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Home News by Category Critical Analysis Nature's Nightmare Interview - Part 2

Nature's Nightmare Interview - Part 2

If you missed part one yesterday make sure you read it first here: Part 1 - Before Nature's Nightmare.

There are some great links to video and audio in Part 2 below. Enjoy.

Part 2 - Elegant Complexity, Post Publication

THF: So Elegant Complexity makes it to publication. I remember reading a sneak peek of it well before publication, I was actually up late at night at my grandparents' house in Adelaide and my mind was racing with just how accessible AND comprehensive it was. What was the response to it when it was publicly available? Were initial sales promising?

Greg Carlisle: In 2008, Michael Sheehan, then student-editor of the Sonora Review (just as Wallace had been 20+ years earlier) invited me to contribute a piece (Wallace's Infinite Fiction) to a Wallace tribute issue (Issue 55/56) that he had been planning even before Wallace's untimely death and to participate in panels to be given when the issue came out.

Sonora Review Issue 55/56 Cover

(I was never in the same room with David Foster Wallace and never attempted to communicate with him. I had reserved seats at a reading he was to give at Butler University in February 2009.) So I'm like, "Wow, yes, that's awesome, thank you". But then of course I needed to write something. With some time away from Elegant Complexity, I was now able to articulate something I wasn't able to articulate fully in Ch. 2 of Elegant Complexity: the analogy of Wallace's writing being like a mathematical function that tends to infinity, which I still think is one of the most useful things I've come up with in my writings on Wallace.

THF: Completely agree. Seeing your graphs/plots of limits as events in Infinite Jest was very much a, "Why didn't I see that moment?" for me.

GC: Star-struck aside: At those panels in Tuscon (David Foster Wallace Memorial Tribute, University of Arizona - Video highlights here and full audio here, Greg Carlisle from 22:15) I sat between Bonnie Nadell and Glenn Kenny (Some Came Running about Big Red Son), Wallace's editor at Premiere (and JT Jackson, who also knew Wallace, was in the audience). Amazing writers were sitting at the other end of the table: Marshall Boswell, Charles Bock, and Ken Kalfus (if you are not familiar with Ken Kalfus, you need to be). Aurelie Sheehan was the faculty advisor for the event. Although your readers may not realize this, Michael Sheehan himself is an amazing writer. I guarantee that at least 85% of the Wallace fans reading this will love his chapbook (from another small publisher, Colony Collapse Press) Proposals for the Recovery of the Apparently Drowned.

As I was preparing for that event in Tucson, David Hering invited me to be a keynote speaker at a conference he was putting together at Liverpool University (SSMG published the papers from the Liverpool conference as Consider David Foster Wallace) I was thinking, "Wow this is unbelievable, thank you", but at the same time, "Can I afford this?" and my wife said, "Keynote speaker?! You're going!" It turned out the University of Liverpool was quite generous in helping me get there and my two best friends went with me and it was so great. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had nothing to write.

Matt Bucher: We did a small run of galleys of Elegant Complexity and one of those went to Jason Kottke. He mentioned the book on and said some nice things about it (See point 7 from this 2009 post too: Nick). We are a niche publisher and these are niche books, so for us, getting publicity on was the equivalent of making the New York Times. A huge deal. And of course all the promotions of the book on The Howling Fantods certainly helped. I think our first printing was 1500 copies and it sold out immediately. So, that was promising. I knew the book would have a long afterlife. It continues to sell well. It's been used in university courses and I know that a couple of the translators of Infinite Jest have relied on it for clarification of several plot points.

The first review of the book was by Marie Mundaca on the Hipster Book Club. Another thing that helped was the Infinite Summer group read of Infinite Jest that took place in the summer of 2009. Greg and I (and Nick!) contributed blog posts to that project and to me it felt like the focus was on the text of the novel--so Greg's expertise really helped there.


Part 3: Writing Nature's Nightmare

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 00:35  

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