism gives way to attempted seduction, as a motive Now, attempted seduction is hard work, and its fun is offset by a terrible fear of rejection Whatever ego means, your ego has now gotten into the game Or maybe vanity is a better word Because you notice that a good deal of your writing has now become basically showing off, trying to get people to think you re good This is understandable You have a great deal of yourself on the line, now, writing your vanity is at stake You discover a tricky thing about fiction writing a certain amount of vanity is necessary to be able to do it at all, but any vanity above that certain amount is lethal At this 90 percent of the stuff you re writing is motivated and informed by an overwhelming need to be liked This results in shitty fiction And the shitty work must get fed to the wastebasket, less because of any sort of artistic integrity than simply because shitty work will make you disliked At this point in the evolution of writerly fun, the very thing that s always motivated you to write is now also what s motivating you to feed your writing to the wastebasket This is a paradox and a kind of double bind, and it can keep you stuck inside yourself for months or even years, during which you wail and gnash and rue your bad luck and wonder bitterly where all the fun of the thing could have gone.The smart thing to say, I think, is that the way out of this bind is to work your way somehow back to your original motivation fun And, if you can find your way back to the fun, you will find that the hideously unfortunate double bind of the late vain period turns out really to have been good luck for you Because the fun you work back to has been transfigured by the unpleasantness of vanity and fear, an unpleasantness you re now so anxious to avoid that the fun you rediscover is a way fuller and large hearted kind of fun It has something to do with Work as Play Or with the discovery that disciplined fun is fun than impulsive or hedonistic fun Or with figuring out that not all paradoxes have to be paralysing Under fun s new administration, writing fiction becomes a way to go deep inside yourself and illuminate precisely the stuff you don t want to see or let anyone else see, and this stuff usually turns out paradoxically to be precisely the stuff all writers and readers share and respond to, feel Fiction becomes a weird way to countenance yourself and to tell the truth instead of being a way to escape yourself or present yourself in a way you figure you will be maximally likable This process is complicated and confusing and scary, and also hard work, but it turns out to be the best fun there is.The fact that you can now sustain the fun of writing only by confronting the very same unfun parts of yourself you d first used writing to avoid or disguise is another paradox, but this one isn t any kind of bind at all What it is is a gift, a kind of miracle, and compared to it the reward of strangers affection is as dust, lint pp.193 199 , originally published in Fiction Writer, 1998.16 December, 2018 update Howling Fantods has removed many links from their Uncollected DFW page, at the request of Karen and Little Brown Those removed links are not limited to what is included in this collection Distracted and Dystematic as it were Reviewerish ThoughtsWe have here a partial collection of pieces by DFW yet uncollected and unbound Unfortunate it is that a greater effort was not undertaken to assemble all or nearly all the unassembled essays and reviews, letters to editors, etc., because anything would have been at home here next to anything else, no need for thematic unity in a posthumous production What we have is an unnecessarily short book Proprietary issues Who knows.Read Both Flesh and Not, please, only after having read Dave s prior essay collections, A Supposedly Fun Thing I ll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster and Other Essays.Friend B0nnie has provided Links for the essays included here but available on line, which appears to be exhaustive.The Howling Fantods makes available all the still available uncollected fiction, non fiction, and book reviews.Nothing here not available elsewhere But some of us, myself amongst, despite being and having been DFW nuttjobs, due to inabilities to credit anything read upon a screen, have not read these pieces previously, not in their entire entireties We bought the bound book out of habit Nothing.Newish and perhaps elsewhere unavailable is a selection from the DFW word list which is used to create word art between essays I read them through the G s, quit, and have not made up my mind whether I ll return to them Funky words funk much harder in DFW sentences than they do in dictionaries.Two tennis essays here drearied me of ever reading another word of sports writing Sorry, Dave, even you apparently can t make me give a damn about tennis any Some nice bits in those pieces, but gods I just don t care about professional sports At all Fictional Futures is an earlier version published in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 1988 of the E Unibus Pluram essay, one of my favorite Dave essays The Empty Plenum David Markson s Wittgenstein s Mistress is required reading The As It Were Seminal Importance of Terminator 2, previously published as F X Porn, is a nice bit I like it when Dave does this kind of thing Rhetoric and the Math Melodrama, a review of two novels involving a lot of math stuff, ought to be read in conjunction with Dave s math book, Everything and More A Compact History of Infinity Critics of that book will be interested in DFW s identification of a conundrum involved in writing a novel about math The paradox is that the type of audience most likely to accept and appreciate these novels lofty, encomiastic view of pure math is also the audience most apt to be disappointed by the variously vague, reductive, or inconsistent ways the novels handle the actual mathematics they re concerned with That would seem to characterize also the responses DFW received for both his math book and the math parts of IJ Borges on the