Get a good look at this face. This is the jerk who sucked away my 2009.

I first heard mention of David Foster Wallace in my MFA orientation (I guess something good came out of that whole sham). He died about a month after I started reading Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, in November of 2008. I was surprised how sad this made me. The saddest 'lil girl in Utah.

It's just that when you find a new author you love, you change. That sounds totally trite, I know, but it's the truth. You think differently. You speak differently (especially with an author who's got such a psycho vocabulary you are sure he is just making up words at will). You write differently. You just want to devour everything they've touched. Read and watch every interview you can and find yourself as amazed with the artist as you are the work itself. You kind of have to give yourself to them. Your time, your attention, your love, your mind. A holistic surrender.

Please appreciate my sincerity. It's more than respect. I love this man's mind.

DFW is funny. Bizarro, laugh-out-loud, anecdotally, you name it. He nails all breeds. Then of course, he's a certified genius. Critics love to write him off as a smarty-pants, though many have shut it posthumously.

I think writers love to love him because he writes nonfiction like he's the Eye of Providence and writes fiction like he's a frickin alien. Other writers love to find this bravado irritating. But through all the love letters to DFW on the one hand and all the undeserved vitriol on the other, people seem to agree on something at least. The man's got heart.

There is something so intent, so sincere about his work. He's a perfect blend of heart and head. At the conclusion of my first DFW book, I sold him to others as Vonnegut w/ Heart. A much smarter, more interesting Vonnegut. With a lot more heart. A total original (that dorky bandana!) A total midwestern middleclass underdog. There's this charity about him, this sincerity that I don't find in a lot of his contemporaries.

Above all, he is the antithesis of everything I hate about postmodernism. There is meaning, and there's lots of it, and, well, he really means it.

I am happy to recommend the following:

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
This is Water

Consider the Lobster

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
Infinite Jest (technically, I am not entirely finished. It's a very large, complicated narrative. But I was immediately hooked. I even brought it on my honeymoon. It was the heaviest thing in my bag)

Thank you, DFW for making me so excited about writing again.

Honorable Mention

SUM by David Eagleman is a fantastic speculative romp through the afterlives.
Field Knowledge by Morri Creech is transcendent (I was lucky to find my favorite piece online).
The Night in Question by Tobias Wolff was some good short storying.
THEM by Jon Ronson is funny, with a motive.
Rabbit, Run by John Updike is linguist crack.


dn said...

I own THEM. I'm glad I read it back in the day, because lizard people conspiracy theories pop up in everyday life more than you'd think.

Sorry I didn't put any footnotes in this comment.

Corinne said...

Re: honorable mention

If you have not yet read ALL of Tobias Wolff's short fiction, please do so...it's all amazing.

Also I just finished "A Gate at the Stairs" by Lorrie Moore and it was fantastically beautiful and sad. I think you would really like it.

BERRETTS said...

Hey Adrienne-
It's Trevor and Sherry from London. Have you read the excerpts from The Pale King published in the New Yorker? There was also an excellent article on DFW last February or March in there.
Just wondering because those are what hooked me with Wallace. I thought they were excellent.
I actually reviewed them on my book website mookseandgripes.com if you'd like to join in the conversations.

BERRETTS said...

oh, and I'm reading Tobias Woolf as I dictate this to Sherry (hey!).