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from feb 1998. this all seems so long ago.

The Age of Irony or Deconstructing Fosty

my pitiful little article about the only author who can strum my magic twanger, David Foster Wallace

skip the crap go str8 to the links

by Melpomene Whitehead

wass'up wif the doorag, lover? I was lucky enough that I found Infinite Jest at the library just when I was getting sick the second time 1. Since I was essentially unable to go out, I spent all my free hours in David Foster Wallace-land, an ever so slightly futuristic world of private-school boys, mysterious females djs, AA meetings, tennis and a movie so engrossing you can never stop watching. I had only 3 weeks in which to read the book, which is somewhere over 1,000 pages, and I did so with hours to spare. Needless to say, I was in love by the end. This book was brilliant, funny, twisted 2.

At first, I was strictly in limerence with the mind of DFW. Very similar to my love for Don DeLillo or Will Self, and not at all like my lust for, say, John Cusack, Keanu Reeves, Trent Reznor. But the more I started to see pictures of DFW, the more I forget about the way he constructs a sentence, the way he makes reference to the intangible. Suddenly, DFW became, not an author, but a body. A face. Now, I know that's shallow, but I'm shallow. I admit it. But, please, this combination of mind-numbing intellect, phenomenal artistic talent and stunning good looks, you know, it's too much for me. Babe-and-a half. Post-modern post-grad poster boy. I could get with this guy and kick it, you know what I'm saying? Then I found out he was hanging with Elizabeth Wurtzel3and that was the end of that .

Recently, when The Depressed Person 4 . appeared in the January 1998 Harper's my faith in the universe was renewed for some reason for a short while.5. Upon reading this, I remember how much I loved this guy, so I ran to the library to check out A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, which I didn't get as soon as it came out because some asswipe reviewer claimed the whole thing was about tennis, and I just didn't feel like reading about tennis and I was still mad about the Wurtzel thing. Boy, am I stupid or what? (Or, just shallow. Come wade in me.)

ASFT does have two tennis essays, two essays that are so engrossing you forget that you're reading about a sport that is effectively in the domain (in America anyway) only of well-off white people. There's also an essay in the Illinois State Fair, the title essay, about "crusing," and essays about the media. In his 60 page essay E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction DFW addresses, among other things, the problems of the 6 . fiction writer using television as a tool for observation. We all know by this point that the characters on tv are smaller than they appear. If Lucy Ball's consistent breaking of the tv wall wasn't enough for you, there's been a whole history of it since then. The thrust of the essay is the convoluted in-joke within an in-joke that tv, especially the tv sitcom, has become. The best shows on tv appeal to the viewers sense of wanting to be the type of person who is too intellectual to actually enjoy tv, and thus these shows act as if there is a big joke that the wheel-watchers are not in on, but we are. Here, in the very late 20th century, we no longer want to add our voice to the sound of the crowd, but instead celebrate this cult of individuality. And tv serves to further accentuate that separateness by literally separating us from people we share the room with. It goes on from there. He says it much better than I ever could. And this essay was written way before the ubiquitous (at least in NYC and LA) and hated ABC "We Love TV" campaign, which, it appears, was meant to insult not just the wheel-watchers, but the Jeopardy! viewers also. 7 . So, as it turns out, the only true voyeuristic tv experience we can have is The Real World, or its predecessor, An American Family8 ,9 .

And that's just the tv essay 10 .. The first piece, derivative sport in tornado alley, ostensibly an essay on DFW's experiences as a junior tennis player, contains the following: "It was months after I moved to western MA before I could really sleep in the pussified whisper of New England's wind-sound." My mouth drops up when I read things that beautiful.11 . And this is just a little throw-away sentence.

Most of what DFW writes about, however, ends up being about himself. Which is fine by me because I find him fascinating. I mean, how could I not find a beautiful intelligent man of a similar disposition to myself fascinating? The transcript of his appearance on The Charlie Rose Show really shows him at his charming-est (I think), stutters, overtalks, interrupts and all. Sweetly self-effacing, I think one would say. Oh baby. Just thinking about it makes me feel like one of those slow-mo (actually sped up, they only look slow) time elapsed flowers blooming on the discovery channel. I'm drooling from places a proper girl shouldn't drool from.12 .


