Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Best Bunch of Words about Bunches of Words

Trapped within the depths of finals, it was easy to imagine I'd spend Christmas break reading book after book. But the truth is, I've barely read a thing--mostly, I've been perfecting my Tetris game (and let me tell you I'm getting hotter than ever, don't even bring your Tetris trash talk 'round here if you can't beat Level 15 [for consistency's sake, I've been playing Tetris Worlds on the GBA]). The one book I have read is Neil Labute's new short story collection, "Seconds of Pleasure." I picked it up at the Oak Park Library and I'm really glad we've got such a well-stocked library because otherwise I would have bought this book and I'd be stuck with it. Since he's a fellow Coug, my reaction whenever I come across anything Labutian is to go "Ooh, Neil Labute has a new [book/play/movie/etc.] and I'm drawn in and what do I find? The same really dark, disturbing stories where people are awful awful to each other. But I'll give it to "Seconds of Pleasure," the title is quite fitting because I stuck in out until the end and every now and then I'd go "huh, that story was actually good . . . for a second." But for the most part, I don't understand Mr. Labute obsession with being the Modern Poe of Urban Unpleasentness. [Yet, whenever I walk down Christopher street and pass Fat Pig I can't help but think "Ooh, the new Neil Labute play!"]

Along with "Seconds of Pleasure" I checked out David Foster Wallace's "Oblivion" from the library, too. I've been working on it, but Wallace's maximalism hasn't really caught my attention in this particular volume of short stories. BUT "Oblivion" has made me think about Mr. Foster Wallace a bit (just like bloggin' late at night has had me dashing into the den to catch Blind Date repeats for the first time in a long time.) I think of all the modern authors of the moment, DFW most deserves ridiculous renown. There really are a lot of great authors putting out great stuff right now (the McSweeneys folk and Jonathan Safran Foer, for example) and while, yes, Dave Eggers put out a jealousy-inspiring memoir and started a publishing mini-revolution and Safran Foer's "Everything is Illuminated" is simply stunning (and I mean this not in the way that you'd tell a bride she looks stunning but in the way you might read a book and suddenly be stunned and freeze up and maybe accidentally drop the book as you're being stunned [and, for the record, I heard Safran Foer read a portion of his new novel ("Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close") that's coming out this year and it made "Everything is Illuminated" seem vulgar and inconsequential by comparison--but that's just me using strong words]) and David Sedaris makes us all chuckle good at his stories, David Foster Wallace is a real renaissance man who just shuts things down. Just consider what he's produced, the experimental-fiction compendium (at least that's what I'm calling it) "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men", the spot-on New New Journalism essays of "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", the modern monstrosity "Infinite Jest" which I'll never finish yet people around me read and reread and underline and annotate like dude was the new Joyce (I won't go that far), and he's whipped up "Everything and More", his little book on the history of infinity . . . plus, there's "The Girl With Curious Hair" (more short stories) and "The Broom of the System" (which I'm about to start talking about.) [No, I'm not going to link to each of those books, but here's all of them on one page.] While his peers refine themselves in set categories (and prove, as was the case with "Know Our Velocity", that they really ought not venture outside of their better genre's) Foster Wallace has proven himself a reporter, an inventor, a storyteller, and a scholar. All he's got to do is write a children's book and maybe publish a book of photography and he'll have proven he can do it all quite well.

So, anyway, as you may have figured from the paragraph above, Oblivion got me thinking about Mr. David Foster Wallace and I started thinking about his novel, "Broom of the System", which I read in Berkeley, CA and Nashville, TN two years ago after finishing up college and before finishing up the LSAT. I couldn't remember much about the book, except that it was long but I shot through it in no time at all [it's the second-longest book I've read in as short a time possible. The first-longest quick read was "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay", so I'll say "Broom of the System" rivals Chabon's ability to tell an enormous tale full of fascinating characters) and that there was a suburban desert in it and it touched on some Wittgenstein. So, tonight, as the great Midwest Snownami (I invented that) began to descend on Lake street, I ducked into Borders to grab myself a new copy of "Broom of the System" (no, the library didn't have it.) I think B.o.S. was out of print for a while, but now it's looking a little thinner and has a prettier cover, so I'm set. As soon as I stop talking about David Foster Wallace, I'll start reading him. And then, maybe I'll tell you why it was I liked B.o.S. enough to read it twice. But no matter what happens, I just tricked you into reading a really, really long post . . . if you really read it. Oh, also, "Broom of the System" was published when DFW was 24, which makes me feel really great about myself and the fact that I haven't finished writing a story for like 4 years now.

And Another Thing did anyone, like, TiVo or DiVo or whatever that new show Committed? 'Cuz I watched some of it and it seemed good, but then I had to go park my car.


Basic Black with Pearls said...

As the mother of Maary, aka The Editor, I must thank you for alerting our Fam to the pleasures of blogging. I have set up a little blog for my dog, Carmen, Infanta Gloriosa del Camino, in honor of this discovery. Why not a blog for myself? I already have created, years ago-something of a pioneer site in the field for our own family. Stop on by if you get a chance. Cheers, the Ed

Anonymous said...

that letter to my turtle on mcsweeneys is hilarious. also, this may be out there, but doesn't wes gully look like a blonde jimmy fallon? am i the only one that thinks so?


M said...

thanks for the shout out. btw, you are in luck 'cus i dvr'd committed. there's another one on tonight as well.