“That the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle.” ~ David Foster Wallace, on Kafka
I’d say my reading style is how David Foster Wallace composed his thoughts.** Nothing remains linear. A line is certainly drawn, but it is crossed, sectioned, upended, and oft fractured. When I read, the eyes scan down, seeking that next word three sentences away. Fingers hold pages here and there. I flip often.
A luxury day. Eighty plus degrees…in the Midwest, in March? I feel our poles melting as I write; a trickle down of too many years of environmental exposures. Mother; even her tears are hot as they fall to moisten the brown ground.
I sit, tired, but anxious of mind. Five books stacked precariously on the small metal chair that imprints ugly patterns into my skin. Fresh brewed coffee’s heat competes with the humidity, swirling just inches from the lip then stopping. The pup, the heat is already too much; she sighs, stretches to her side and sleeps.
Books: which book do I pull first from the deck? I finger the blue one; the white one … David Foster Wallace wins. Consider the Lobster: and other essays. I desire essays, but feel guilty after reading Adrienne Rich (and following VIDA on FB); should it just be just the feminine scribes I read?
Wallace’s words; however, vindicate the choice a bit as I read his critique of John Updike. In “Certainly The End Of Something Or Other, One Would Sort Of Have To Think,” Wallace expounds on why Updike is oft not liked by anyone under 40; well, except for him; but especially, not women. He quotes a quote he swears he has heard from a female regarding Updike:
“Just a penis with a thesaurus.” (It took the edge off my catholic guilt.)
Wallace’s style feeds my impatience with prose. The finger dance begins as the eyes start to wander, scanning the contents of other chapters. Soon I’m dipping into a checkerboard of words on page 275, leaving page 56 behind.
“Host” captures me with its oddity. I’ve two fingers holding up Updike in case I return.
“Host” (I surmise) is why some readers dislike Wallace. It is a piece about a radio program jockey, and/or a radio station; FCC detail; radio politics; media politics to local politics; to famous court cases; and back again. There are arrows and boxes woven around text in every nook of the page. Ironically, the style soothed my self-proclaimed ADD style of reading.
(It didn’t last more than a few pages. I moved on to Kafka)
Wallace’s Kafka; or Wallace on Kafka: “Some remarks on Kafka’s Funniness”. Not sure if I should be worried that the Kafka example used, a cat and mouse fable, struck me with laughter. You see, the point he makes is that he cannot teach Kafka to college students because they don’t really ‘get’ the funny. The fact that Wallace has an affinity for Kafka’s twisty funniness helps me to understand his death just a bit….perhaps.
(Death. Unintentionally, it unwound before me as I read. I’ll expound later.)
I leave Wallace for a while to read choice two, Summer in Baden-Baden. A unique used book I found recently. It’s the story of a man who is obsessed with Dostoevsky. The man is so smitten with the diary written by Dostoevsky’s wife, that he boards a train to travel to where it all ends. Darkness fuels this write. Why shouldn’t it as author, Leonid Tsypkin, a Russian medical researcher, wrote ‘underground’.
Summer was smuggled out of the Soviet Union to the USA for publication in 1981. Sadly, Tsypkin died in Moscow in 1982. I’ve just started, but already feel its weight. A heavy read for such a thin book.
[Sidebar: Wallace calls me, again. Thumbing through, I find on page 255, that he writes of Dostoevsky. I don't stop to read, but smile at the synchronicity.]
Book three: John Green. An unlikely mashup with the others in my stack. It is today’s blue candy before the green day of tomorrow.*** The Fault In Our Stars, settles my restlessness in its easy flow of dialogue. I read with a passionate bent, reminiscent of my teen years; but, why not, for Green is an edgy author for teens.
The first page explores death. It sucks me in; it sucks the breath right out of me. The girl, Hazel, cannot breathe. She is dying, slowly. She breaks it down for us, though, saying, do we not all fall into oblivion some day?
Something catches in mid gasp - the character’s words ache inside me. A fog lifts and I remember two years ago today. Innocence lost to a sudden death. The depth of her light was immense. e_ was a good friend who passed at age 38. The cold on that day froze Mother’s weeping.
Reading allows us to escape; yet, others read to understand from what they are trying to escape. Our humanity is indeed linked to our self, which is linked to our ability to cope in a life that is ours, but not really our own.
Sadly, I doubt if David Foster Wallace ever was able to escape. He seemed to understand too well that the final page had been written without him.
** In no way am I eluding that I am in the same ballpark as Wallace. Wallace was a genius who wrote brilliance in abundance
*** Tomorrow, which is actually today, is St Patty’s Day. I’m keeping the fort all weekend in libraryland. Please know that all of you who have visited; liked; and or commented, shall get a visit in the next few days as well. I’m always humbled when someone takes the time to read. Thank you!