1. The now famous chronic inflammatory demeylinating polyneuropathy.back

2. by twisted I mean it curls back on itself like a sleeping dog, like an ornate wrought iron chair. DFW's writing often take this shape, sort of like the snake that swallows his tail, also known as the millennium symbol to you tv addicts.back

3. For some reason, the whole alleged Wurtzel affair broke my little heart. I guess I thought he'd fall for more than a pretty, tragic face. I know she's supposed to be brilliant and all, but I think I read Prozac Nation, and I don't concur. It may have been just previous to my actual prozac experience3a, or just after, but let me say I was not all that amused. Why waste my time with a self-absorbed autobiography when I have enough of the real thing in my life? You know, solipsistic friends. And while I never actually performed oral sex on any of the Butthole Surfers myself, I'm sure Gibby wouldn't have removed his dick from my mouth or anyone else's for that matter. But I'm not so waifoid like Wurtzel, especially now, not actually being on prozac and not having an eating disorder and being on prednisone, well, most of the time I feel like a fat angry dwarf. So what chance to I have with a tall luscious genius like Wallace? None, but that's what fantasies and dildoes are for. But I guess I would have rather seen him with someone I considered a genius, although I really can't think of any. Uhh, Kim Deal, maybe? Lydia Lunch? Janeane Garafalo?back

3a.Here's a picture of me on prozac. Kids, this is my driver's license photo! Who could be so happy at the DMV? Take 'zac and you'll find out. While I was on it, I dated! I had fun. My roommate said I was manic and intolerable. I felt like I was like me as on Melrose Place. I was definitely outgoing, vivacious and larger than life. Then I got excruciating headaches and had to come down. It was on zoloft that the first symptoms of my now famous chronic demyelinating polyneuropathy began to surface. Thus ended my psychopharmacological experimentations.back to the footnote

4. I'm glad I did not actually see myself in The Depressed Person, because the piece is positively brutal. But I did spend more than half my life depressed, hence the flirtation with psychopharmacology. I tried the talking cure, but I'm not one to talk, so it didn't much work. Plus I resented having to pay to get someone's undivided attention for 45 minutes and not get any constructive feedback. Anyway, each day I used to see the faces of the people on the subway, off to their factory or counter jobs, dropping off their kids at pre-K and I used to think to myself, why doesn't everyone want to kill themselves? What makes these people want to go on? They seemed relatively happy and I, who was allegedly more intelligent and certainly more highly educated, could barely struggle through a day. I swear, it was a rare day when thought of suicide did not enter my head. I was able to hold down a job and occasionally there would be a burst of creativity, but most of the time I felt like a big black hole. I began to take St. John's wart since it was supposed to help depression, not expecting much since the serotonin uptake drugs didn't much help. About 4 months into the experiment I felt a little better and decided to stop taking it to see what happened. What happened was this. One morning, I got up at 5:30 am to go to the gym. I walked into the living room where Henrey was looking out the window and Mungo was asleep on the couch. It was still dark out, as it was winter. The weirdest thought popped in my head I'm happy. Just like that. Damnedest thing. It's been about 2 months now, and I'm still happy! I'm like, wow, this is what life is really like! I had no idea.back

5. Wallace teaches at Illinois State University. Can you imagine? Oh my god, I would never never miss a class. I'd get to class early! I'd hang out after class and tell him I needed help, had a question, let's go out for some coffee! Oh please! It would be so funny, so obvious. Now, I was quite cute in college, so this might work. I never actually got to have an affair with a professor when I was in college. Looking back, I can see now that there were two that I might have been able to swing this with -- Dennis McCarthy my drawing teacher and Michael Taav my drama teacher. McCarthy was cute-- grey hair, blue eyes, very personable, and would sometimes would act nervous around me. That's always a turn-on. Taav was beautiful. Everyone in the class had a crush on him, boys and girls. On the last day of class we all dressed like him--raybans, black jeans, a big sweater with a button shirt under with the tail hanging out. He was touched and amused by this tribute. He wrote a play which had this line in it, this isn't a quote, sorry, but it's pretty close. A character was complaining about the sameness of his life, and he said, "It's like the Three Stooges cartoon. They run, and the background is the same three trees and a bush." Heav-y. He later went on to write for tv. He wrote that episode of Tales from the Crypt that Arnold Swartzenegger directed, where the old guy buys a new body. Taav would also sometimes act charmingly nervous around me, and although he only gave me a B on the scene I had to write for the final, he read my scene to the class. He assigned student to do the other scenes. One guy in the class, he was this big construction worker type, older guy, wrote a scene about a guy picking up a girl on the bus and she's a stripper! So Taav had this sexy lithe blondy "play" the stripper. After class, the construction worker came up to me and said he wrote the scene with me in mind! Yeesh!back

