Eden M. Kennedy

It Didn’t Make Me Happy but I Couldn’t Stop Watching

08.25.09 | 1 Comment

As your least insightful and hands-down laziest guide, I fully admit that I’m 100 pages behind this week and I’m not even going to try to fake it. But I did spend a fruitful hour this morning browsing DFW reviews and interviews.

This from Newsweek:

NEWSWEEK: What’s your history with tennis?

WALLACE: I played serious Juniors, but I burned out. I play twice a week with friends.

And with 12-step groups?

I went with friends to an open AA meeting and got addicted to them. It was completely riveting. I was never a member — I was a voyeur. When I ended up really liking it was when I let people there know this and they didn’t care.

Was it therapeutic?

At that point, I was paralyzed about writing, and I was watching too much TV. Here were these guys in leather and tattoos sounding like Norman Vincent Peale, but week after week they were getting better. And I’d go home and work. Going to coffee houses and talking about literary theory certainly hadn’t helped any. Have you read the book?

I haven’t had the chance, but our reviewer just finished.

My hat’s off to him. Tell him Excedrin works best for eyestrain.

From The Chicago Tribune, a surprising claim about DFW’s familiarity with the Internet:

The research reaped personal as well as professional dividends. “If I hadn’t gone to a bunch of AA meetings, I wouldn’t have gotten rid of my TV, because I started to realize the TV didn’t make me happy, but I couldn’t stop watching it,” he said.

Still, he’s been fascinated by some reader reactions so far, including some who liken its jump-cut style and information bombardment to cruising the Internet. “I’ve never been on the Internet,” he said. “This is sort of what it’s like to be alive. You don’t have to be on the Internet for life to feel this way. . . .

“The image in my mind — and I actually had dreams about it all the time — was that this book was really a very pretty pane of glass that had been dropped off the 20th story of a building.”

Here Wallace and the director Gus Van Sant have a delightful phone conversation about Good Will Hunting and it makes me think about the similarities between Will and Hal Incandenza:

DFW: …The thing that interested me about Will — and of course this is like a stroke movie for me — is you’ve got like a total nerd who is incredibly good looking, can beat people up and has Minnie Driver in love with him, so I’m, like I saw it twice voluntarily. Most of the serious math weenies who I’ve met, and I’ve met a few, like who’ve graduated from college at 12 and stuff, they’re not all that smart in other areas. I’ve like never met any who’ve had photographic memories with respect to stuff like agrarian social histories of the American South or legal precedent in the American judicial system and stuff, and so he seemed as if he could almost have done anything that he wanted to do and that math was almost a kind of accident.

GVS: That’s the way we thought of him. But I always felt that his memory was something that was kind of like a bonus. And that mathematics was something that he had done when say he was alone as a child.

DFW: Uh-huh.

GVS: And he had learned and he had become very advanced but that his memory was maybe separate — the memory was like the trick part. So he remembered certain things that he had read in different books his retention was so phenomenal but it was almost like a trick so when he is defeating the guy in the Harvard bar by quoting from text books this sort of capitalist versus socialist…

DFW: Which trust me is every bonehead kid’s fantasy of being able to do that. (Gus laughs) Fuckwad with a pony tail in a Harvard bar, I’ve met that guy. The girl I went and saw the movie with first thought that the guy was like too icky and villainous to be realistic and I hastened to disagree with her.

And this is just funny, from an online chat Wallace participated in with a random sampling of users who had a lot of trouble staying on topic:

dfw: A carbuncle’s fucking HUGE, esse. Like an eggplant or something. Actually life-threatening — it can apparently explode like an appendix and spread toxins throughout your bloodstream. A small but riveting history of cases on death-by-carbuncle is avail

Marisa: I could beat Keats up if I wanted to.

dfw: able in back issues of “Mortality and Morbidity” magazine.

Keats: Oh well, in that case, dfw, I should not have made the comparison.

Keats: Since what I have doesn’t approach the gravity of a carbuncle.

Keats: I think I’m just going to ignore Marisa. She’s one of those live-chat troublemakers.

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