September 14, 2008

Why not Bil Keane?

dfw.gif By the time I put down the January, 1996 issue of Harpers, I wanted to be David Foster Wallace. I know, you have probably heard from countless other bloggers today that Shipping Out, the Wallace essay that later became the title story of the brilliant collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, was a transformative moment in their journalistic careers, or ambitions, or at least imaginations. It doesn't bother me to be just another voice saying, "me too" to that. Among a certain contingent, DFW's impact can hardly be overstated.

I admit that I could never get through Infinite Jest. And some of Wallace's later work was a little baroque for my tastes. But his reporting and critical essays took hold of me like almost nothing else I read in the 1990s. It took me a little while to come to terms with the fact that the guy was a certifiable genius, so it was OK if I was never going to be able to write even remotely like that.

(Except, perhaps in very small bursts, like this one-paragraph parody of DFW blurbing Harry Potter as written by Dave Eggers. The picture here is Pat's parody of an Eggers' drawing of DFW. It's hard to believe Modern Humorist didn't catch on like College Humor, huh?)

Of the essays available free online, I have to point you to Tense Present, DFW's thoroughly engrossing take on the language wars.

DFW's latest book is McCain's Promise, a reprint of an essay from 2000, and reflecting a context that, DFW said recently, "seems a long, long, long time ago." I haven't read it, but plan to now, if only to be reminded of David Foster Wallace's promise, both fulfilled and tragically not so.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Reminder: contrary to some erroneous internet rumors, DAVID CLAYTON-THOMAS is alive and well, and the performance by BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS this Saturday at Arlington Heights Pioneer Days Festival will take place as scheduled!

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