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Middle-Aged Moralists – Snakes and Ladders
"When C. S. Lewis gave the Memorial Address at King’s College, London in 1944 — the occasion being very like an American university commencement — he began by commenting, “When you invite a middle-aged moralist to address you, I suppose I must conclude, however unlikely the conclusion seems, that you have a taste for middle-aged moralising. I shall do my best to gratify it.”

It was a shrewd move. Lewis himself always loathed the pompous didacticism he had found endemic to the English educational system, and expected that his audience would too. “Everyone knows what a middle-aged moralist of my type warns his juniors against. He warns them against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.” But with a smile on his face, he declared that he would play to type: “I shall, in fact, give you advice about the world in which you are going to live.”

Let’s fast-forward about sixty years, to a commencement address at Stanford University. The speaker this time is not a professor but rather a businessman named Steve Jobs, and he makes it clear from the outset that he’ll not be doing any “middle-aged moralising.” Rather, he says, “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.”

And yet it’s not clear, when you think about it, that Jobs’s message is any less moralistic than Lewis’s. It just bears a different moral.

Lewis warns his listeners against the power of what he calls the “Inner Ring” — the desire to belong to a certain admirable group, to be allowed to sit at the cool kids’ table — because he believes that, among all our desires, that one is the most likely to make un-wicked people do wicked things.

Jobs also warns his listeners, but warns them not to allow Death, when he knocks on their door, to find them “living someone else’s life.” Lewis points to the dangers of letting the desire to belong make you a “scoundrel,” and while Jobs too thinks others can endanger us, he frames that danger very differently: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

This is the permissible moralism of 2005: College graduates can be exhorted, but not to the old-fashioned virtues that Lewis implicitly appeals to, but rather to self-fulfillment: For Jobs, what is “most important” is this: “have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

This makes a neat story, once which can be read either as emancipation from constricting rules or as a decline into egotism. But the story gets slightly more complex if we look at one more middle-aged moralist: David Foster Wallace.

Wallace was, I’d say, barely middle-aged when he delivered the commencement address at Kenyon College just a few weeks before Jobs spoke at Stanford: he was 43. (Jobs was 50, and when Lewis gave his “Inner Ring” address he was 45.) If Lewis acknowledges that the genre invites moralism and cheerfully accepts the invitation, and Jobs disavows moralism but delivers it anyway, in a new form, Wallace seems almost desperate to avoid any such thing.

Having begun with a little story about fish, he continues, “If you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explaining what water is, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish.” Then: “But please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to preach to you about compassion or other-directedness or the so-called ‘virtues.’” And: “Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you’re ‘supposed to’ think this way.” Finally: “Obviously, you can think of [this talk] whatever you wish. But please don’t dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr Laura sermon.” Please.

Yet for all those disavowals, Wallace’s speech may be the most passionately moralistic of them all, though in a complex way. He tells us to be suspicious of that inner inner voice that Jobs wants us to listen to, because that voice always says the same thing: “There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of.” Consequently, our “natural, hard-wired default setting … is to be deeply and literally self-centred, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.”

And why should we want to think otherwise? Why should we turn outward? Not in order to avoid becoming scoundrels, Wallace says, but because such other-directedness can bring us freedom. “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.”

Substantively, it seems to me, Wallace’s ethic is far closer to that of Lewis than to that of Jobs, though he and Jobs were near-contemporaries and formed by much the same culture. (Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters was one of Wallace’s favorite books.) But he could not, and knew he could not, speak as Lewis spoke — even with an ironic nod towards the inevitable clichés of the commencement-speech genre.

Universities still invite middle-aged moralists (professors rarely, writers and business leaders more often) to give speeches to their graduating students, even though those students are generally inoculated against middle-aged moralism — the moralism of self-fulfillment always excepted. What’s remarkable about Wallace’s speech, which has become the great canonical example of the genre, is that he found a way to rescue the occasion; and that he rescued it by pretending to refuse it."
commencementaddresses  2019  1944  2005  alanjacobs  via:lukeneff  davidfosterwallace  cslewis  stevejobs  moralism  morality  advice  middleage  commencementspeeches 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Austin Kleon — The many designs of David Foster Wallace’s “Host”
"When David Foster Wallace’s heavily footnoted and annotated “Host” was originally published in The Atlantic it looked like this:

[images]

The colored footnotes were a unique challenge to present online, but The Atlantic web team did a pretty decent job by using hyperlinks and pop-up boxes (archived link here):

[image]

And then later, for the print collection Consider The Lobster, the footnotes lost their colors and were replaced with arrows and boxes:

[image]

The Atlantic has recently redesigned “Host” so that the footnotes expand within the piece like so:

[GIF]

It works particularly well with footnotes-within-footnotes:

[GIF]

This is one of the rare times that I think reading a piece online is now actually easier and more delightful than reading it in print.

It should be mentioned, by the way, that the eBook of Consider The Lobster doesn’t even contain the piece:"

[See also: http://greaterthanorequalto.net/blog/2009/07/david-foster-wallace-different-hosts/ ]
davidfosterwallace  annotation  footnotes  design  theatlantic  digitalsertão  expandingtext  digital  publishing  text  web  online  highlighting  telescopictext 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Press Play — Press Play: Making and distributing content in the present future we are living through. — Medium
"This thing of ours:

This course, Press Play, aspires to be a place where you make things. Good things. Smart things. Cool things. And then share those things with other people. The idea of Press Play is that after we make things we are happy with, that we push a button and unleash it on the world. Much of it will be text, but if you want to make magic with a camera, your phone, or with a digital recorder, knock yourself out. But it will all be displayed and edited on Medium because there will be a strong emphasis on working with others in this course, and Medium is collaborative.

While writing, shooting, and editing are often solitary activities, great work emerges in the spaces between people. We will be working in groups with peer and teacher edits. There will be a number of smaller assignments, but the goal is that you will leave here with a single piece of work that reflects your capabilities as a maker of media.But remember, evaluations will be based not just on your efforts, but on your ability to bring excellence out of the people around you. Medium has a remarkable “notes” function where the reader/editor can highlight a specific word, phrase or paragraph and comment, suggest a tweak or give an attaboy. This is counter-intuitive, but you will be judged as much by what you put in the margins of others work as you are for your own. (You should sign on to Medium as soon as you can. You can log in with Facebook or Twitter credentials. Pithy instructions on writing and collaborating on Medium: here, here, here, and, yes, here.)To begin with, we will look at the current media ecosystem: how content is conceived, made, made better, distributed, and paid for. We will discuss finding a story, research and reporting, content management systems, voice, multimedia packaging, along with distribution and marketing of work. If that sounds ambitious, keep in mind that in addition to picking this professor and grad assistant, we picked you. We already know you are smart, and we just want you to demonstrate that on the (web) page.

What we‘ll create:

Together, we will make a collection of stories on Medium around a specific organizing principle — it could be a genre, topic, reading time, or event — which we’ll decide on in collaboration as well. And once we get stories up and running, we will work on ways of getting them out there into the bloodstream of the web.

In order to have a chance of making great work, you have to consume remarkable work. Fair warning: There will be a lot of weekly reading assignments. I’m not sliming you with a bunch of textbooks, so please know I am dead serious about these readings. Skip or skim at your peril.

I will be bringing in a number of guest speakers. They will be talented, accomplished people giving their own time. Please respond with your fullest attention.

So, to summarize: We will make things — in class, in groups, by our lonely selves — we will work to make those things better, and, if we are lucky, we will figure out how to beckon the lightning of excellence along the way."
davidcarr  2014  web  online  internet  syllabus  education  journalism  writing  howwewrite  ta-nehisicoates  teaching  mooc  moocs  lesliejamison  clayshirky  alexismadrigal  jessicatesta  nrkleinfield  sarahkoenig  davidfosterwallace  elizabethroyte  zachseward  joshuadavis  shanesnow  brianlam  kevinkelly  luciamoses  storytelling  vincentmorisset  emilygibson  caityeaver  mischaberlinski  triciaromano  hamiltonnolan  camilledodero  erinleecarr  mariakonikkova  tonyhaile  ralphabellino  mashacharnay  santiagostelly  timstelloh  jayrosen  felixsalmon  multimedia  socialmedia  canon  engagement  media  distribution  voice  syllabi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Just Asking - The Atlantic
"Are some things still worth dying for? Is the American idea1 one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”?2 In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?

