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Posts Tagged ‘David Foster Wallace’

The Self Resides in the Chest, and Other News

March 20, 2014 | by

Descartes_diagram

Descartes thought the seat of the soul was in the pineal gland. He was so wrong.

  • “Revenge should have no bounds,” the Bard wrote in Hamlet, and one man, at least, vigorously agrees: when a graphic designer in Bristol failed to receive the gaming console he’d bought online, he sought retribution by sending the scammer the complete works of Shakespeare via text message.
  • An early photo of Jason Segel portraying David Foster Wallace indicates that Jason Segel does not very much resemble David Foster Wallace.
  • Where are you? You are in your chest. Researchers “asked ten blindfolded adults to use a metal pointer to motion at ‘themselves.’ Most people indicated their upper torso area … ‘the torso is, so to speak, the great continent of the body, relative to which all other body parts are mere peninsulas. Where the torso goes, the body follows.’”
  • In a new interview, Ralph Steadman discusses, among other things, his old pet sheep: “It was a mutant sheep, but a local farmer was taking it to slaughter. I adopted her, named her Zeno, or him perhaps—does it really matter? It’s a sheep, after all … I would go to her in the morning for wisdom, for a philosophic message of what to do with the day.”
  • John Banville’s new novel resurrects Raymond Chandler’s beloved private eye, Philip Marlowe, raising the question: “At what point does a work of supposed literary merit simply become fan fiction?”

 

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The Pram in the Hall

January 29, 2014 | by

Silver_Cross_Balmoral_Coach-Built_Pram

Photo: Silver Cross UK, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most popular quotations about creativity and parenthood is Cyril Connolly’s: “There is no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.” This aphorism, snobbish in its dismissal of human distraction, has been passed down through generations of artists as a black warning banner—Have Children, Be Creatively Screwed Forever.

Having a child isn’t easy, of course. When my son, Julian, was born sixteen months ago, I became intimately acquainted with sleep deprivation and time constraints. The third night after we’d brought him home, I remember being in bed, so mentally and physically exhausted that when I looked up at where the ceiling and the wall met, I saw the seam crack open, revealing a horizon of white light and red lava.

I slept in naps, and although I found the first several months to be brutal and strange and basically a new realm of reality, my role as a father worked as a kind of energizer. The pram in the hall was no “somber enemy”—rather, because I was baggy-eyed, vein-drenched in coffee, and blindly stepping into the new world of fatherhood, producing work had never felt more important to me. I was creatively explosive, if a little loose and wild. I can’t remember showering or looking in the mirror for weeks. Given the sudden constrains on my time, the pockets in which I could work were like mines where I hacked away with a speed I’ve never experienced before, discovering and polishing work.

What’s been most difficult, really, is balancing the weird mix of father and writer online, where the community I know is mostly childless. This online world, which I love and cherish, is also detached and ironic and so image-based that being a dad doesn’t seem to fit. To age out, a writer must pass through three stages: First, you turn thirty, thus becoming “online old.” Second, you get married. Third, you have a child. I’ve done all three, and now I’m having to define myself online: Am I a writer or a dad or a husband? Can I be all three? Read More »

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Playing DFW, and Other News

December 12, 2013 | by

playingdfw

  • Jason Segel will play David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour. Jesse Eisenberg plays reporter David Lipsky.
  • Speaking of LA, a Charles Bukowski-themed bar is opening in Santa Monica. It is called Barkowski. (It should be noted that Brooklyn’s Post Office takes its name from a Bukowski novel, and is a good bar, so.)
  • The National Library of Norway plans to digitize every book in the Norwegian language.
  • If in New York, join Jonathan Ames, Sheila Heti, and Lawrence Weschler at the 92nd Street Y to discuss and celebrate The Best of McSweeney’s.

 

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In Conversation

November 5, 2013 | by

NotebookandPenlarge

Seven years ago I was walking up Fifth Avenue with David Foster Wallace. He wanted to know what I thought of The Names. That one’s the key, he said, speaking of Don DeLillo’s work like it was a safe which contained its own code. It was hat-and-glove weather. Wallace wore a purple sweatshirt. Where did I get my coat? he asked. That’s a great coat, he said. It was like something James Bond would wear. Had I been to this restaurant before?

