Tuesday, July 6, 2010


In this interview, novelist David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) discusses black humor, politics, literature and suicide in America. As usual, he's provocative and thoughtful and doesn't mind stirring the hornet's nest--you might not agree with him, but if you've read "Infinite Jest" or any of his marvelous essays you know he's a serious thinker and worthy of your time. There are easier people to read (he mentions a few, in passing) but serious readers are rewarded for grappling with his work.

"If what's always distinguished bad writing--flat characters, a narrative world that's clich├ęd and not recognizably human, etc.--is also a description of today's world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world. If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then [Bret] Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we'd probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? [...] Postmodern irony and cynicism's become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what's wrong, because they'll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony's gone from liberating to enslaving." -DFW

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