6. I hate the term post-modern. It's sort of as if we're somewhere in the future, ahead of ourselves. Modern's not current enough, we're past that. How ridiculous and bizarre. I mean, I know that with post-modern we're referring to an artistic movement, just as the term "modern" was. I get that. Still and all, it bugs me. But isn't it ironic that the song Post-Post Modern Man was done by Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, the guys who did the Kids in the Hall theme? Bringing us right back to the referential, self-mockery, ironic nudge-nudge-wink-wink-say-no-more of tv-land.back

Now, when some friends of mine want to say something is ironic they now say, in an extremely ironic way, "It's like rain on your wedding day," which is, of course, to any student passed the fifth grade, not an example of irony at all.back to footnote 6

7. This seems to be a new trend in advertising, the insulting commercial. It doesn't really work for me, but maybe I'm too old. There's the Prodigy commercial, where the indication is only dorks spend time online, and the really baffling Something Wicked This Way Comes Lexus spot, whose point is that this car is EVIL, man! Quesque d'illyo?back

8. I was in love with Lance Loud. He was so cool. I actually have a single by his band the Mumps, I Like to be Clean b/w Crocodile Tears.back

9. Well there's Public Access too. Being the sort of person who likes to participate, as opposed to just kicking back and observing, I have had my share of public access time.back

10. While reading the television essay, I began to feel nostalgic for early 90s tv. Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure... Northern Exposure especially evokes a very strong feel of nostalgia deep within me. I remember watching with my cat Ed a. in the noisy 6th floor apartment at Ave C and Houston. Ed was always asleep during the show, but when the bumper (the ID teaser between commercials in a long break) with the eagle's cry would come on Ed would always spring into action. Some memory deep within him made him respond to the eagle's cry. Perhaps he was the wolf, and he was hungry. One particular episode I remember fondly was the one where Joel's mother, Nadine, visiting Cicely, Alaska from Flushing, Queens ,sees the eagle, and something within her is awoken. Marilyn, the Inuit medical secretary, takes Nadine up to her special rock and tells her the story of the Eagle, how, before he was Eagle, he talked and talked and never heard the hungry wolf or the wind. It wasn't until he learned to listen that he discovered he could fly. Things that happen in this episode: Hollings and Joel both struggle with what it means to be a man, Joel waxes nostalgic for his Uncle Manny and the passage of time , Nadine tells Joel "shhh," Shelly gives a speech very similar to Blache DuBois's "don't hang back with the beasts" speech, only Shelly's begins "You had one humungous set of peachpits to do what you did," and Nadine flies. This is one of three flying episodes, the one of them featured Bill Pullman, which brings us right back to David Lynch's Lost Highway.b.
10a. Ed could say several words in English, like crown, t'pring, (well, that's not English, that's from Star Trek), and Proust. Ed, being from another planet, would sometimes claim to be from France, and he'd say that he used to know Proust and they'd have long conversations, mostly about Ed and how stunning he was, and wasn't he so large, etc, etc. And grey. Ed was very grey, and that must have been a topic of conversation. Ed would tell people these things psychically, only knowing a few words in English. He had a much better command of German.back to footnote
10b. RE: A Supposedly Fun Thing..., David Lynch Keeps his Headpp 146 ff. I have a particular problem concerning the footnote on page 165, especially the passage, "[Terry]Gilliam has taken to the limit Lynch's preoccupations with blatantly Freudian fantasies (Brazil), and interpenetrations of ancient myth and modern psychoses (The Fisher King)." Gilliam has been working as a director for a long time. Gilliam is a surrealist and an absurdist. DFW's implication is that because Gilliam is more successful (makes films that make more money and garner more critical acclaim), that he must be influenced by the less successful Lynch, who is more of an artist in spite of or because of his lack of success. This is as absurd as me claiming that because Nick Zedd is infinitely more unsuccessful than Lynch, then Lynch must be influenced by Zedd. I believe that people of similar intellect, disposition, schooling, etc, working with the same medium, have a propensity for producing works that bear some similarities. Dude, Jabberwocky (1977) is much closer to Brazil (1985) than Eraserhead (1978) ever was. Just because Gilliam can actually tell a visually compelling and intriguing story in a linear fashion doesn't mean he ain't as good as Mr. How-many-cups-of-Bob's-Big-Boy's-coffee-can-I-drink-in-one-sitting Lynch. I also realized while reading this that, except for the last two things (Firewalk with Me and Lost Highway and that failed 6 week tv show) I've actually seen everything Lynch has done. And it's ok (I mean, I couldn't do better. Oh, maybe I could if I tried, but I'm not that motivated. ) but he's really not something to get all that worked up about. I like Cronenburg much better, and if you want to talk about influences, let's talk about Cronenburg's influence on Lynch. I can actually visualize Lynch with 18 cups of Bob's Big Boy's java littered about a darkened living room, stained faux-oriental rug and milk crates filled with records by the Ventures and Yma Sumac, watching, over and over again, on a richer friend's borrowed betamax They Came From Within (1975), or Rabid (1977 starring the inimitable Marilyn Chambers).back