"The key to the John Ziegler Show," says the angry, outraged, and apocalyptically gleeful talk-radio host John Ziegler, "is that I am almost completely real." A report from deep inside the mercenary world of take-no-prisoners political talk radio.
In still other words, what if we chose to accept the fact that every few years, despite all reasonable precautions, some hundreds or thousands of us may die in the sort of ghastly terrorist attack that a democratic republic cannot 100-percent protect itself from without subverting the very principles that make it worth protecting?

Is this thought experiment monstrous? Would it be monstrous to refer to the 40,000-plus domestic highway deaths we accept each year because the mobility and autonomy of the car are evidently worth that high price? Is monstrousness why no serious public figure now will speak of the delusory trade-off of liberty for safety that Ben Franklin warned about more than 200 years ago? What exactly has changed between Franklin’s time and ours? Why now can we not have a serious national conversation about sacrifice, the inevitability of sacrifice—either of (a) some portion of safety or (b) some portion of the rights and protections that make the American idea so incalculably precious?

In the absence of such a conversation, can we trust our elected leaders to value and protect the American idea as they act to secure the homeland? What are the effects on the American idea of Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, PATRIOT Acts I and II, warrantless surveillance, Executive Order 13233, corporate contractors performing military functions, the Military Commissions Act, NSPD 51, etc., etc.? Assume for a moment that some of these measures really have helped make our persons and property safer—are they worth it? Where and when was the public debate on whether they’re worth it? Was there no such debate because we’re not capable of having or demanding one? Why not? Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don’t even want to consider whether some things trump safety? What kind of future does that augur?

FOOTNOTES:
1. Given the strict Gramm-Rudmanesque space limit here, let's just please all agree that we generally know what this term connotes—an open society, consent of the governed, enumerated powers, Federalist 10, pluralism, due process, transparency ... the whole democratic roil.

2. (This phrase is Lincoln's, more or less)"
freedom  culture  terrorism  davidfosterwallace  2007  democracy  sacrifice  safety  mobility  autonomy  comfort  personalsafety  via:robinsonmeyer  johnziegler  risk 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Brickjest - Home
"Kevin Griffith, Professor of English at Capital University, and his son Sebastian first envisioned translating David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest into Legos after reading The Brick Bible, by Brendan Powell Smith. Wallace's novel is probably the only contemporary text to offer a similar challenge to artists working in the medium of Lego. The artist in this case was Griffith's eleven-year-old son, Sebastian, who created all the scenes based on his father's descriptions of the relevant pages.

The edition of Infinite Jest used for this project is the Tenth Anniversary paperback edition, published in 2006.

The creators of this site neither expect nor intend to make money on this project."

[See also: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/aug/27/david-foster-wallace-infinite-jest-lego ]
lego  infinitejest  davidfosterwallace  kevingriffith  sebastiangriffith 
august 2014 by robertogreco
David Foster Wallace's Unfinished Novel - and Life - NYTimes.com
[Quoted here, but never bookmarked. Thanks, Nicole, for resurfacing.
http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/6839277872/unfinished-brian-eno-and-konrad-glogowski ]

"Fortunately, one of the human brain’s many tricks is that it automatically finishes unfinished things. This is remedial psychology — Sensation-Perception 101. If we see part of a circle, our mind closes it. If we see part of a word, our mind fills in the mssng lttrs.

Something analogous happens, I think, with unfinished novels: we always end up finishing them with something. We fill in the blanks, unconsciously, with what is closest at hand: the gestalt, the legend, the vibe, the tone, the aesthetic of the author in question. This is, after all, part of what a great author does: he trains us not just to receive his vision but also to extend it — to read the world (its landscapes, people, events, texts) in the peculiar way that he would have read them. He infuses the world, almost like a religion. (After a few Dickens novels, everything starts to look Dickensian.) So it makes sense that we would carry that vision through to an author’s own last work.

This explains an uncanny aspect of unfinished novels: the way their real-life back stories usually seem like something the authors themselves might have written. Max Brod’s famous nonburning of Kafka’s unpublished writing, for example, only reinforces one lesson of the unincinerated work: that the suffering individual is no match for the big bullying system of the world. Similarly, Nabokov’s “Original of Laura” (the blockbuster unfinished novel of 2009) played out like something out of “Pale Fire”: a mysterious manuscript written on index cards, squirreled away from the public for decades, then released with an elaborate apparatus that makes you wonder, slightly, if the editors were actually crazy. The publication of Roberto Bolaño’s “2666” (the blockbuster posthumous novel of 2008) mimicked a Bolaño story: porous and unresolved, with the tantalizing possibility that there’s still more of it secretly out there somewhere, getting ready to leap out at us and unsettle everything. It’s as if an author’s unfinished work is his last and best (or the least improvable) fiction."



"These complications are further complicated by the fact that it’s hard to even talk about how “unfinished” “The Pale King” is. The book is a collation of material that was left in Wallace’s office at the time of his death — 12 polished chapters stacked neatly on his desk, the remaining hundreds of pages scattered through notes and files and disks in various stages of revision. All of which is yet further complicated by the fact that, in his finished work, Wallace always used incompleteness, very consciously, as a narrative tool. (“Infinite Jest” ends nowhere, with a million big questions unresolved.) A truly unfinished Wallace novel, then, is exponentially hard to chart — it’s as if Picasso had accidentally tipped a bucket of blue paint over the corner of one of his blue-period paintings. How do we distinguish between intentional and unintentional blue? What does unfinished unfinishedness look like?"
davidfosterwallace  2011  samanderson  unfinished  thepaleking  cocreation  writing  death  incomplete  unknowing  notknowing  posthumous  novels  books  publishing  vladimirnabokov 
august 2014 by robertogreco
18. Webstock 2014 Talk Notes and References - postarchitectural
[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/91957759 ]
[See also: http://www.webstock.org.nz/talks/the-future-happens-so-much/ ]

"I was honored to be invited to Webstock 2014 to speak, and decided to use it as an opportunity to talk about startups and growth in general.

I prepared for this talk by collecting links, notes, and references in a flat text file, like I did for Eyeo and Visualized. These references are vaguely sorted into the structure of the talk. Roughly, I tried to talk about the future happening all around us, the startup ecosystem and the pressures for growth that got us there, and the dangerous sides of it both at an individual and a corporate level. I ended by talking about ways for us as a community to intervene in these systems of growth.

The framework of finding places to intervene comes from Leverage Points by Donella Meadows, and I was trying to apply the idea of 'monstrous thoughts' from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace. And though what I was trying to get across is much better said and felt through books like Seeing like a State, Debt, or Arctic Dreams, here's what was in my head."
shahwang  2014  webstock  donellameadows  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  debt  economics  barrylopez  trevorpaglen  google  technology  prism  robotics  robots  surveillance  systemsthinking  growth  finance  venturecapital  maciejceglowski  millsbaker  mandybrown  danhon  advertising  meritocracy  democracy  snapchat  capitalism  infrastructure  internet  web  future  irrationalexuberance  github  geopffmanaugh  corproratism  shareholders  oligopoly  oligarchy  fredscharmen  kenmcleod  ianbanks  eleanorsaitta  quinnorton  adamgreenfield  marshallbrain  politics  edwardsnowden  davidsimon  georgepacker  nicolefenton  power  responsibility  davidfosterwallace  christinaxu  money  adamcurtis  dmytrikleiner  charlieloyd  wealth  risk  sarahkendxior  markjacobson  anildash  rebeccasolnit  russellbrand  louisck  caseygollan  alexpayne  judsontrue  jamesdarling  jenlowe  wilsonminer  kierkegaard  readinglist  startups  kiev  systems  control  data  resistance  obligation  care  cynicism  snark  change  changetheory  neoliberalism  intervention  leveragepoints  engagement  nonprofit  changemaki 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Vicious - Other People's Stories
"I, however, don't believe in or am all that interested in admirable heroes.*"



"You can't get through life without being wounded in some way- probably in multiple ways. I'm not interested in putting people into little boxes labeled "good" or "bad". As much as possible, I want to be an instrument of healing in the lives of those I touch. Which starts, usually, with being curious about their story."