Couch, naturally, ought to be read in conjunction with the Max bio.I liked Dave s review of The Best of the Prose Poem An International Journal, ed Peter Johnson, perhaps because it fed my genre fetish so pleasantly.And for Snoots and Snoobs, do not miss the Twenty Four Word Notes which Dave wrote for the Oxford American Writer s Thesaurus.There s a nice German typo at page 110n42 Familienahanlichkeiten no kidding , family resemblances , to which I ll append a DFW styled sicreprise Please do see B0nnie s Links because I m too lazy to mark up the html all over my own review. First, thanks to B0nnie, who has collected all of these essays in one convenient location So get to it.Nathan has already remarked on the incomplete and only too short nature of this collection, and its appeal to DFW Fans To Newbies buy the others first, then get this one.Of course, since I already have the others, I ll probably buy this anyway Damn.Some of these pieces are just fantastic Wittgenstein s Mistress, the word definitions, F X Porn , some are too short, but mildly interesting, and some are big duds AIDS, the second tennis piece His essays on writing itself are interesting Nature of the Fun , as well as his book reviews Fictional Futures is a chastisement of Bad Contemporary Writing, although it does spare a few kind words for Ozick, Franzen, and Vollmann No doubt Bret Easton Ellis and company would never forgive him for being branded Neiman Marcus Nihilists This collection is fun, but only in bits Read the others first. This is not DFW best non fiction collection, but neither is it superfluous nor is it inferior.There is quite a lot of literary criticism and non fiction geared towards readers who arguably would be writers and therefore interested in these subjects These pieces are Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young on the effect of TV on young writers in the 80 s Young writers get divided into camps that now seem rather obvious and even dated as some no longer really exist Workshop manufactured, chemically neutered, corpse grinders stories as tough to find fault with as they are to remember after putting them down catatonic Carver clones, offshoots of the dirty realism fad created by Carver Lish Granta and yuppie nihilists in the vein of Bret Easton Ellis, which, btw, explains BEE s adolescent twitter attacks against DFW coinciding with the publication of this book These attacks, amusing and pathetic though they were, reminded me of Franzen s postmortem evisceration of his best friend in The New Yorker Waiting for someone to die before you can work up the courage to attack them publicly is always a great demonstration of character.The Empty Plenum which explains DFW s claim that Markson s Wittgenstein s Mistress was a masterpiece and illuminates Wallace s own admiration for late Wittgenstein and his philosophy of language.Mr Cogito basically a blurb for a Zbigniew Herbert s book.The Nature of fun on how publishing and any amount of recognition are bad for writers, who should avoid thinking about the reception of their books like the plague Jeffers famously said about this The only fame that is not harmful to a writer is posterity Classic Wallace double bind stuff.Five direly underappreciated US novels self explanatory.Rhetoric and Math Melodrama explains why math and literature should not mix He would ve done well to follow his own advice on this.The Best of the Prose Poem on why prose poems do not really exist.Borges on the Couch against psychoanalytic biographical interpretaions of literature This bookends nicely with Joseph Frank s Dostoevsky, from CTL.Deciderization DFW was made editor of the Best American Essays volume for 2007 Imagine therefore the amount of essayistic hand wringing involved in Wallace confronting the concept of deciding why one essay is better than another.That pretty much is the extent of the writer s writer pieces in the book The other ones are on tennis Both Flesh and Not on Federer and the aesthetics of sports Democracy and Commerce in the US Open on just that, same approach as ASFTINDA, but with the US Open and way less passion, thoroughly yawn inducing , on AIDS as an opportunity to reevaluate what sex is and means Welcome to New Fire , freedom and terrorism Just asking , on how Hollywood movies can be art and how good directors get corrupted Terminator and words, grammar and usage 24 Word Notes.This last one tickles me because there is a short video of Wallace explaining his dislike of puff words , which is the point of his first word criticism on that 24 word list Very concisely, Wallace s problem with utilize is that it is a puff word for which a simpler common word exists use This is funny because I can think of very few writers attuned to how using a complex synonym for what you are trying to say colors your prose Wallace, of course, was always wrestling with this polarity be erudite to the point of snobbery, but also as casual and street wise as possible Further, in the video you can see in Wallace s face his disgust for snobs who will steal one extra third of a second from him by using puff words in one of those very unusual unguarded moments where he is projecting a really negative emotion publicly I shudder to imagine him having this same reaction after reading some draft of himself he wasn t satisfied with Hard.Here s the video Consider the B sidesAs often with posthumous collections, Both Flesh and Not suffers slightly from the fact that these essays were bound together for the simple reason of producing another book to fill the shelves and minds of DFW s perfervid fans and readers It was only fitting to release another collection of essays riding on the heels of D.T Max s biography of Wallace, and with his other posthumous work, The Pale King, having been nominated for the Pulitzer While all of these essays are available elsewhere, and do seem a bit thrown together in an all too short collection, having a new Wallace book in my hands is a reason to celebrate The essays are full of his charm, with his biting wit and humor that is sure to make anyone laugh, and the