Monday, September 21, 2009

The inevitable rambling Wallace posting

I waited a week to write about DFW or Infinite Jest or anything of the Wallacian nature. I thought I might try last Saturday, but when I saw the picture of Wallace over there on the Infinite Summer website, it just made me too sad to even try to be able to actually think about trying to say something meaningful.

For the most part I read Jest in about 10-25 page increments over the past three months; sometimes a little faster, sometimes a little slower, but always just like a mule. Plodding along through the hills and the dark down there caverns of this tumultuous, twisting book. Some of those caverns were pretty seriously dark. And the highs (Eschaton, for true) were so funny and hilarious, laughing for pages and pages, and the insights that just kept coming at the speed of light, it all brought me in. It all made for me, myself the reader, a warm place by the fire in this book, this work of the greatest art. And the warmth and comfort provided gave Wallace the freedom to explore the darknessses of the world of reality in a way for which I myself, the reader, would be able to look and see without being turned to stone.

Turned to stone by the hard truths of life. The straight no chaser. Those lows. And but then those lows made me want to crawl out of my own skin, and more than once I was tempted to skip ahead, but I plowed through. Going on like a mule. I stayed with it (the Infinite Summer) the whole way, only finally rushing ahead in the last week, this past week.

I've been done since last Monday, I do believe. And I still held out hope the whole way. I thought right up to really about page 970ish or so that it was going to really, in some indeterminant way, come together somehow in some way other than it did. I should've known better when I saw his article about David Lynch and how Tarantino kind of rips Lynch off and commercializes him. And but yet that is the thing about Lynch that I do so love so very much. You always have to construct the story for yourself at least a little bit. I should've guessed that that was where Wallace was gonna end up. Still, I felt deflated at the end. All the air went right out of the sails in that final last eighth of a page (in the paperback blue sky and whisping cloud edition).

And (but) so if you want answers then you're (I'm) gonna have to go find them for myself (yourself [ourselves all together!]). I guess you go back to the beginning and then you fill it in as much as you can as you go through the second time. And maybe that's why the Wallace fans, the ones who just love Wallace (which is where I would put myself right from really within the very first page of the story there in the Year of Glad, although I did doubt him on more than one occasion but only just so very ever so slightly [obviously, I can also be self indulgent if maybe not to so intense and ululatingly powerful an effect]), they, by most accounts many of them, go right back and start back with the second round right away. Which does make sense what with the end being the beginning and all.

And I don't know if I would start back over right now even if I could and had the time (already this semester I've laid out a course of study that is so heavily research intensive to a degree that's just about going to blot out the sun). Those times when Wallace was maybe trying to shock people a little bit, maybe trying to get us to wake up a little more than we do. That stuff was rough. Those two women's back to back AA stories early on. Randy Lenz's detailed cat and then dog killing. Some of the Fackelmann stuff. Poor Tony's crazy final binge out. Ruthless, unvarnished truth of life. Of the most disturbing type. In some ways the proofs of our humanity.

Kate Gompert's first drink or two with Marathe though in retrospect was pretty durn awesome. I know that it probably means bad stuff for her at least in the short term certainly in getting the boot from Ennett, but I was happy to see it. Gompert a little buzzed and not totally crushingly saddened was a pleasurable moment for me. And drinking with and misunderstanding the mad legless philosopher/agent (and possibly double, triple, quadruple, quintuple [who knows to what levels his deception reaches] agent) of the AFR no less.

And but still I was disappointed when it ended in a way that I felt was a little cheesy. A curtain of Sunshine coming down over everything. Somehow though this whole drawn out final scene with Gately and Count Faxula had me laughing uncontrollably on and off for a good solid twenty pages/40 minutes. I laughed so hard around and about Mt. Dilaudid and Lake Urine that I had to stop reading. I still can't see those two names without cracking up hard. Then though it was bordering on the painful. I couldn't stop laughing at these two helpless junkies just junking their way right into an even more fucked up situation than either of them could possibly know, what with P H-J falling out of a tree, and Bobby C finally showing up to see the Faxter for Sorkin with his retinue of drag queens and the strung out pharmacy tech. And the Fax man just cooking and shooting and cooking and shooting. Running out of diluted water and finally going to the lake (which is solely by itself as it's own brand of shocking humor, all alone as this moment of the perfect and purely mixed emotions of comedy and tragedy, I'd say [a kind of strangely poetic lynch pin for this whole crazy novel, maybe in some sort of way]).

Anyway...For the Count it was all done. But the Bimster was just getting his start in life. And but still yet to do all kinds of heroic and good hearted things, if also some serious violence and drug abuse. Who knows how many heroic deeds Don G has left in him or if he will ever get to see what the P.G.O.A.T. looks like behind the veil or how it'd've gone for Hal'n'm I guess up in the Concavity/Convexity out at JOI's grave site. A lot of questions that require further rereading and a quite large dollop of concentrative creative elaboration no doubt.