"(*"The truth is that the heroism of your childhood entertainments was not true valor. It was theatre. The grand gesture, the moment of choice, the mortal danger, the external foe, the climactic battle whose outcome resolves all– all designed to appear heroic, to excite and gratify an audience. Gentlemen, welcome to the world of reality– there is no audience. No one to applaud, to admire. No one to see you. Do you understand? Here is the truth– actual heroism receives no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it. No one is interested." -David Foster Wallace

DFW just, you know, doing that thing he did- stating the absolute truth.)"
heroes  everyday  stories  2013  via:lukeneff  davidfosterwallace 
november 2013 by robertogreco
THE DAVID FOSTER WALLACE AUDIO PROJECT | Audio archive of interviews with, profiles of, readings by, and eulogies to David Foster Wallace.
"This collection of David Foster Wallace recordings was originally collected by Ryan Walsh in early 2009. This website was built and is maintained by Jordyn Bonds.

While these files might exist elsewhere on the web we hope that archiving them here will serve as a useful redundancy. Included herein you’ll find various recordings under the following category headings:

• Interviews & Profiles
• Readings
• Eulogies & Remembrances
• ‘Brief Interviews’ Staged Readings

I have tried to include everything I came across in my (hopefully) exhaustive search that was not currently for sale elsewhere. Namely this excluded the ‘Consider The Lobster’ audiobook, the ‘McCain’s Promise’ audiobook, the ‘This Is Water’ audiobook read by Amy Wallace, the ‘This Is Water’ original recording, and the
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men audiobook. These are worthwhile and essential pieces of out-loud David Foster Wallace (even though ‘McCain’s Promise’ is read by someone else) and I highly recommend you obtain them.

The elements that are here should be easily identifiable by information which will be attached to the MP3′s. If you’re unsure of what any certain file is, or what its source was, drop me a line. I hope to post all of the audio files’ source pages eventually but I don’t have that all gathered together just yet. My apologies for that.

I’ve found that listening to large chunks of the project in a concentrated period of time has the ability to transform the most mundane road trip or massive cleaning project into a compelling, thoughtful adventure.

Lastly, if you would like to press legal charges against me for something in this collection that is copyrighted I would be sad and disappointed to hear from you but nonetheless appropriately responsive.

If you can find any DFW-Audio artifacts that aren’t included here I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to email me any leads or MP3′s. Send here: ryan@hallelujahthehills.com

Thank you and please enjoy,
Ryan"
davidfosterwallace  audio  via:vruba 
august 2013 by robertogreco
“I bristle at the idea that the only thing Susan Sontag or David Foster Wallace had to offer is advice for me.” | biblioklept
"“I bristle at the idea that the only thing Susan Sontag or David Foster Wallace had to offer is advice for me.”
BY BIBLIOKLEPT

"If I had first encountered Anaïs Nin by reading a quote of hers about love or dreams or fulfilling your potential or massaging your inner child superimposed on an insufferably twee image, I would never have picked up her wonderful remarkably-transgressive books. Perhaps this shows the shortsightedness of my own prejudices but it’s still not a fair or substantial representation of her work. What I want when I encounter Anaïs Nin is Anaïs Nin, not a therapist or a motivational speaker. The same goes for Susan Sontag or Henry Miller or David Foster Wallace or any of the other incandescently brilliant writers whose writing has recently been cherry-picked and repackaged as glorified self-help tracts. The quotes are certainly theirs, being culled from diaries, journals, speeches and interviews (with the double meaning of culled being entirely apt). The sentiments may well be true. Yet it seems to me duplicitous because the quotes have been carefully selected to fit a pre-existing agenda – us. I am a ludicrously solipsistic and selfish person but even I bristle at the idea that the only thing Susan Sontag or David Foster Wallace had to offer is advice for me. At the risk of impertinence, if I chance upon someone using the currently virulent “there is actually no such thing as atheism” quote by Foster Wallace out of context to bash atheists (ignoring its implicit ‘worship God precisely because He is so ineffectual He can’t harm you’ angle) with no further interest in his writing or life, I’m going to nail a copy of Infinite Jest to their collective forehead."

—From an essay that had me enthusiastically mumbling yes the whole way, “Albert Camus and the ventriloquists” by Darran Anderson. Read it."
davidfosterwallace  susansontag  advice  anaïsnin  infinitejest  henrymiller  albertcamus  darrananderson  via:selinjessa  camus 
july 2013 by robertogreco
George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year - NYTimes.com
"You could call this desire — to really have that awareness, to be as open as possible, all the time, to beauty and cruelty and stupid human fallibility and unexpected grace — the George Saunders Experiment."

“He’s such a generous spirit, you’d be embarrassed to behave in a small way around him.”

“There’s no one who has a better eye for the absurd and dehumanizing parameters of our current culture of capital. But then the other side is how the cool rigor of his fiction is counterbalanced by this enormous compassion. Just how capacious his moral vision is sometimes gets lost, because few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”

"the process of trying to say something, of working through craft issues and the worldview issues and the ego issues—all of this is character-building, and, God forbid, everything we do should have concrete career results. I’ve seen time and time again the way that the process of trying to say something dignifies and improves a person."

""...I don’t really think the humanist verities are quite enough. Because that would be crazy if they were. It would be so weird if we knew just as much as we needed to know to answer all the questions of the universe. Wouldn’t that be freaky? Whereas the probability is high that there is a vast reality that we have no way to perceive, that’s actually bearing down on us now and influencing everything. The idea of saying, ‘Well, we can’t see it, therefore we don’t need to see it,’ seems really weird to me.”"
struggle  progress  suicide  davidfosterwallace  canon  understanding  kindness  living  life  thinking  open  openminded  dignity  character  integrity  ideals  morality  humans  human  fallibility  aynrand  capitalism  careerism  compassion  junotdíaz  humanism  writing  economics  empathy  georgesaunders  2012  wisdom  storytelling 
january 2013 by robertogreco
David Foster Wallace on 'The Nature of Fun' | Books | The Guardian
"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 more large-hearted kind of fun. It has something to do with Work as Play. Or with the discovery that disciplined fun is more 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…"
ego  writers  readers  audience  psychology  howwewrite  fiction  authenticity  2012  fun  writing  creativity  creativewriting  davidfosterwallace 
december 2012 by robertogreco
The Quiet Ones - NYTimes.com
"In his recent treatise on this subject (its title regrettably unprintable here), the philosopher Aaron James posits that people with this personality type are so infuriating — even when the inconvenience they cause us is negligible — because they refuse to recognize the moral reality of those around them. (James’s thesis that this obliviousness correlates to a sense of special entitlement is corroborated by my own observation that the crowd on Amtrak, where airline-level fares act as a de facto class barrier, is generally louder and more inconsiderate than the supposed riffraff on the bus.) It’s a pathology that seems increasingly common, I suspect in part because people now spend so much time in the solipsist’s paradise of the Internet that they carry its illusion of invisible (and inaudible) omniscience back with them out into the real world."

"It’s impossible to be heard when your whole position is quiet now that all public discourse has become a shouting match."
publicspaces  sharedspace  consideration  society  attention  davidfosterwallace  listening  distraction  2012  trains  noise  etiquette  publicspace  amtrak  quietcar  slow  quiet  timkreider 
november 2012 by robertogreco
The Chattering Mind by Tim Parks | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
"…if the critics and academics wearied of untangling torment for a living (I see you haven’t got any better, Beckett’s old analyst responded after the author sent him a copy of Watt). Imagine if the publishers—let’s call them the Second Arrow Publishing Corporation—informed all their great authors, all the masters of the mercilessly talkative consciousness, that they are winding up their affairs; they have seen the light, they will no longer publish elaborations of tortured consciousness, lost love, frustrated ambition, however ingenious or witty. Imagine! All the great sufferers saved by Buddhism, declining the second arrow: quietness where there was Roth, serenity where there was McCarthy, well-being where there was David Foster Wallace?

