Do i mean it?

ON DT MAX’s new biography of David Foster Wallace. Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story

ok, this is a tough nut, and i apologize if i say anything insulting. i’m not in a good mood, so ignore EVERYTHING. it’s all sacrilege and I’m a moron. it’s just a shard of a complicated subject and maybe too harsh, so again, i apologize.

I read the new DT Max and it’s educational, exactly what it should be. scary as any ghost story I’ve heard. love story? don’t see it, and that’s the prob. not the book’s problem. maybe the problem is with wallace. nonetheless i hereby decree: BUY IT. READ IT. Max nails it and it makes you think AND feel.

it’s educational in the sense I’m seeing almost the extent of what a big mind does. to read it as instructional is sacrilege and doltish, I know, but I’m not one to gawk over something being merely fascinating or depressing. i’m a leech looking for paradigms to salvage, fully made, that I might pretend to step into for weeks at a time, until it’s soiled and chafing, and until the next husk becomes available, that’s what i do. however, DFW is a flawed and dangerous soul, and to want to be a fragment, a tiny splinter of what he was, is not something to aspire to for any reason, internal or otherwise.

While I can’t stomach his fiction all that much, I do recognize his effort to impart moral philosophy. this compared to after reading Lehner’s sugar-frosted nut sack – the grotesquely recursive, masturbatory gimmick, essentially a brilliantly bad idea brought to a full, suicidal scope (for me, books are one of our chief palliatives AGAINST this kind of thinking, so of course nobody reads it this crap, not really.) – I can’t help but repeat the line in my mind: David Foster Wallace hung the wrong guy. it’s a horrible thing to say: NOBODY SHOULD HANG, PERIOD. i want to see what lehner does next, and maybe someday I’ll grow to see SFNS in a new light.

One of my son’s Dav Pilkey books carries more humanity then the whole mass block wedge that is infinite jest and pale king. that eggers can make me feel something and wallace and lehner never could, is the whole thing. (i haven’t read franzen, and btw, I’m a professional dilettante, nothing to see here, stop reading, you’ve been warned) wallace was apparently never happy with his nonfiction, or the medium itself, because he didn’t know what to leave out, but also, didn’t have a grasp of his emotional center, it seems. he was often meeting a deadline and noodling. in his own thoughts and much of his work he felt pushed to obsessively forgive and explain and flee into the smaller interstitial spaces of propositional thought and existential fabric, and that was his talent and undoing. obviously a singular talent for prose and observation, structure, nobody is debating that, but to what ultimate end, that’s the question.

while his later fiction captures a definite sense of journey, and signals important truths about what we lose with technology and info streams and entertainment culture, it fails to hit emotional nerves in any way, ever, even a little, other than pain and anxiety, and as such, can’t bring much in the way of growth for the reader. meanwhile, DFW dashing off a piece about lobsters COULD make thousands consider the pain of animals, and maybe even the pain and triumph of other REAL ACTUAL humans, for a fucking second, like eggers in What is the What, (read it now) but he didn’t care about nonfiction, he says, or being a direct social commentator or singing the unsung or showing his own emotional journeys or childhood face on, sans humor, sans bullshit, sans evasive maneuvers and hyper self-discourse leading nowhere. So in the end, what do we learn from genius grant winner DFW? How to survive solipsism from a guy who didn’t survive solipsism? How to imagine that the woman in front of us at the store has bone cancer, and that we shouldn’t be frustrated? i’ll say it: the kenyon speech is the best thing he ever did, in terms of clearly articulated suggestions of moral genius, and he probably didn’t really mean or deeply feel half of it, wasn’t wired to, or he’d be here today.

Wallace never made me laugh or cry. He made me gape, stretch and envy and feel alone. his prolixian casualness charmed me for two seconds, but like Atlas Shrugged, too many characters think with the same mind and speak with the same numb-toned vernac, the jaded, brilliant tongue. he’s a curator, arrogantly and falsely overwhelmed, philosophy meets arrested development-style quirk served in a file cabinet of deep but useless observations. not one of the times, in his published canon, where he targets his own flaws, am i convinced he means it in a deep or lasting way.

he’s deeply mentally ill, and for that I sympathize, but insanity doesn’t give you the right to bludgeon people. get your shit together, get out of your goddamn way, and write something helpful.

horrible and stupid sentiments, i know. but who the fuck is slow john anyways. i’m an idiot, deeply flawed, and completely wrong about all the above. the question is, Do i mean it?

