SURVIVOR: black swan green (david mitchell)*
CHALLENGER: although of course you end up becoming yourself (david lipsky)

in the interest of brevity, let's give this one a few preambulatory clauses, UN-security-council-resolution-style.

the blogger,

bearing in mind that david foster wallace is my favorite author and that my feelings about him and his work mean that the emotional bioavailability of any and all DFW-related prose is in my system pretty much absolute,

fully aware that although of course you end up becoming yourself, being an annotated, five-day, rolling-stone-commissioned interview with DFW, is perhaps even more awkward in THUNDERTOME (an arena, i'm realizing, for more traditional fiction and nonfiction) than elizabeth edwards's first memoir was,**

taking note of, as david lipsky puts it,
[W]hat I like best about [the five days recorded in the book] is that it sounds like David's writing. He was such a natural writer that he could talk in prose; for me, this has the magic of watching a guy in a business suit, big headphones, step into a gym and sink fifty foul shots in a row. This is what David was like at thirty-four--what he calls "all the French curls and crazy circles"--at one of the moments when the world opens up to you.
1. calls upon the reader to get on this book. for newcomers, as its newsweek blurb promises, it's a "conversational entry point into david foster wallace's thought process;" for devotees like me (and lipsky, and some of you), it's the next best thing to being in his company (which, by all accounts, was singular and wonderful). lipsky was just thirty in march of 1996, when he flew out to illinois for the last leg of DFW's infinite jest book tour; i don't know much about being a young fiction author (he follows other authors' careers with the zeal i associate with friends who play fantasy sports), but i've been a young magazine type for a few years, and it's weirdly easy to imagine myself in his place - though if lipsky's take on the mid-'90s literary community is correct, i'd have been in the kitchen.
"All the girls are like, 'David Foster Wallace, he's really cool.' So the guys are like, 'I hate David Foster Wallace.'"


In fact, a personal hardship, my own girlfriend had been reading only him, steadily, languorously. One afternoon, she took a cigarette into the kitchen to cool off, and I found this e-mail on her computer. She'd sent questions to an editor friend, who'd written back:

Mr. Wallace is cool-looking. A big hulking guy with long stringy hair. Looks sort of like a rock star. Perspires freely. Wears a do-rag, and participates in the urban American experience thusly. Is unmarried, I believe. What were your other questions?
in related news, i googled tim lincecum after the giants won the world series last night and the text field helpfully added girlfriend.***

lipsky's sympathetic, observant, and funny: seeing wallace after his second reading in new york city (at an earlier point in the book tour), he notes that he looks "abashed and excited and comfortable, like someone on a personal water slide." he's quick to attempt to identify patterns in the way his subject presents himself, and can be rather cynical about the interviewer/ee relationship (DFW calls him a "tough room"). he acquits himself well in fast-paced cultural rallies (his knowledge of other authors' stats comes in handy there, as does his father's work as an ad man). his asides about the sort of bookstore culture which still existed fourteen years ago (so many of the stops on the book tour are now gone!) are intensely depressing - did that really happen that fast? - and well-considered, given how DFW talks about writing and reading. (if it's to make us, as he and franzen put it, "become less alone inside,"**** is it any wonder that the modern reader's literal isolation feels kind of horrible? maybe it's just me.) lipsky's take on DFW's feelings about fame could be problematic, but his intentions are good, and although of course you end up becoming yourself is intensely moving - both as a snapshot of a young genius and as "that kind of stomach magic of, 'God damn, it's fun to read. I'd rather read right now than eat.'" meet dave, again.

VICTOR: black swan green - because lipsky was the entrant, not DFW. you got lucky, mitchell.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 would you want to interview someone you idolize?

02 given the opportunity to spend time with david foster wallace, how would you want to spend it?

03 do you think the publication of lipsky's book was inappropriately opportunistic? (aside: rolling stone spiked the piece lipsky had been commissioned to write back in 1996.)

04 do books need buildings? do we need books? (do you own or want a kindle?)

05 when was the last time you skipped a meal for a book?

06 have you read the boy, an unpublished story of DFW's (transcribed from a reading in 2000) which materialized on a tumblr account last week? what did you think?

*previous battle here.

**though i would certainly THUNDERTOME the five nights jack kerouac spent with neal cassady in the third, transcript section of kerouac's visions of cody, a book i disliked so intensely that i avoided kerouac altogether for a decade. (this book amplifies your life force as forcefully as visions of cody diminishes it.)

***i have no stake in whether or not tim lincecum has a girlfriend. just so we're clear.

****"The old tricks have been exploded, and I think the language needs to find new ways to pull the reader. And my personal belief is a lot of it has to do with voice, and a feeling of intimacy between the writer and the reader. That sorta, given the atomization and loneliness of contemporary life--that's our opening, and that's our gift."


Milkmaid's dumb friend said...

01: …no, kind of, albeit I’d like it if you interviewed someone I idolize.
02: Waitress comes: Heavy tray, big Midwestern spread.  (Please do tell us your answer.)
03: Just like Judas I suppose, we can hold him personally accountable while acknowledging the greater good has been served.
04: Just hoping all the beloved, esoteric, out-of-print books are scanned before getting expunged from existence.
06: It’s great and sort of Kafkaish without being Kafkaesque.
0?: *spoiler alert* some of my fav utterances out of context and in chron order: “My Pop-Tart es su Pop-Tart; And then I’d inserted, “And Richard Linklater films”; Now I can enjoy full nicotine satisfaction, and you cannot; He looks like sort of an autistic person having an orgasm; Are you prepared to give me a butt?; The implications of which will escape no one; You know, is found in amusing postures in gutters and stuff; (Elvis voice) I’m never leaving you again, baby.  I swear, I swear; You know, it should be clear by now that you’re not getting any of this.  Good dog; I mean, and I… he goes… If I coulda gotten a lock of his hair, he’d feel stabbing in his buttocks right now."

kidchamp said...

re: 01, shit, MDF, i was planning to delegate interviews, too. 

re: 02, how would i want to spend time with DFW? knee-jerk answer: late at night, hanging out on one of the crappy and tetanus-tastic rafts which float on lake lag on the stanford campus when it decides to exist (it's often just a pestilential dust bowl).* i would probably try to talk him into jumping in the water, because when someone does that you know they're one of the best people.

re: 06, that's an extremely solid way of putting it. i agree. 

re: 0?, "[On NPR, George Burns dead today.] I wonder what George Burns died of: Maybe someone just dispatched him with a club, figuring that was the only way." 

*lake lag, not stanford, though...yeah.

esb said...

I think I'd better read this book.

AND, I'd like to play tennis with DFW. I am not a terrific tennis player, but I'm working on it.

Amanda said...

01 No. Yes? No.
02 On a boat.
03 Involuntary shrug.
04 a) And fingers to crease them and noses to smell them. b) We do (whether or not they need us I will not say). c) Never.
05 I skip most meals for books. 
06 "Unimaginable challenges lay ahead of him. He was six."

LPC said...

Everytime I try to read this post my eyes roll back into my head and I have to watch television instead. It's all the implications of therefores and other logic, juxtaposed with SO MANY WORDS. And quite gorgeous, when I can open my eyes.