Do we want that?

I suspect not. I suspect our destiny is to pursue our literary sickness for years to come. It is hard not to congratulate oneself on the quality of one’s unhappiness."
well-being  psychology  silence  suffering  nobility  dignity  suicide  reading  writing  2012  timparks  samuelbeckett  thinking  ulysses  jamesjoyce  hamlet  dostoyevsky  virginiawoolf  johnupdike  sandroveronesi  willself  philliproth  buddhism  unhappiness  happiness  literature  davidfosterwallace  cv  chatteringmind 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Just Kids
"Jeffrey Eugenides insists his new novel is not a roman à clef. But it might have been: The writers of his generation had youths tangled enough for ten novels."
jeffreyeugenides  davidfosterwallace  jonathanfranzen  infinitejest  literature  culture  2011  marykarr  writing 
october 2011 by robertogreco
Why American novelists don’t deserve the Nobel Prize - Salon.com
"An American hasn't won in 20 years. The Academy finds our writers insular and self-involved -- and they're right"

"As Bret Anthony Johnson, the director of the creative writing program at Harvard, noted in a recent Atlantic essay, our focus on the self will be our literary downfall, depriving literature of the oxygen on which it thrives: “Fiction brings with it an obligation to rise past the base level, to transcend the limitations of fact and history, and proceed skyward.” This sentiment is a sibling to Wallace’s anger — and both have a predecessor in T.S. Eliot’s 1919 essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” where he called art “a continual extinction of personality.”"
alexandernazaryan  us  literature  novelists  writing  politics  books  nobel  2011  self-involved  insularity  jonathansafranfoer  joycecaroloates  johnupdike  thomaspynchon  philiproth  cormacmccarthy  dondelillo  davidfosterwallace  daveeggers  bretanthonyjohnson  jhumpalahiri  amytan  aleksanderhemon  826  ralphellison  tonimorrison 
october 2011 by robertogreco
Adam Kirsch On The Literature Of David Foster Wallace | The New Republic
"Can reading—more to the point, can writing—be a kind of drug, a distraction from an otherwise insufferable existence? Is it possible to be addicted to writing?"

"The Pale King is Wallace’s attempt to find out if fiction can sustain this kind of attention to boring, banal reality, without contracting into the solipsistic fugues of Brief Interviews or expanding into the manic inventions of Infinite Jest. In fact, Wallace only occasionally tries to make his book itself rebarbatively dull—to enact the boredom he writes about."

"His posthumous book shows that when Wallace died he was in the middle of the ordeal of purging and remaking his style. This is the kind of challenge that only the best writers set themselves. One of the many things to mourn about Wallace’s death is that we will never get to know the writer he was striving to become."
davidfosterwallace  adamkirsch  infinitejest  thepaleking  2011  books  boredom  depression  writing  reading  philosophy  reinvention 
august 2011 by robertogreco
There’s a David Foster Wallace Character in Jeffrey Eugenides’ New Novel -- Vulture
"Certainly, Leonard is distinct from DFW in a number of ways as well — the particularities of his family situation, his being a total stud, that he's a manic-depressive, not just a depressive, that he's not a writer, and all the vagaries of the plot — but the similarities are so iconically David Foster Wallace (a bandanna and chew are not common accoutrements) that Eugenides, who did not have a well-known or documented friendship with Foster Wallace, must intentionally be calling him to mind."
via:lukeneff  jeffreyeugenides  davidfosterwallace  time  life  fiction  literature  2011 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Franzen, Suicide and the Real : Charlotte McGuinn Freeman
"When someone you love kills himself…the anger is overwhelming. Franzen claims it…drove him to an island off Chile: “my current state of flight from myself had begun 2 years earlier. At the time, I’d made a decision not to deal w/ the hideous death of someone I’d loved so much but instead take refuge in anger & work. Now that work was done…” When someone you love kills himself, you’re left in a welter of narrative: everyone argues over truth of a story that can never be determined. Mostly though you’re left in bewildering position of wondering how someone who you know loved you could do that to you. It’s the kind of pain that you never get over…that lodges deep down inside. What kind of terrible person must you be if the person who loved you most in this world couldn’t even be bothered to stay alive?

…I’m deeply grateful to Franzen — he goes there, into the head of the fucked up depressed person, & parses the fucked up logic in a way that finally makes some kind of sense."
davidfosterwallace  jonathanfranzen  suicide  death  depression  2011 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Flavorwire » A Visual Exploration of ‘Infinite Jest’
"This week, our friends at The Rumpus alerted us to an amazing new project that allows us to indulge our David Foster Wallace fandom/love of all things film-related/geeky sensibilities all at once, and in the best way: Poor Yorick Entertainment, created by Chris Ayers. The website, Ayers writes, is “a visual exploration of the filmography of James O. Incandenza and the world of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest… ‘Poor Yorick Entertainment’ is the name of the fictional independent film company started by James O. Incandenza in David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest. . . . This project is an attempt to bring some kind of visual life to the fictional filmmaker’s body of work.” Um, this is the best idea ever, and it isn’t only limited to fictional movie posters — though those are wonderful. Ayers also treats us to various other artifacts from the novel, so if you’re a fan, be prepared to grin your face off."
davidfosterwallace  infinitejest  posters  graphicdesign  advertising 
june 2011 by robertogreco
David Foster Wallace and “Robinson Crusoe” : The New Yorker
"REFLECTIONS about “Robinson Crusoe,” the remote island of Masafuera, and the death of David Foster Wallace. In the South Pacific, five hundred miles off the coast of central Chile, is a forbiddingly vertical volcanic island, seven miles long and four miles wide, that is populated by millions of seabirds and thousands of fur seals but is devoid of people, except in the warmer months, when a handful of fishermen come out to catch lobsters. In the nineteen-sixties, Chilean tourism officials renamed the island for Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish adventurer whose tale of solitary living in the archipelago was probably the basis for Daniel Defoe’s novel “Robinson Crusoe,” but the locals still use its original name, Masafuera: Farther Away."

[Great piece, hopefully out from the paywall soon. Short passages here: http://boingboing.net/2011/04/12/jonathan-franzen-vis.html & here: http://www.mbird.com/2011/05/solitude-suicide-screwtape-and-the-death-sentence-of-david-foster-wallace/ ]

[A positive response by Charlotte McGuinn Freeman: http://charlottemcguinnfreeman.com/2011/04/21/on-franzen-in-the-new-yorker/

[A negative response by Felix Salmon: http://www.felixsalmon.com/2011/04/the-hateful-jonathan-franzen/ ]

[Update: Most of it here: http://liberatormagazine.com/community/showthread.php?tid=1223 ]

[Update: no longer paywalled.]
jonathanfranzen  davidfosterwallace  chile  robinsoncrusoe  loss  death  life  2011  writing  travel  storytelling  masafuera  juanfernandesislands  solitude  internet  cv 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Athletes are different from you and me
Way too much to pull a quote. Several passages woven together into a tight argument. Classic Carmody from his amazing stint at Kottke.org.
sports  athletes  davidfosterwallace  timcarmody  billsimmons  katiebaker  michaeljordan  hemingway  fscottfitzgerald  tonyhawk  eddiedow  specialization  pathology  behavior  humans  society  dedication  specialists 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Death is Not the End: David Foster Wallace, James Murphy, and the New Sincerity « Thought Catalog
"And so those of us unfashionable enough to point out that the emperor has no clothes—or simply to look for a way to mean what we say and say what we mean, and to ask the same of others—are cowed into not taking any stance at all, for fear we’ll be exposed as irrelevant the ones with no clothes—the last thing anybody wants to be. But the more we worry about how others perceive us, the less we do anything worth perceiving at all.

Artists like Wallace and Murphy are crucial because they can save us from this spiral of second-guessing and self-doubt. These artists, who are more concerned with being up-front and unguarded than being cool, represent the current antidote to all this ironic hollowness."

