Sunday, September 14, 2008

Black, Billowing, Shapeless.

(David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008)

But in the importance and noise of tomorrow...
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

W.H. Auden

"But on this one afternoon, the fan's vibration combined with some set of notes I was practicing on the violin, and the two vibrations set up a resonance that made something happen in my was as if a large dark billowing shape came billowing out of some corner of my mind. I can be no more precise than to say large, dark, shape, and billowing, what came flapping out of some backwater of my psyche I had not had the slightest inkling was was a bit like a sail, or a small part of the wing of something far too large to be seen in totality. It was total psychic horror: death, decay, dissolution, cold empty black malevolent lonely voided space.
I understood on an intuive level why people killed themselves."
Infinite Jest (1996), 650

Yeah, he knew about this. And we knew he knew. Oddly and horribly, that makes it more shocking--you thought, this guy understands so intimately the stuff a mind can do to itself, and he can write about it more cleanly and funnier and more nakedly than, like, anybody else ever. And that made you think that he was ahead of the game, somehow, that he was smarter than all the awfulness and somehow that made him free from it. That he'd won. Doesn't work like that, and it's always obvious after the fact. Damn.

He never could finish a story, damn it. He was allergic to endings. He was mocking you for ever thinking that everything would ever wrap itself up neatly. This is either one Big Ending or one final Unfininished Story. Seems obscene to think of the end of somebody's life that way, but we're stuck with it. Fiction is what we do.

I wouldn't be writing phrases like "funnier than, like, anybody else ever" if it weren't for him. I also wouldn't have read a fraction of the stuff I've read since 1997, and therefore I wouldn't be here. So there's that.

...fully aware that the cliché that you can't ever truly know what's going on inside someone else is hoary and insipid and yet at the same time trying very consciously to prohibit that awareness from mocking the attempt or sending the whole line of thought into the sort of inbent spiral that keeps you from ever getting anywhere...the realer, more enduring and sentimental part of him commanding that other part to be silent as if looking it levelly in the eye and saying, almost aloud, "Not another word."

"Good Old Neon" (2004)

The board will nod and you will go, and eyes of skin can cross blind into a cloud-blotched sky, punctured light emptying behind sharp stone that is forever. That is forever. Step into the skin and disappear.


"Forever Overhead" (1999)


adm said...

nicely done ol' chap

david james keaton said...

i agree. as soon as i heard about this, i thought, whoa, what does Desmond Dog think of this news? i didn't have to go far for a quote though:
"That skull had a tongue in it and could sing once.."

and when he starts talking about Yorick? damn. i usually got chills before (mostly because the gravedigger is one of the few people Hamlet actually has a normal conversation with) but i always forget where so much of these words and titles come from

Garthim Master said...

Dude, it's so much more complicated than that. Infinite Jest is the title of the movie-within-the-novel that will kill you if you watch it a la Videodrome--and said movie was made by the book's Ghostly Dead Father Character, who, yes, killed himself. By sticking his head in a microwave. (!) And whose widow immediately marries his brother, or something like that. So the "hero" is sort-of-Hamlet, but he's also Prince Hal/Henry V--his name is "Hal" and he's got a Falstaff whom he has to reject at the end. To no real purpose, though, since he doesn't get to be king, and the book never actually ends.

This would be insufferable, but there are lots of jokes. And tennis. And drugs. Oh, the drugs.