Here's a conversation I had with my good book buddy, RAC: RAC: "I'm not saying Harold is gospel.... He detests one of my favorite writers, but his is aHere's a conversation I had with my good book buddy, RAC: RAC: "I'm not saying Harold is gospel.... He detests one of my favorite writers, but his is an interesting opinion on DFW, worth something or nothing: http://wwd.com/eye/people/the-full-bl..." ... so I go and read that, and excerpt some of it below, and respond:
ND: A few thoughts that came up while reading The DFW Reader, with reflection on your linked article: "Whitman, he notes, “reinvented poetry, not so much the outer form, which doesn’t count for much, but the way he puts himself into the poem. The tactile intensity of it is astonishing. In his poem, ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,’ he all but literally reaches out to you and hugs you.”"
ND:... I THINK THIS is exactly what DFW does, he puts himself inexorably IN. Only he isn't hugging. He's sidling, sideways looking, and shying away with his corporeal body, while boldface opining with his words.
Then: "But ‘Infinite Jest’ [regarded by many as Wallace’s masterpiece] is just awful. It seems ridiculous to have to say it. He can’t think, he can’t write. There’s no discernible talent.”
"It’s all a clear indication, Bloom notes, of the decline of literary standards. He was upset in 2003 when the National Book Award gave a special award to Stephen King. “But Stephen King is Cervantes compared with David Foster Wallace. We have no standards left. [Wallace] seems to have been a very sincere and troubled person, but that doesn’t mean I have to endure reading him. I even resented the use of the term from Shakespeare, when Hamlet calls the king’s jester Yorick, ‘a fellow of infinite jest.’"
ND: HARSH!!! No talent - DFW was technically very much above - that may be what bugs HB, the art is lost sometimes in the grammar and perfect word choice. Not enough holes in the work for HB to put himself into... AND I see why Harold is saying this - the problem with DFW is he can't edit. And he knew it - his editor for Infinite Jest says that was his primary ask of him (the editor) when they worked on IJ together. It is clear that everything said editor wanted to cut was argued against, vehemently, except one thing. The chapter that introduces three main characters and lays out the plot. THAT went. I know this because I'm obsessed with DFW right now and watched a YouTube on this. Crazy. THINKING, in Harold's case, means (I have found) a kind of elegance - like in math - of being able to say more with less, and DFW doesn't do that, so it assaults Harold's sensibilities. I mean, he loves Dickinson! That alone says it. He wants clarity and no jumble. For a person of this generation, the cacophonic confusion of DFW's work is a sort of testament to who he was in THIS milieu, which I appreciate and can sort through and even find sort of deep-gut hilarious. It is sad, wrenchingly so, to *see* someone so well through and in his (DFWs) work, he IS ALLOWING HIMSELF TO BE SEEN, doesn't edit himself out for aesthetic cleanliness. And he is and is not posturing - when he is, he acknowledges he is. (I feel Harold is ALWAYS posturing and will not own up... or I could just not be as smart as him). I mean, look at this:
“I’m tired of being accused of being an elitist, which simply means that one wants people to read what’s worth reading and write in a proper response to it,” he adds. “I thought that the function of a critic was to read accurately and plainly to propound what one had apprehended. I wasn’t aware that there was going to be this cultural inundation.”
ND: DFW would *think* and maybe decide to write (probably, unedited) something this outrageous, then double back on it and globally realize how it would sound to others, caring deeply, then revise his position for you, fully and owningly (word?), cagily, self-loathingly, and you don't hate him for actually yes being elitist... you identify that he doesn't set himself above (or if he does, feels bad about it, humanly) which I think Harold does (set himself above), and therefore ignores something very very important to me at least, that piece of connection we all share whether he likes it or not.
Yeah, so be a critic Harold, but being an accessible human being may be worthwhile for at least some of your time too. But I do love love love Harold - he's the best, THE BEST, and funny, and I resonate with his political views. He makes sense and is pitch perfect in so many ways. And I can't leave *him* alone either. Obsessed. I think what it comes down to is, what artist touches you? Who do you share sensibility with?
"...the poet Hart Crane, of whom he says, “In terms of sheer gift, sheer endowment, I’m not sure that any poet in Europe or America is his equal.”
ND: and that's because Hart Crane touched HB at a formative age. That's really what it is about. His JOB is to be a critic so he has to publicly weigh and announce and be critical but I don't think his pronouncements are anything more than deeply held invitations to imbibe the wine he savors. To share, evangelically, the word that touches(d) him searingly. When I'm hit that way be being outside with my plants, I am reinvigorated to help my clients see what 'nature' has for them, and to try to get them out in it, to invite plants into their lives more fully, to see, smell, taste them, EXPERIENCE them. That's what I imagine HB is about with his favorites....more
I listened to George Saunders read these stories - I very much recommend listening to his own voice tell them. Seriously funny, totally heart-breakingI listened to George Saunders read these stories - I very much recommend listening to his own voice tell them. Seriously funny, totally heart-breaking, and subversive, he takes on big subjects. I find the way he develops characters in their own heads to be brilliant - at once simple and profoundly complicated in just a *few* words. I am guessing it especially comes through when you hear his voice reading them......more
Top 10 NYT Booklist, likened writing style to Nabakov and Poe. Seems like I might like it. I didn't think it was like Poe, but pieces were Nabakovian,Top 10 NYT Booklist, likened writing style to Nabakov and Poe. Seems like I might like it. I didn't think it was like Poe, but pieces were Nabakovian, although not as varied and diversely rich. The stories all seemed so similar in the different sections; I got a little bored, which is not a good sign....more