[from page 2, which this bookmark points to]

[via: http://tumble77.com/post/4895514030/and-so-those-of-us-unfashionable-enough-to-point ]
postmodernism  davidfosterwallace  jamesmurphy  surfjanstevens  irony  hollowness  authenticity  cv  truth  sincerity  openness  cool  coolness  self-doubt  segond-guessing  directness  thepaleking  values  meaning  purpose 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Why David Foster Wallace inspires such devotion in his fans. - By Nathan Heller - Slate Magazine
"…world-wizened DFW, telling you all the analytic tools & interpretive self-awareness you acquired in college is just a starting point…real work of educated person lies in moving among ways of thinking, & w/ compassion. "The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it," Wallace said at Kenyon. Yet "[t]he really important kind of freedom involves attention & awareness & discipline, & being able truly to care about other people."

Wallace would have been unable to make such kumbaya pronouncements & be taken dead seriously by…hypereducated, status-conscious readers if he hadn't won credentials… blazed a trail that no other formal thinker of his generation led as brightly. Wallace was 21st-century intellectual who taught readers to feel, writer who explained how it was possible to live receptively & humanely w/out betraying a heavy, highly critical education."
davidfosterwallace  thisiswater  philosophy  education  empathy  compassion  criticalthinking  2011  ethics  thepaleking  infinitejest  caring  attention  awareness  discipline  tcsnmy  lcproject  books 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Karen Green interview: 'David Foster Wallace's suicide turned him into a "celebrity writer dude", which would have made him wince' | Books | The Observer
"David Foster Wallace, the most gifted and original American novelist of his generation, took his own life in 2008. His widow, the artist Karen Green, talks of the struggle to deal her loss and her decision to publish his unfinished work, The Pale King"
davidfosterwallace  karengreen  thepaleking  literature  suicide  life  books  death 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Inside David Foster Wallace's Private Self-Help Library | The Awl
"One surprise was the # of popular self-help books in the collection, & the care & attention w/ which he read & reread them. I mean stuff of best-sellingest, Oprah-level cheesiness & la-la reputation was found in Wallace's library. Along w/ all the Wittgenstein, Husserl & Borges, he read John Bradshaw, Willard Beecher, Neil Fiore, Andrew Weil, M. Scott Peck & Alice Miller. Carefully.

Much of Wallace's work has to do w/ cutting himself back down to size, & in a larger sense, with the idea that cutting oneself back down to size is a good one, for anyone. I left Ransom Center wondering whether one of most valuable parts of Wallace's legacy might not be in persuading us to put John Bradshaw on same level w/ Wittgenstein. & why not; both authors are human beings who set out to be of some use to their fellows. It can be argued, in fact, that getting rid of whole idea of special gifts, of exceptional, & of genius, is the most powerful current running through all of Wallace's work."
writing  psychology  books  davidfosterwallace  literature  via:lukeneff  self-help  humility  genius  equality  human  humanity  empathy  meaning  exceptional  specialness  johnbradshaw 
april 2011 by robertogreco
John Jeremiah Sullivan Reviews David Foster Wallace's Last Novel, 'The Pale King': Books: GQ
When they say that he was a generational writer, that he "spoke for a generation," there's a sense in which it's almost scientifically true. Everything we know about the way literature gets made suggests there's some connection between the individual talent and the society that produces it, the social organism. … I remember well enough to know it's not a trick of hindsight, hearing about and reading Infinite Jest for the first time, as a 20-year-old, and the immediate sense of: This is it. One of us is going to try it. The "it" being all of it, to capture the sensation of being alive in a fractured superpower at the end of the twentieth century. Someone had come along with an intellect potentially strong enough to mirror the spectacle and a moral seriousness deep enough to want to in the first place. About none of his contemporaries—even those who in terms of ability could compete with him—can one say that they risked as great a failure as Wallace did."
davidfosterwallace  literature  writing  books  culture  thepaleking  johnjeremiahsullivan  reviews  via:timcarmody 
april 2011 by robertogreco
‘The Pale King’ by David Foster Wallace - Book Review - NYTimes.com
"Told in fragmented, strobe-lighted chapters that depict an assortment of misfits, outsiders & eccentrics, the novel sometimes feels like the TV show “The Office” as rewritten with a magnifying glass by Nicholson Baker."

"In this, his most emotionally immediate work, Wallace is on intimate terms with the difficulty of navigating daily life, & he conjures states of mind with the same sorcery he brings to pictorial description. He conveys the gut deep sadness people experience when “the wing of despair” passes over their lives, & the panic of being a fish “thrashing in the nets” of one’s own obligations, stuck in a miserable job & needing to “cover the monthly nut.”"

"This novel reminds us what a remarkable observer Wallace was — a first-class “noticer,” to use a Saul Bellow term, of the muchness of the world around him, chronicling the overwhelming data and demands that we are pelted with, second by second, minute by minute, and the protean, overstuffed landscape we dwell in."
davidfosterwallace  via:lukeneff  thepaleking  noticing  observation  boredom  boring  boringness  novels  books  2011  michikokakutani  infinitejest 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Boston Review — Leland de la Durantaye: How to Be Happy
"Wallace’s conclusion is simple. “Whether there’s ‘choice’ involved is, at a certain point, of no interest . . . since it’s the very surrender of choice and self that informs the love in the first place.” This is radical and right and ultimately his last word on free will and choice. Whatever love is, we do not choose it. In the case of Michael Joyce, it means to “consent to live in a world that, like a child’s world, is very serious and very small.” Whether Joyce chose the life he is leading cedes to another concern, whether it matters, and whether any of us really chooses.

…Which is to say, we are free to speculate on the fates of others, about the degree to which others are conditioned by their circumstances and the degree to which they condition those circumstances, but where we should end, ethically, is simple and clear, and everyone has always known it. We should wish them well."
writing  literature  philosophy  davidfosterwallace  happiness  empathy  thisiswater  love  michaeljoyce  infinitejest  human  fate  time  language  compassion  aristotle  fatalism  richardtaylor 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Review: The Pale King - Look-Listen - March 2011 - St. Louis MO
"You've heard that this is a book about boredom, and the potential for transcendence that exists beyond the featureless horizon of boredom's endless Midwestern field. That if we fight our instincts to distract ourselves from the reality of our adult lives, which are not by nature "fun," and instead pay complete and focused attention to that reality, boredom might reveal to the most focused of us a kind of heaven, a constant atomic bliss."