We had just walked into Japonica, a sushi restaurant on University Place. Our interview was underway, and Wallace was already several questions ahead of nearly every writer I had ever profiled. Most writers, even the most curious one, don’t ask questions of a journalist. Nor should they, necessarily. They are the ones being interviewed, after all.

Wallace, however, seemed to think in the interrogative mode. He was tall and slightly sweaty, looking like he had just come from a run. But he seemed determined not to intimidate. He was like a big cat pulling out his claws, one question at a time. See, look, I’m not going to be difficult.

Once we got going, though—and there was a propulsive, caffeinated momentum to the way he talked—he returned, constantly, to questions. Had I ever written about my life? It’s hard, right? Are celebrities even the same species as us? Is it possible to show what someone was really like in a profile?

“These nonfiction pieces feel to me like the very hardest thing that I do,” he said, talking about Consider the Lobster, the book he had just published, “because reality is infinite.” And then. “God only knows what you are jotting.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this encounter lately. For the past fifteen years, I have interviewed a lot of writers. A few hundred—perhaps too many, but why not say yes? Shortly out of college a friend gave me a vintage set of The Paris Review Book of Interviews. They exhaled the flinty musk of a cigar smoker’s home, and were as snappy as the lining of a 1940s dinner jacket. Read More »

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What We’re Loving: Wittgenstein, Hopper, Strangers

August 30, 2013 | by

Edward Hopper, "Office at Night"

Edward Hopper, Office at Night

Here, in no particular order, are things I hate about historical novels: exposition, walk-ons by famous people, anachronistic dialogue, imaginary letters from actual figures, physical comedy, the looming shadow of war/horrors of trench warfare/Nazi menace, “heated debates,” and Cambridge dons asking after one anothers’ small children—in the nineteen-teens—as if they taught Communications at Pomona. All of these things may be found in Bruce Duffy’s The World As I Found It, a fictionalized life of Ludwig Wittgenstein first published in 1987. Why on earth did I pick it up? Because at 558 pages, it was the longest New York Review Classic for sale at the Strand, and because if the New York Review decides to reprint an historical novel, I want to know why. Within three pages, I was addicted. Within three days, I was babbling about it to my friends. Here’s Bertrand Russell with his bad breath, phlegmatic G. E. Moore, and Wittgenstein—saintly, sympathetic, an angel of intellectual destruction—a hero so well written I kept forgetting he was real. —Lorin Stein

I haven’t been to see the show yet, but the catalogue for the Whitney’s exhibition of Edward Hopper drawings is itself pretty fantastic. The studies for his best-known paintings—Nighthawks and Early Sunday Morning among them—are fascinating windows into his process, and the spare sketches of, say, a man’s suited back are strangely riveting, but my favorite works in the book are his watercolor portraits from 1906–1907 of various “characters” from the Paris streets: La Pierreuse, Le Militaire, Fille de Joie, Le Terrassier. In the figures’ heavy brows and deep shading, they strike me as a strange combination of William Pène du Bois’s drawings of bears and of Eric Powell’s The Goon. Hopper’s rather fashiony pen-and-ink sketches—pages of Figures in Hats, Man with Moustache and Women in Dresses and Hats, Diver, Sailors, Male Figure, and Arm—are also wonderfully chaotic and occasionally bizarre. —Nicole Rudick Read More »

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Infinite Pagination, and Other News

July 1, 2013 | by

dfnumbers

  • “Today I broke through the chains of oppression. No longer will page numbers tyrannize my life. I … have taken action,” declares one impassioned Infinite Jest reader. Would DFW approve?
  • Meet Flaneur magazine, each issue of which is dedicated to a different street. In the words of the editors, “The magazine is aware of its subjectivity. It wants to say ‘This could be Kantstraße.’” 
  • Yeats, Austen, and Fitzgerald: all bad spellers. (Spellcheck will save contemporary authors from inclusion, presumably.)
  • What do you read when trapped on a spacecraft? Garcia Márquez, of course.
  • With audiobooks booming, actors start reading. Quoth the Times, “The field is so promising that drama schools, including prestigious institutions like Juilliard and Yale, have started offering audio narration workshops.”

 

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