great, impassioned rants he composes for palm in the face blunders such as Williamson s Borges biography Despite being slightly disappointing compared to, say, Consider the Lobster, this is a great collection that is sure to satisfy anyone else jonesing for DFW This collection is signature DFW Starting off on his Federer essay, it is always a pleasure to feel Wallace s excitement and pure joy for tennis flowing off the page It was also enjoyable as I too am a fan of Roger Federer and could share in his passion for expressing how cool it is to witness amazing Federer moments Through all these essays, you feel as if Wallace is communicating with you instead of merely lecturing at you, which is a large part of why I really enjoy his writing It always feels like his major purpose aside from informing is to get you as equally excited about the subject as he is Such as in essays like 24 Word Notes, which is a great companion piece to his Authority and American Usage in Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, DFW has the ability to make studying grammar seem like some sort of rock star lifestyle He makes grammar cool, exciting, and enjoyable he also makes me painfully aware I need to work on my own grammar He also has an amazing ability to give what seems like a fair, even assessment of his topics, such as his essay on the Conspicuously Young writers, the literary Brat Pack, where he both defends them while pointing out the criticisms that are mean, but unfortunately fair This essay is one to surely not miss Humor is a big draw to DFW, and his way of insulting a topic in such a way that you can t help but rolling on the floor laughing as you nod your head in agreement He has a gift for tearing things apart with his wit, such as in the essay on Terminator 2 which, in turn, is an essay widely praising Cameron s early work in Aliens and the first Terminator 1990s moviegoers who have sat clutching their heads in both awe and disappointment at movies like Twister and Volcano and The Lost World can thank James Cameron s Terminator 2 Judgment Day for inaugurating what s become this decade s special new genre of big budget film Special Effects Porn Porn because, if you substitute F X for intercourse, the parallels between the two genres become so obvious they re eerie Just like hard core cheapies, movies like Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park aren t really movies in the standard sense at all What they really are is half a dozen or so isolated, spectacular scenes scenes comprising maybe twenty or thirty minutes of riveting, sensuous payoff strung together via another sixty to ninety minutes of flat, dead, and often hilariously insipid narrative. DFW successfully explains the major problems of the 90s blockbuster He does use the sexual metaphor often, and in the essay The New Fire, which deals with AIDs as the Dragon standing in the way of the sexual revolution Knight The major issue with this collection is that it simply takes essays from all over his career and tosses them together Many are rather short, a few being only 2 3 pages although I loved to read his thoughts on Zbigniew Herbert , and many seem to work as a companion to essays in earlier collections It is a great book for a fan who has already explored much of his work, granted they had not already read most of these online, but I would advise new readers to come back for this one later It was slightly disappointing is well that the best essay in the collection is one I had already read when I first experienced Markson s wonderful Wittgenstein s Mistress In a later essay, Wallace says of WM that a novel this abstract and erudite and avant garde that could also be so moving makes Wittgenstein s Mistress pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country That, coming from Wallace, is high praise.Despite the shortcomings, this was still an enjoyable read It always breaks my heart to think of Wallace and his tragic end, especially as much of his work deals with loneliness There are many times I wish I could have given him an enormous hug and said I love you man, please don t leave us While he may no longer be with us, at least we still have David Foster Wallace s wonderful novels and essays to make this world a little less lonely.3.5 5 Most of these essays are online Some of the titles have been changed Remember too much reading on a computer leads to this sort of breakfast Read the book Federer Both Flesh and Nothttp www.nytimes.com 2006 08 20 spoFictional Futures and the Conspicuously Younghttp webcache.googleusercontent.comThe Empty Plenum David Markson s Wittgenstein s Mistresshttp www.theknowe.net dfwfiles pdfsMr Cogito view spoiler THE BEST BOOK OF 1994 is the first English translation of Zbigniew Herbert s Mr Cogito, a book of poems that came out in Poland in the mid 1970s, well before Herbert s justly famous Report from the Besieged City and Other Poems Mr Cogito s a character who appears in most of Herbert s best poems he s kind of a poetic Pnin, both intellectual and not too bright, both hopelessly confused and bravely earnest as he grapples with the Big Questions of human existence.Zbigniew Herbert is one of the two or three best living poets in the world, and by far the best of what you d call the postmoderns Since any great poem communicates an emotional urgency that postmodernism s integument of irony renders facile or banal, postmodern poets have a tough row to hoe Herbert s Cogito persona permits ironic absurdism andearnest emotion not only to coexist but to nourish one another.Compared to Mr Cogito, the whole spectrum of American poetry from the retrograde quaintness of the Neoformalists and New Yorker hackyard garden meditative lyrics to the sterile abstraction of the Language Poets looks sick It seems significant that only writers from Eastern Europe and Latin America have succeeded in marrying the stuff of spirit and human feeling to the parodic detachment the postmodern experience seems to require Maybe as political conditions get oppressive here, we Americans 11 get good at it, too.1994 hide spoiler