"Nor will you be surprised that The Pale King is about America and our hyper-advanced economic system. About the paradox of our nation, a unit proudly singular, united and indivisible, and yet premised on a religion of individual freedom. How our deification of independence has opened moral and legal gateways to acts of grotesque selfishness."
via:coldbrain  davidfosterwallace  thepaleking  books  reviews  boredom  selfishness  economics  us  society  freedom  independence  capitalism  adulthood  psychology  2011 
march 2011 by robertogreco
The Millions : Exclusive: The First Lines of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King
"Past the flannel plains and blacktop graphs and skylines of canted rust, and past the tobacco-​brown river overhung with weeping trees and coins of sunlight through them on the water downriver, to the place beyond the windbreak, where untilled fields simmer shrilly in the a.m. heat: shattercane, lamb’s‑quarter, cutgrass, sawbrier, nutgrass, jimsonweed, wild mint, dandelion, foxtail, muscadine, spinecabbage, goldenrod, creeping charlie, butter-​print, nightshade, ragweed, wild oat, vetch, butcher grass, invaginate volunteer beans, all heads gently nodding in a morning breeze like a mother’s soft hand on your cheek."<br />
 [via: http://lukescommonplacebook.tumblr.com/post/3891972382/ ]
davidfosterwallace  thepaleking  books  literature 
march 2011 by robertogreco
The Afterlife of David Foster Wallace - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"That's a mixed blessing for scholars, especially as they begin to focus more attention on parts of Wallace's work, like the journalism and the fiction other than Infinite Jest, that haven't yet gotten their critical due. "I think that most Wallace scholars want him to receive more attention," Burn said. "But there's a real danger, when references to Wallace seem to be everywhere, that his name will begin to float free of his substantive literary context and become an index for larger cultural fantasies about the tortured artist. His name glows in the dark.""
literature  writing  books  davidfosterwallace  academia 
march 2011 by robertogreco
The Boy - Backbone.docx - Powered by Google Docs
"Changes between the transcription of David Foster Wallace reading ‘A fragment of a longer thing’ (Dec. 2000) and The New Yorker’s publication of that story as ‘Backbone’ (Feb. 28, 2011)<br />
Blue are insertions, red reveal deletions."
davidfosterwallace  editing  newyorker  via:lukeneff  writing  backbone 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Flavorwire » The First Real David Foster Wallace Documentary
"In the first big DFW documentary since his suicide…Geoff Ward discusses the author’s childhood, legacy, preoccupations and battles with the gentleness of a true fan but the exactitude of a scholar. On the radio missive, which first aired on the BBC on February 6, Ward interviews Wallace’s contemporaries, Don DeLillo, Michael Pietsch, editor of Infinite Jest, Wallace’s agent, Bonnie Nadell & his sister, Amy Wallace. He also mines archives of interviews w/ DFW — some of the most wonderful are with Wallace discussing irony —  & accents his ruminations & conversations w/ passages from Infinite Jest as well as the forthcoming The Pale King.<br />
<br />
If you’re a reader, a writer or even just a member of the television saturation generation, it’s worth a listen, & if you’re a fan of Wallace, the program may tug at your heartstrings, suggesting what might have been, but celebrating the man as he was…DeLillo: “I can’t think of anyone quite like him, at all…Wallace stands alone.”
davidfosterwallace  books  writing  biography  bbc  documentary  thepaleking  infinitejest  2011  markcostello  dondelillo  geoffward 
february 2011 by robertogreco
What is social information? « Snarkmarket
"Wallace has already signaled that this is going to be a paragraph about repetition to exhaustion or even injury before he even does it. You could say he needs to keep clarifying & repeating these things because his sentences are so convoluted that otherwise you couldn’t follow them, but 1) his syntax is pretty clear 2) it’s not like he’s a freak about specifying everything… But it’s also just Wallace — who understands all of this, by the way, better than we do: communication, information, redundancy, efficiency, purity, the dangers of too much information, and especially the fear of being alone and the need to find connection with other human beings — creating a structure that allows him to ping his reader, saying “I am here”… and waiting for his reader to respond in kind, “I’m alive right now; I’m a person; look at me.” 
timcarmody  snarkmarket  davidfosterwallace  infinitejest  language  solitude  loneliness  human  need  information  redundancy  efficiency  purity  clarity  communication  infooverload  connectedness  connection  freemandyson  malcolmgladwell  devinfriedman  ycombinator  dailybooth  expression  jamesgleick  congo  kele  languages  words  pinging  drums  2011  northafrica  revolution  revolutions  media  raymondcarver  history  cannon  signaling 
february 2011 by robertogreco
David Foster Wallace's Personal Files - Newsweek ["NEWSWEEK takes a tour through the late writer’s just-released archives. It was an infinitely fascinating quest."]
"While many children are capable of conjuring imaginative tales, the grade-school Wallace has an unusual empathy for the adult double-bind of finding purpose in a job that also brings misery. The kettle hopes that a solution may be found through the act of writing. All of this, heartbreakingly, is reminiscent of Wallace himself…"<br />
<br />
"It will be fittingly postmodern if an archive without personal correspondence and heavy on other writers’ original texts can recast an author’s reputation. Most of the profiles written lately about his colleague Franzen (and there have been more than a couple) mention Wallace in some fashion, usually as a foil for Franzen’s status as the last “realist” standing. And yet Wallace—who, in McCain’s Promise, literally wrote the (short) book on the maverick senator’s quest for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000—never shrank from pursuing an understanding of the contemporary world."
davidfosterwallace  literature  books  writing 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Pelé as a Comedian - The Run of Play [via: http://readingbyeugene.com/2010/12/23/the-top-five-long-reads-of-2010/]
"Pelé…strikes me…as a comedian…as the opposite of a tragedian, the author of the kind of classical comedy that always ends w/ a wedding, kind that revels in turning the order of things upside down so that it can give you the giddy satisfaction of seeing them turned right-side up again. This kind of comedy is in the business of reconciliation: The king turns out to be wise, lovers love each other, & villains reveal themselves to be failures, however things look for a while. When Titania is in the forest w/ Bottom, everything is wonderfully backwards: The queen of the ideal is enslaved to clumsiest physicality. Then Puck flies through, Pelé scores his goal, & all the faculties go back to their right places. It has no effect on real world, or on whatever moves in dark, & if the real world is a place of despair, then the most it can do is to keep despair at bay. It’s rigged, like all art, & it feels like a game because it is…But there are worse things than keeping despair at bay…"
sports  brianphillips  davidfosterwallace  pelé  soccer  football  2010  comedy  tragedy  shakespeare  play  games  meaning  futbol 
december 2010 by robertogreco
The philosophical underpinnings of David Foster Wallace's fiction. - By James Ryerson - Slate Magazine
"To understand the fiction of David Foster Wallace, it helps to have a little Wittgenstein."<br />
<br />
"for someone as obsessed with isolation as Wallace, he was "obviously a social novelist, a novelist of noticed details, on a near-encyclopedic scale." Where other novelists dealing with solipsism, like Markson and Beckett, painted barren images with small compressed sentences, Costello observed, "Dave tackled the issue by massively overfilling his scenes and sentences to comic bursting"—indeed to the point of panicked overstimulation. There was a palpable strain for Wallace between engagement with the world, in all its overwhelming fullness, and withdrawal to one's own head, in all its loneliness. The world was too much, the mind alone too little. "You can't be anything but contemptible living for yourself," Costello said, summing up the dilemma. "But letting the world in—that sucks too."<br />
<br />
It's not exactly what you'd call an intellectual conundrum. But it was the lived one."
books  writing  language  philosophy  davidfosterwallace  wittgenstein  depression  solipsism  isolation  overstimulation  loneliness 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Infinite Jest Diagram.
"A diagram of nearly all the characters<br />
in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest,<br />
with connections and relations shown thereamong."
infinitejest  visualization  davidfosterwallace  diagram  literature 
december 2010 by robertogreco
bookforum.com / paper trail
"I was asked to contribute to this anthology because I am the widow, via hanging, of David Foster Wallace," she writes, "whose writing I enjoyed very much, but whose made-up potty humor songs on a road trip I liked even better." [via: http://lukescommonplacebook.tumblr.com/post/1549776904/i-was-asked-to-contribute-to-this-anthology]
davidfosterwallace  humor  books  writing 
november 2010 by robertogreco
à la Sophia: David (Foster) Wallace's Syllabus
"For those who are interested, here is his syllabus for the Literary Interpretation class I took in Spring '05. I wonder if any of the contemporary authors knew he was teaching their work? Click to enlarge."

[via: http://jrfiles.tumblr.com/day/2010/09/27/ ]
davidfosterwallace  academia  syllabus  education  writing  teaching  literature  books  syllabi 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Text Patterns: lethargie
"In my last post about Infinite Jest I mentioned the philosophical-theological-spiritual problem of the interesting. With that in mind, it’s . . . um . . . interesting? — no, let’s say it’s thought-provoking to note this excerpt from The Pale King, the novel Wallace left unfinished at his death. Here Lane Dean, Jr., a worker for the IRS, is thinking about boredom — and I will indicate by ellipsis the many sentences I am leaving out, which (as you will see if you read the excerpt) tell us about all the things that are (of course) distracting Lane Dean, Jr. as he tries to think about boredom:

"Donne, of course, called it lethargie, and for a time it seems conjoined somewhat with melancholy, saturninia, otiositas, tristitia; that is, to be confused with sloth and torpor and lassitude and eremia and vexation and distemper and attributed to spleen""
davidfosterwallace  alanjacobs  thepaleking  interesting  boredom 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Text Patterns: the last jest
"Did Infinite Jest change your life?