11. Or, like my brother used to say, "I was like...," and his mouth would open, soundlessly, and his hands would flail wildly. Once my mother asked me if I understood this particular communication, because she didn't. I explained it was sort of the non-verbal equivalent of being flabbergasted. She sort of gave me a you kids today kind of look, which was completely uncharacteristic for her.back

12.You know, I shouldn't and really can't speak for all women, but for me there is no bigger turn-on than a guy who is creative, mildly depressed and a little shy. The kind of guy who is constantly looking down, looking up, mussing his hair, going um, um, umm. I don't know why exactly this is so exciting to me. Is it the illusion of control that I might possibly exercise over this person at some point in the future? Is it the thought of leading him around on a leash? Literally? back

actually, I think he looks cuter with his
glasseslook at him! Goddamn! Luscious lips, glossy hair -- he's like a pantene ad! How can someone who looks that good write that good? Oh my god, stop me, I'm hyperventilating!back

DFW as my fantasy boyfriend would love my cats, bring me bags of Reduced Fat Chips Ahoy when I was having my period, come out with me to cheesy industrial dance clubs, tell me his dreams, let me read his stories. I'll leave out the sex parts because I don't want to embarrass anyone, especially myself. In return I wouldn't make him go on roller-coaster rides, and I'd always have a tin of Altoids around.back

The urban legend states that Altoids make for fabulous oral sex-- peppermint oil I guess causing some sort of incredible penile sensations. Now, let me tell y'all what a good girlfriend I am. I'm such a good girlfriend that I purchased and ingested Altoids, despite the fact that they are a non-vegetarian food (they contain gelatin), and the report back was "...". Finally, I asked if anything was different and he said, "yeh, you just brushed your teeth or something..." and I was like"was it better?" and he was like "no," and I was like, "ach!" and stuck with a $2 tin of peppermint-flavored meat. So I must be that good that there's no room for improvement.


The Howling Fantods is Nick Maniatis' lovingly constructed altar to the god that is David Foster Wallace. Makes me feel like a warner brothers cartoon angel with all them fluffy clouds. Oodles of links to reviews, interviews, and minutiae.

Bob Wake's monolith to DFW. I think if you can't find what you're looking for between these two pages it probably doesn't exist.

DFW books

The Broom of The System (fiction, 1987, paperback) Girl With Curious Hair(fiction, 1989, paperback) Signifying Rappers with Mark Costello (non-fiction, ) Infinite Jest (fiction, 1995, paperback) >=A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (non-fiction, 1997, paperback)
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