SJ,

I haven’t the time to read all the authors you’ve referenced, and the truth is, I’m unsure I would want to make time to read them. But I have to ask, why are they so important? Yeah, they may be flawed, irrational, and all the other metaphors of the imperfect human, but so what? You’re capable, more than capable, of writing your own “I mean it”. Would your writing be as flawed as the next person? Probably. Once again, so what? It’s just possible that everything we think, everything we write, is simply a reflection of where we are at the time. Nothing we think or write is cast in stone for posterity. The desire to be more than we can be in this moment is the search for the holy grail - and just as much the illusion. Write godammit!, and whether brilliance or idiocy, it is simply the mirror of self-in-the-moment. Our expressions reflect the worst and the best of us - always. Forgiving others their weaknesses and failures is a virtue. Perhaps forgiving ourselves our humaness is also a virtue? This isn’t to say that we accept less than the best we can do, but acceptance includes all of our weaknesses, inconsistencies, foibles, and the rest of the quixotic descriptions of our perverse nature.

So write what you mean - this moment, and if it’s all crap tomorrow, then do it again. I’ll plant a few extra trees so you needn’t feel guilty… :wink:

Just cause I’ve been trying in earnest to write more and so I’ve started looking at what real writers do and have done, ways they get their inner worlds on the page. And because I have solipsism a lot and DFW was like me in some ways. Reading his biography was hard for me.

Flaws are fine, and only DFW is the one I highlighted as flawed but not in any angry sense. It’s a given that we’re all flawed and would be silly to expect anything else. I think what’s surprising and a little confusing is when role models are flawed in ways that you didn’t expect

That’s maddening, because who we are changes every second, but yes, agreed. All we can write about is this stuff in front of us and in us.

That’s why it matters that we say it right. Precisely because it’s not cast in stone, not immortal. We won’t have time to edit it later.

But the desire to be ALL that we are, that’s valid, right? And often, just as daunting.But to call that illusion is a copout. Such goals drive as to transcend.

If it were always so simple, if it were always a mirror, it would worthwhile. That it becomes something more and less than a mirror, or a hall of mirrors, is the problem. When it becomes pose, or a lie, or a distortion. We talk about infinite regression in these hallowed halls. The infinite regression of writing is to write about writing about writing, and all the emotions of writing, and then the emotions about those emotions, etc.

I forgive and accept.

Tent, me not writing is not the problem. Me writing too much is the problem. Think Mozart, dying while writing his requiem, minus the genius. That was me this month, and this post was just a brain dump. I’m going to take a mental vacation and maybe read through old drafts on Wednesday.

And if you want to read an interesting mind-opening book, I would check out What Is The What. It’s not as fun as Ready Player One. But it’s about a little kid walking through South Sudan, dying, and it made me cry at the end. Nobody else I know has read it.

Have a sweet new year, old man, oops, I mean old friend.

Ain’t it the shits? I despise it when the tank is on empty. So yeah, maybe a vacation for awhile. Maybe it’s time to do the “what wasn’t I doing when I was doing this?” thing. Possibly?

I recently got slammed into the wall (again) and started into the all too familiar downward spiral. Pulling myself together, I made the once-in-a-lifetime decision to follow my own advice - but just this once as a test. There was a little creative corner that had teased me for several years, so I decided what the hell. I’m now involved in multiple projects where I don’t know what I’m doing, how to get around that, or how it will all turn out. Is it working? Damned if I know, but I’m sure as hell busy. I’d guess that I have just as many irritations and frustrations as before I jumped off the cliff, but at least they are different, and maybe, just maybe I’ll re-discover my groove when I’m satisfied with my new exploration.

I know, I know, it’s a game - and only one player, me. But it beats torturing myself with recrimination and spouting shoulda-woulda-coulda to a blank wall. After you’ve crawled out from under the bus a couple of times, you have to try something different.

So give the vacation a try. The artist will return, he just needs a new vision.

Favorite old joke: A car is careening along a lonely desert highway at a hundred mile an hour in the middle of the night. There is nothing but the steady howl of the engine until a passenger asks the driver, “Hey! Where are we going?” The driver replies, “I dunno, but we’re making good time.”

I’ll check out the book… As an old man, I need a bit of mind-opening.

I’m delighted to know that u practice what u preach on occasion. there’s something about floundering and hitting walls and being creative that makes us forever young. certainly more alive, which is not always a good or easy thing. for he who is more alive has more to fear and more to lose. nobody is immune to adventure in this mortal coil. every breath is the song of the adventurer. there is no escape.

good luck doing what you are doing. and not doing what you are doing. making good time, indeed, old man I mean old friend (or for now on abbr: omimof)

also read the aquarium – an essay by aleksander hemon. it’s short.