I don't think so, but again, we’ll see. I think it’s probably the most incisive exploration of what Kierkegaard called the aesthetic life — the need for, the addiction to, the interesting — that we’ve seen since, well, Kierkegaard. In this context Auden once wrote, “All sin tends to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is what is called damnation.” That strikes me as a pretty good one-sentence summary of Infinite Jest. But of course the very idea of a “one-sentence summary of Infinite Jest” is intrinsically laughable. A bad jest."
alanjacobs  infinitejest  davidfosterwallace  addiction  damnation  auden  kierkegaard  interestingness 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Text Patterns: ways of jesting
"I wonder, therefore, how well I will adjust to this new model of reading, and whether, even if I become a better reader in some ways, whether I will become a worse one in others."
alanjacobs  infinitejest  reading  davidfosterwallace  ebooks  kindle  ereaders  technology  annotation  spatial  spatialawareness  ipad 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Infinite Manic Sadness: DFW's Universal Inner Child | Culture | The American Scene
"Part of it sounds of false modesty, & part of it sounds of fear. But then you read the seemingly cornball quote above & you have to concede that at least some of it is sincere. He’s speaking in the first person plural– throwing down something like a moral injunction–but what “we” are enjoined from doing is the sort of thing that mainly only people like DFW need to be told not to do. You can hear him speaking as a seriously depressed person who, in his dark moments, succumbs to self-laceration & -recrimination, who inflicts terrible violence on his own spirit, who is not nice to himself at all. He has to know that not everyone is depressed like he is. But when he thinks of people in general, what he sees & worries about is their vulnerability to the kind of extreme pain he lives with."

"That extremes of feeling can be made both more intelligible (psychologically & aesthetically) & more dramatic & beautiful through extremes of structure, syntax, & tone, &, maybe, vice versa."

[Additional quote: "For some of us, reading is a highly complicated, vexatious game."]

[via: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2010/08/feeney-on-jest.html ]
davidfosterwallace  writing  depression  emotion  syntax  tone  structure  psychology  aesthetics  mattfeeney  jameswood  hystericalrealism  postmodernism  morality  ethics  empathy  vulnerability  infinitejest 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Text Patterns: infinite gestures
"I’ve had the big paperback version for a while, and I was expecting to read that. I got myself a bookmark, and then stuck a Post-it note in the endnotes for rapid reference; I even printed out a list of significant characters and taped it to the inside back cover. I sharpened my pencils, and then plunged in.

But darn, that book is big and awkward. Also, it has a lot of words per page, and per line — understandable, given the novel’s length, but not ideal for readability. And then I started thinking that I might want to blog about it, and in that case, being able to access underlined passages online for quick & easy copying & pasting would be a large plus. . . .

So I bought the Kindle version. All the above problems solved . . . but . . ."
alanjacobs  davidfosterwallace  infinitejest  reading  kindle  codex  print  books  ebooks 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Cool Tools: The Best Magazine Articles Ever
"This is a work in progress. It is a on-going list of suggestions collectively made by readers of this post. At this point the list has not been vetted or selected by me. In fact, other than the original five items I suggested, all of the articles mentioned here have been recommended by someone other than me. (Although I used to edit Wired magazine none of the article from Wired were suggested by me or anyone who worked at Wired. I also did not suggest my own pieces.)"
kevinkelly  lists  magazines  instapaper  writing  toread  reading  essays  culture  bestof  journalism  davidfosterwallace 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Luke's Commonplace Book | A Text Playlist
"Frank Chimero came up with the idea for a Text Playlist. I like this idea a lot. I’m a little late to the game, but here’s mine."
textplaylist  lukeneff  davidfosterwallace  thewire  davidsimon  amyhempel  anniedillard  edwardabbey  jonathanrauch  introverts  wendellberry  billmckibben  marksinger  davidmilch  inspiration  reading  toread  wisdom  passion  writing 
july 2010 by robertogreco
David Foster Wallace commencement address audio
"In 2005, David Foster Wallace gave the commencement address at Kenyon College. After a transcript of the speech was posted online (the original was taken down...a copy is available here), it became something of a high-brow viral sensation and was eventually packaged into book form.

The original audio recording (i.e. as read by Wallace on the Kenyon podium) has just been released on Audible.com and is also available through iTunes and on Amazon (this is the cheapest option). Note: there is also an audiobook version of the speech read by Wallace's sister...but I think the original is the best bet. It's a fantastic speech."
davidfosterwallace  empathy  thisiswater  commencementspeeches  commencementaddresses 
june 2010 by robertogreco
Bookshelf: An Interview With David Foster Wallace
"I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves. Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a sort of “generalization” of suffering. Does this make sense? We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside."
via:preoccupations  davidfosterwallace  2005  empathy  reading  writing  fiction  alone  loneliness  identity  suffering  humanexperience  humans  imagination  self  comfort  discomfort  nourishment 
april 2010 by robertogreco
The words David Foster Wallace circled in his dictionary. - - Slate Magazine
"Below you'll find the complete list of words that David Foster Wallace circled in his American Heritage Dictionary. Many thanks to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas-Austin for providing us with the list. (To learn more about the Ransom Center's Wallace archive, click here.)

Most words are hyperlinked to the American Heritage definition (available online via Yahoo). In a few cases, we couldn't find the definition on Yahoo, so we just left those words in bold."
words  english  davidfosterwallace  dictionaries  definitions  dictionary 
april 2010 by robertogreco
David Foster Wallace's archive acquired
"The web site currently contains some tantalizing examples of what the archive will eventually hold, including the first page of a handwritten draft of Infinite Jest, his annotated dictionary -- circled words included benthos, exergue, hypocorism, mendacious, rebus, and witenagemot -- and some heavily annotated books he owned, including his copy of Players by DeLillo.
archive  literature  davidfosterwallace  kottke 
march 2010 by robertogreco
The David Foster Wallace Audio Project
"This collection of David Foster Wallace MP3's was lovingly collected by Ryan Walsh in early 2009. Included herein are many, many files under the following category headings:
davidfosterwallace  mp3  podcasts  literature  interviews  audio  books  culture 
march 2010 by robertogreco
Gallery at The LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies [via: http://kottke.org/10/01/the-films-from-infinite-jest-made-real]
"In 1996 author David Foster Wallace published his novel Infinite Jest and was instantly hailed as one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, eventually being granted a MacArthur award. His sprawling and complex novel chronicles the lives of the characters surrounding James Incandenza- avant-garde filmmaker, mathematician, and visionary tennis instructor. The plot largely revolves around the missing master copy of one of Incandenza's films, titled Infinite Jest, a film so entertaining to its viewers that they become catatonic, losing all interest in anything other than endless viewings of the film.
davidfosterwallace  infinitejest  film  literature 
january 2010 by robertogreco
The Howling Fantods! - The Pale King MLA09 Update
"“The subject of the novel is boredom. The opening of the book instructs the reader to go back and read the small type they skipped on the copyright page, which details the battle with publishers over their determination to call it fiction, when it’s all 100% true. The narrator, David Foster Wallace, is at some point confused with another David F. Wallace by IRS computers, pointing to the degree to which our lives are filled with irrelevant complexity.”"
davidfosterwallace  thepaleking  boredom  complexity  life  irs  fiction  truth  irrelevance 
january 2010 by robertogreco
Sam Anderson on When the Meganovel Shrank - The 00's Issue -- New York Magazine
"What new species of books, then, have proved themselves fit to survive in the attentional ecosystem of the aughts? What kind of novel, if any, can appeal to readers who read with 34 nested browser tabs open simultaneously on their frontal lobes? And, for that matter, what kind of novel gets written by novelists who spend increasing chunks of their own time reading words off screens?"
2000s  bestof  literature  writing  media  books  culture  fiction  newmedia  reading  attention  technology  robertobolaño  googlebooks  samanderson  davidmitchell  michaelchabon  davidfosterwallace  infinitejest  postmodernism  daveeggers  junotdíaz  toread  00s 
december 2009 by robertogreco
HTMLGIANT / Grammar Challenge!
"IF NO ONE HAS YET TAUGHT YOU HOW TO AVOID OR REPAIR CLAUSES LIKE THE FOLLOWING, YOU SHOULD, IN MY OPINION, THINK SERIOUSLY ABOUT SUING SOMEBODY, PERHAPS AS CO-PLAINTIFF WITH WHOEVER’S PAID YOUR TUITION"
davidfosterwallace  language  grammar  english  linguistics  writing  quiz  test  literature 
december 2009 by robertogreco
it’s in ohio - mammoth // building nothing out of something
"Back in August, while on vacation, I read David Foster Wallace’s first novel, The Broom of the System. A pair of geographies he invented, the suburb of East Corinth and the Great Ohio Desert, particularly fascinated me, as they demonstrate how ordinary ideas (the urban plan as figure and landscape as moral coercion) can become utterly alien, when stretched to extreme scale"
geography  fiction  davidfosterwallace  libya  ohio  iceland 
october 2009 by robertogreco
Infinite Summer » Blog Archive » John Moe: I Did Not Read Infinite Jest This Summer
"David Foster Wallace and Rick Moe, born just six months apart, were completely different people. I know that, but I have pretty hard time drawing distinctions sometimes. They both had brains that didn’t work in the same way as most other brains. I admired them both in ways that transcended any other admiration I had felt. With Rick, it was, again, the golden glow that older brothers have, on their bikes and skateboards, with their strength and jokes and cars. With Wallace, it was reading some of those Harper’s essays and experiencing Shea Stadium Beatlemania and a kind of loving fear all at once. Oh, so that’s a writer, I thought, sweating, screaming on the inside. As someone who wanted to be a writer, it was incredibly inspiring and absolutely soul crushing."
davidfosterwallace  writing  brothers  siblings  depression  books  suicide  death  infinitejest 
september 2009 by robertogreco
David Foster Wallace - Telegraph
""The thrust of [The Pale King] is an attempt to look at the dark matter of tedium & boredom & repetition & familiarity that life is made of & through that to find a path to joy & art & everything that matters. Wallace has set himself the task of making a moving & joyful book out of the matter of life that most writers veer away from as hard as they can. & what he left of it is heartbreakingly full & beautiful & deep. He was looking at how one survives.”...Pressed for more details, Pietsch cites a commencement speech that Wallace gave at Kenyon in 2005, which he says is "very much a distillation" of the novel's material. "The really important kind of freedom involves attention & awareness & discipline, & being able truly to care about other people & to sacrifice for them over & over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom...The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, & lost, some infinite thing."