And that is hands down the thing that amazes most (or one of those things). That a thousand page novel with another hundred pages of end notes/addendums/errata/way more specific information about pharmaceutical drugs both made up and real than you would ever possibly want to know about could possibly send you scurrying back to the beginning of it to start over to try and see what all you missed out on the first go round, that this could happen is nothing short of an amazing feat of writing. It really is a Herculean effort. Trying to put a world this large and detailed together into any kind of coherent work would be virtually impossible for those of us among the mere mortals of the realm.

Wallace for himself was a titan though. No question of his genius, even if you feel it's self indulgent of him to write as he did in Jest (and go read his reportage and see who you think is the self indulgent one. I dare you if you think that). A man with a vocabulary twice the size of most of us mere humans. And a precision of both observation and interpretation of observation non pareil.

So much of the work was drawn from the real area surrounding Boston that from the perspective of a long time Bostonian it was just a whole helluva lot of fun to go through just for that and that alone, forget about all the rest. Inman Square, Cambridge, Allston, the Storrow 500 (very real and hilariously spot on with that one was DFW), the BPL, the Back Bay, et cetera all real and mostly as described. To a degree of the angle.

It was quite a ride, and I do have to say that the timing was bad on some of the no chaser hard truths towards the end as I myself was just not of a mind for such darkness at those moments of time, and it was contributing just a speck for a moment to my own difficulties. And that's why I wouldn't go back except in a period of stability and for essentially a quick few week reread. That's all the time I can imagine for a second round in the next several years though regardless of anything else. Which is certainly somewhat of a bummer. Plus, no way I show so much restraint in reading a book that I'm as into as I was with this one. It's never happened before. Maybe with another collective read via the continuing infsum (I'm out for Dracula, but we'll see what comes up after that), but otherwise on my own, no way. I'm a sprinter when it comes to literature.

I do still imagine this book will be one that I'll return to at more than one juncture in my life if I live a long one, which is something I'm really kind of hoping for, but one never can bank these things for certain. And I look forward with great relish to the time when I can read more of the man's work. A now finite body now. A too finite body quite many would agree. Still, I'm not angry at the man, as apparently some are. I'm sad for him and how black those final days must've been. The depths to which was the reach of his feel. I would sort of guess from this work.

And I know that because of the freshness of his leaving, the pain that still exists about this loss, that it's still difficult to talk about the man himself and his relation to his work. And that more generally sometimes there's a desire to deal with the work and not the life and its relation back to the work, and that that can be an often times useful approach especially in academia, but that there are just such depths in this work that his own capacity for sorrow must have been something that I just know that I for myself probably could not even begin to imagine trying to stay standing and live through. I would guess.

Right now tonight (this morning now) though I'm not trying to do anything but just slightly recall the emotions of the realization last Saturday that it was the one year anniversary of David Foster Wallace's suicide as I was approaching the end of what must've been his master work and would think about this book that I now love as a desert island top five, this infinite jest, this lopsided Serpinski Gasket, and I would know what it means to miss someone you're not even sure you knew. If only for just a flash when I clicked through from Infsum's twitterlink and saw the picture of Wallace with his head down and that sly smile like he's up to something (which quite clearly he most surely always was) and then had the momentary feeling of having had the true sense of the man himself for a flicker of a second, and that had made me feel heavily the weight of this loss that the man himself is gone even as the work lives on.

That's just it though, the work lives on, and the truth of the fact is that this work, if we get it right and get our shit together, this work will be read for eons to come (If we get it right. If we get it really right). The work lives on. Ultimately and at the end of the day, Infinite Jest lives on more than most or at least has that great potential to do so. Ultimately again it's up to the individual reader (collected). We decide for ourselves as we always do as the literary or whatever consumer. Or we try to. Maybe. Maybe we (you) are one of those who stopped 50/75/100/150/185 pages in. Maybe Wallace isn't you're thing. And that's okay, hey, everybody's gotta do and have their own thing.

The only thing that I would ask though, and I ask this with all restraint, respect, and sincerity. Don't trash him, please. Don't trash the man or his work or how it all ended. Not anonymously on the internet or in any way, shape, or form. And I know I'm nobody to ask that, but it just seems like, what with this country and culture so hell bent on vitriol as the new national past time, that I should just put it out there. Be respectful of this man who so clearly put everything he had on the line every time he picked up the pen. And honor that effort with an equal one of your (our) own self (selves).

Surely that's not really totally possible (like I said, Wallace was a titan), but it's still a good thought to end on nonetheless.

1 comment:

Infinite Tasks said...

Beautiful summary! I've been reading the new "endings" posts linked at IS roundup in a binge, and I'm saddened at how little appreciation DFW is getting. Those of us who have been blogging regularly (Detox, Repat, Daryl, Paul, Aaron, etc.) feel absolutely awed and humbled by this gift that has been given us. I get the feeling from your post that you feel the same, and I'm glad for it.