Two very interesting contributions about the current cultural status of David Foster Wallace in the world right now have appeared from D T Max, author of Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, in the last week or so.
The first is an almost hour long interview with Robert Wright on The Wright Show via meaningoflife.tv
Watch / listen to it here. There are way too many topics that Wright and Max touch upon for me to summarise, but the whole thing is worth watching and/or listening to. Wright asks some very searching questions and directs the conversation from D Max's biography, to 'This is Water', Infinite Jest, Wallace's depression, world view and the impact and influence of his suicide on his cultural reception today. I particularly enjoyed the second half.
The second is today's Guardian piece by DT Max, Why David Foster Wallace should not be worshipped as a secular saint, where DT Max expands on some of the thoughts and reflections he shares in the Wright interview, and explores some of the increasingly problematic and conflicting perceptions of David Foster Wallace:[...]
One way or another, DFW now sits securely at the centre of culture. To know about him is a badge of awareness. It would be easy to dismiss this sort of renown as trivial. People have always wanted to seem smart by admiring what people they think are smart admire (Mindy Kaling has just announced she needs to read more DFW). But I think this misses the point. Wallace is not famous for being famous; he’s famous for being moral. A great many of those who care about him have had struggles of their own – whether depression or addiction or just a sense that the world is spinning more and more insanely away from the bearable.
But really the canonisation of St Dave is not my main issue. There are worse things than to simplify or purify the life of a well-known person in search of our own wisdom, comfort, security. I have more than once used DFW in this way myself during an uncomfortable night of the soul. The more problematic part for me is where all the hero worship leaves his books and us as readers for them. Wallace’s books and the public perception of his personality have seemed for some time headed in opposite directions: one reaching for a spiritual purity, the other deeply enmeshed in the problematic and human.
It's a great read.
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