[via: http://kottke.org/09/08/the-pale-king-and-that-kenyon-commencement-speech ]
davidfosterwallace  via:kottke  thepaleking  life  meaning  writing  philosophy  survival  joy  art  boredom  repetition  familiarity  freedom  attention  caring  awareness  discipline  consciousness  books  commencementspeeches  commencementaddresses 
august 2009 by robertogreco
The Royal Tenenbaums and Infinite Jest
"The Royal Tenenbaums (RT) opens with a shot of a book, titled The Royal Tenenbaums, and immediately a narrator (Alec Baldwin) begins to read the opening paragraph of the book. Throughout the film, we are led to believe that this narrator is reading us the story of the book The Royal Tenenbaums. While that prose-form screenplay serves as the narration, I believe that another book, Infinite Jest (IJ), manages to influence the film in a number of general and specific parallels."
davidfosterwallace  wesanderson  royaltenenbaums  infinitejest 
april 2009 by robertogreco
A Baker’s Dozen Of My Feelings About David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest - The Rumpus.net
"Reading IJ is like forging a spiritual connection with a man who expresses my feelings better than I do. As someone who writes, I've often felt that language is so poor an instrument for communication or expression. I find it unyieldingly difficult to write an honest sentence. DFW exhibits otherwise. George Saunders, in his remarks at David Foster Wallace's memorial service, called Wallace "a wake-up artist." Yes. DFW's words, beyond creating solid smart sentences and solid smart stories, reach this part of you that you thought no one could reach, saying everything you've been wanting to say and hear, everything you've been thinking on your own but haven't been able to share with anyone else."
davidfosterwallace  writing  books  infinitejest  via:kottke  reading  reviews  criticism  georgesaunders 
february 2009 by robertogreco
Essay - Consider the Philosopher - After the Death of David Foster Wallace - NYTimes.com
"For all its inscrutability, though, the thesis represents an important phase in Wallace’s development. Once its goals and ambitions are understood, the paper casts a revealing light on the early stages of his struggle to use the powers of his formidable mind for the higher good: to protect against the seductions of the intellect, and to find solid ground for his most urgent and heartfelt convictions."
davidfosterwallace  philosophy  writing  logic 
december 2008 by robertogreco
New fiction from David Foster Wallace
"Before his health deteriorated in the months before he died, David Foster Wallace was working on a larger work of fiction presumed by some to be a new novel, his first since the 1996 publication of Infinite Jest. Word comes from Chaffey College that "An Untitled Chunk" of that larger work will be published in the school's literary review magazine."
davidfosterwallace 
december 2008 by robertogreco
The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace : Rolling Stone
"He also told his parents how he'd felt at school. "Having his life fall apart narrowed his sense of what his options were — and the possibilities that were left became more real to him....He would talk about just being very sad, and lonely," Sally says. "It didn't have anything to do with being loved. He just was very lonely inside himself.""..."Back at school junior year, he never talked much about his breakdown. "It was embarrassing and personal," Costello says. "A zone of no jokes." Wallace regarded it as a failure, something he should have been able to control. He routinized his life." via: http://www.kottke.org/08/10/as-close-to-a-biography-of-david-foster-wallace-as-youll-get
davidfosterwallace  suicide  depression  writing  biography  literature  rollingstone 
october 2008 by robertogreco
I Am a Slow Blog : Ruminate
"Slow blogging is mindful wandering is meditative reflection is an attempt to face the fear, to take a stab at the heart, take responsibility and risk, and in the process create a gift of immense value to others, a manifestation of our particular truth."
slow  blogging  thinking  reflection  writing  contemplation  design  davidfosterwallace  umbertoeco 
october 2008 by robertogreco
Consider the Lobster
"For 56 years, the Maine Lobster Festival has been drawing crowds with the promise of sun, fun, and fine food. One visitor would argue that the celebration involves a whole lot more."
davidfosterwallace  lobsters  culture  writing  food  animals  philosophy  ethics  journalism  essays 
september 2008 by robertogreco
The Believer - Interview with David Foster Wallace
"It might be that one of the really significant problems of today’s culture involves finding ways for educated people to talk meaningfully with one another across the divides of radical specialization...not just the polymer chemist talking to the semiotician, but people with special expertise acquiring the ability to talk meaningfully to us, meaning ordinary schmoes...As of now, of course, they’re rare. What they have is a particular kind of genius that’s not really part of their specific area of expertise as such areas are usually defined and taught. There’s not really even a good univocal word for this kind of genius—which might be significant. Maybe there should be a word; maybe being able to communicate with people outside one’s area of expertise should be taught, and talked about, and considered as a requirement for genuine expertise."
davidfosterwallace  communication  genius  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  explaining  politics  literature  interviews  cv  generalists 
september 2008 by robertogreco
things magazine: fun things must pass
"A few thoughts on the incredibly limited interaction between architecture and contemporary literature, triggered by the occasion of David Foster Wallace's death. DFW is perhaps best known amongst those with only a casual relationship with his work as someone who turned the footnote into a meta digression, a literal subtext that could then occupy another space within the main narrative, a place for digressions, expansions, and diversions. His journalism, if one could call it that, was a particular favourite, dense explorations of the apparently trite or over-worked, extricating fresh meaning and inevitable absurdity from each situation."..."Those gymnastic sentences and deep pile footnotes were once revolutionary. But even though all text is supposed to be multi-layered and hyperlinked, few have exploited the digital medium with the innovation that Wallace brought to the printed page."
davidfosterwallace  obituary 
september 2008 by robertogreco
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