Category Archives: David Foster Wallace

My Night with DFW

My blogging experience amounts to the occasional browsing of the few that I stumble across on my Internet travels, so needless to say I was apprehensive about my first posting. Never before would something I seriously sat down and thought about be so publicly available. As I settled in for a night of what seemed to be an overwhelming amount  (perhaps because I left myself so little time to read it) of material on David Foster Wallace, I could only hope that I would at least find the writing interesting.
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.
I found DFW’s prose refreshing in a way that at first I couldn’t pinpoint. It’s true that his articles are long, involved, and somewhat dense. I often found myself rereading sections to sink them into my brain, particularly in “Consider the Lobster” which listed off dozens of facts, scientific terms, and philosophical queries. However, this is what led me to the reason why I found him so great.

I think biggest culprit for blogging writing style is the simplest. Now that everyone can publish their writing, we all think that everyone wants to hear what we have to say. With the invention of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social networking sites, it is possible to let everyone know exactly what you are thinking at any given moment of any day. It’s just how life works now. And this ego-centric culture gives many bloggers (definitely not all), the opportunity to rant and rave on topics that they know little about. When grand opinions and sweeping statements can be made all in a split second, why waste time? This is where Wallace distinguishes himself. By clearly researching and providing ample information regarding the topic at hand, Wallace presents his arguments by knowing the whole story, but still not knowing the answer. And that’s why I enjoy it. He’s incredibly intelligent, yet he’s continuously questioning, backtracking and re-thinking in a manner that I, as a lesser intelligent, can definitely relate to. When he does make a point, it’s subtle, almost leading you to believe that you came upon it yourself. Wallace himself said, “If a writer does his job right, what he basically does is remind the reader of how smart they are. Wake the reader up to stuff that reader’s been aware of all the time” (read more here). He is not forceful or in-your-face, but instead leaves the way open for us to struggle through all he has to say in order to find what we think he really means. Maybe it is rambling, but at least it’s interesting rambling.

After reading Maud Newton’s piece on DFW, I could not help but disagree. She claims he aims to soothe, but as I read I did not feel soothed. I felt provoked to think through the same questions he was proposing himself. His commencement speech made me feel exposed, guilty even, at how accurately and unabashedly he described how we all view the world.
As I said before, I myself am making some sweeping statements on my impressions of Wallace without having read much of him. However, I can tell you this: I liked my first taste. Maybe it is because I am speaking from a time of millions of self-published writers and self-centered technology, but I found little to criticize. And if one man could truly be cupable for an entire generation’s writing style, I would tip my hat to David Foster Wallace.
Also this is kind of funny.