Monthly Archives: January 2010

David Foster Wallace

Its protagonist’s self-diagnosed “disease” – a blend of grandiosity and self-contempt, of rage and cowardice, of ideological fervor and a self-conscious inability to act on his convictions: his whole paradoxical and self negating character – makes him a universal figure in whom we can all see parts of ourselves, the same kind of ageless literary archetype as Ajax or Hamlet.
From “Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky” in Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays, Back Bay Books, New York, 2006.

Editorial: I just finished reading Consider the Lobster, a collection of essays by DFW. He caught my attention when I first read his 2005 commencement address to Kenyon College. The point he makes there (see the beauty, it is everywhere) lingers in my mind. For example I almost always remember it when I’m in the checkout line at a busy market. The two points he makes here are likewise thoughtful. One is mostly a common literary observation, namely that we get to see ourselves in compelling, universal stories and characters. How true! The other point (which is really just an observation) is more poignant, namely that humans can exist with enormous contradictions, that they can feel opposite emotions and act on either in an instance. Also so true, but unsettling at the same time.

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David Foster Wallace

To be a mass tourist, for me, is to becmoe a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience, It is to impose yourself on places that in all non-economic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.
From “Consider the Lobster” in Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays, Back Bay Books, New York, 2006.

Editorial: I read this essay whilst traveling in Venice during the New Year. Enough said.

in Venice

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Filed under Editorial, Expectancy, Images, Quotes, Subjectivity

David Foster Wallace

The mistake here lies in both sides’ assumption that the real motives for redistributing wealth are charitable or unselfish. The conservatives’ mistake (if it is a mistake) is wholly conceptual, but for the Left the assumption is also a serious tactical error. Progressive liberals seem incapable of stating the obvious truth: that we who are well off should be willing to share more of what we have with poor people not for the poor people’s sake but for our own; i.e., we should share what we have in order to become less narrow and frightened and lonely and self-centered people.
From “Authority and American Usage” in
Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays, Back Bay Books, New York, 2006.

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David Foster Wallace

This argument is not the barrel of drugged trout that Methodological Descriptivism was, but it’s still vulnerable to some objections.
From “Authority and American Usage” in Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays, Back Bay Books, New York, 2006.

Editorial: barrel of drugged trout. Brilliant.

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David Foster Wallace

…and it’s now pretty much universally accepted that (a) meaning is inseparable from some act of interpretation and (b) an act of interpretation is always somewhat biased, i.e., informed by the interpreter’s particular ideology.
From “Authority and American Usage” in Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays, Back Bay Books, New York, 2006.

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Ted Hughes

My Uncle Dan
by Ted Hughes

My Uncle Dan’s an inventor, you may think that’s very fine.
You may wish he was your Uncle instead of being mine—
If he wanted he could make a watch that bounces when it drops,
He could make a helicopter out of string and bottle tops
Or any really useful thing you can’t get in the shops.
    But Uncle Dan has other ideas:
    The bottomless glass for ginger beers,
    The toothless saw that’s safe for the tree,
    A special word for a spelling bee
    (Like Lionocerangoutangadder),
    Or the roll-uppable rubber ladder,
    The mystery pie that bites when it’s bit—
    My Uncle Dan invented it.
My Uncle Dan sits in his den inventing night and day.
His eyes peer from his hair and beard like mice from a load of hay.
And does he make the shoes that will go walks without your feet?
A shrinker to shrink instantly the elephants you meet?
A carver that just carves from the air steaks cooked and ready to eat?
    No, no, he has other intentions—
    Only perfectly useless inventions:
    Glassless windows (they never break),
    A medicine to cure the earthquake,
    The unspillable screwed-down cup,
    The stairs that go neither down nor up,
    The door you simply paint on a wall—
    Uncle Dan invented them all.

From “Collected Poems for Children” by Ted Hughes (2005).

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Filed under Bagatelle, Poems, Sureness