I read Ed Finn's essay, Becoming Yourself: The Afterlife of Reception
, last week after it was posted to wallace-l
. It's a look at the networks between books and authors that can be mapped based on Amazon recommendations or popular reviews. It is quite an arresting read, especially the research methodology.
In fact on Amazon Wallace’s recommendations almost invariably point browsers to more Wallace texts (including the criticism, reading guides and biographical material on the edge of the circle in Figure 1). This is very unusual.
So how unusual is it? Finn compares this to some of Wallace's contemporaries:
For comparison, consider a few contemporaries. As of July 2011, Richard Powers’ Gold Bug Variations linked to seven externalnovels, including Wallace’s The Pale King (Figure 2). Toni Morrison’s Beloved linked to a very canonical nine external texts (Figure 3). Even Jonathan Franzen, a writer close to Wallace in both his life and literary concerns, linked to four non-Franzen texts in the same July “snapshot” (Figure 4).
I'm not surprised that Wallace's readers are just as interested in guides, wider criticism and other books about him (I'm one of those readers myself), but I'm a little more surprised this kind of thing isn't more widespread... Maybe a look at a similar networks related to Pynchon or DeLillo might be enlightening here?