Posts Tagged ‘David Lipsky’

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This Week’s Article

In David Foster Wallace,Matt,Tuesday's Article on November 30, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Thoughts on David Foster Wallace

-8th Installment

Discussing Suicide: Part 2

I don’t know what most people’s experience is, but I’ve repeatedly found that the topic of suicide rarely, if ever, leads anywhere past its own introduction into a conversation. (And if I’ve understood this with any irony stemming from the definition of suicide, it’s been little other than that kind of dead irony, straight out of Hamlet’s Alas! Poor Yorick.) The catalogue of responses which includes, in a nutshell, ‘Such a shame’, ‘It’s a selfish act’, ‘It’s cowardice”, the more promising but ultimately just as ineffectual and disconcerting, ‘How could someone ever take their own life?’, and (not to be overlooked for lack of conformity) seconds of blanket silence, is pretty small and tentative, and about as complete as Hollywood’s depiction of love or Hallmark’s treatment of significance. Then there are people who will get angry nine times out of ten, simply by suicide’s entry into the discussion, and will become surprisingly authoritative (and on other more basic levels, just simply surprising) in the other 10%. But this seems to suggest something like difficulty beyond what we’re accustomed to dealing with, in the normal patterns of our daily interactions and engagement in the world, rather than some unbridgeable gap of meaning.

This last sentence may come off as a little obvious and trite; and it may even be that most people feel the two statements in it really shouldn’t be juxtaposed, but more like one conjugates the other (most likely though not limited to, the people who tend to get angry when suicide is brought up). I just want to make it known that I’m aware of this and what I want to do (what I think there is an opportunity to do in this format) is try to rehash the question of whether or not we actually could go a little further to refine our assumptions and language regarding suicide, in a way that’s ultimately positive and useful, or helpful, to people.

Right off the bat there are trap doors to Wallacean grade paradoxes in this, such as the notion that whatever ways in which we try to discuss suicide must be predetermined as helpful or positive may undermine the earnestness with which the attempt is supposed to be made in order to really qualify as an honest-to-goodness attempt and that, furthermore, the recognition of crevasses like this puts the attempter, again, in no better position to deal with them than all the past attempts from which he is trying to separate himself, but possibly worse. It’s this sort of room filled with mouse traps you automatically enter when talking about it that partially explains the hypersensitivity that seems dream-like or Greek in its ability to fold the tent from the get-go on the whole endeavor. The rest is probably explained by a collection of personal issues, pressure from a Catholic-like sense of responsibility to give the right answers and anxiety over extreme, guilty notions that wrong answers could somehow be extended to personal culpability for past, future, or current suicides happening in the world, outside the realm of what anyone would rationally regard as control, and, finally, the prescient recognition of far off conclusions that feel both inevitable and unacceptable.

In Although Of Course…, Lipsky wrote, in what I imagine is one of the more memorable, quotable, passages of the book, “Suicide is such a powerful end, it reaches back and scrambles the beginning. It has an event gravity: Eventually, every memory and impression gets tugged in its direction.”

That may be true, but it may not be the whole case. You certainly can’t talk about David Foster Wallace now without getting to, or having to put in effort (possibly the amount that would take up six or seven long blogs) to avoid, the subject of suicide. But, still, and this is an unabashedly fan-boy statement to make, there is so much more to talk about in his writing and interviews, and even his apparent approach to living (of which those of us reading and writing about him have had little access except for what has come out since his death. For instance, I did not know he had MD. And I don’t think it’s totally fair when people look back on his writing and say ‘that makes sense’.), that is completely insulated from his suicide; that is life-affirming (which is a term I had used regularly when trying to describe Wallace’s writing before his death, and still do after). Like Galileo’s Paradox about infinity (Wallace’s favorite subject, other than loneliness, but I suspect they were interchangeable), the whole seems to be equal to the part.

-Matt

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Tuesday’s Article (08-03-10)

In David Foster Wallace,Matt,Tuesday's Article on August 26, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , , ,

-David Lipsky reading from his book about David Foster Wallace. We apologize for the audio as well as the abrupt ending.  However, it’s meant to complement the content of the blog and so you don’t have to listen to the whole thing to get the point.

 

A Precursory Interjection: What we’re trying to do here is blend the formats for articles and blogs into a hybrid with an outcome being, if successful, something that is both functional when taken in parts and coherent when taken as a whole. Ideally, we’d take a completed article and cut it up into suitable chunks. However, we are starting from the opposing side (for this initial one anyway), with the single blogs that we plan to fuse together as we go along, which I could claim to be for the sake of experimentation, but the plain truth is I’m an awful procrastinator.  In fairness, though, it does kind of feel more true to form.

David Foster Wallace

1st Installment

‘How Everyone Feels’

David Lipsky is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone.  He has written a novel, a book of short stories, and two NY Times best-selling works of non-fiction.  He also contributes essays to the NPR broadcast All Things Considered.  A story of his was included in the 1987 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

Despite disregarding a few additional specifics, this is his professional bio.

In the afterword to one of his non-fiction books, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself (published 4/13/2010 by Broadway Books), which is basically a transcript of a 5-day interview with David Foster Wallace, he wrote this:

“He wrote with eyes and a voice that seemed to be a condensed form of everyone’s lives-it was the stuff you semi thought, the background action you blinked through at super markets and commutes-…”

Put another way, reading David Foster Wallace is like being a young kid and discovering that someone else has noticed something you had noticed, on a play ground or in a class, in the teacher or in the other students.  And it had been terrifying because it was large and incomplete, but seemed to indicate a flaw in the way the world was presented to you (not that you would be able to articulate it, even this crudely) and especially because you had pretty much assumed you were the only one who noticed it, which made you feel isolated and vulnerable to rejection.  And not only did someone else notice it, but that person interpreted it the same way, had the same feelings about it, and was just as excited to find out about your awareness of it as you were to find out about his/hers.

And then you both go on to find out that it’s not just the two of you, but a third person was having the same experience. And, furthermore, that actually the majority of people notice the same things and process them in roughly the same ways and are basically in the same boat.

Wallace does more than recreate this for you.  It’s like he holds the portal open, through the grit of his tour de force prose, giving you a chance to examine it in addition to just feeling it.

In this instance, it was David Lipsky, who nailed down exactly how I feel about David Foster Wallace’s writing.

-2nd installment, which will be considerably less disclaimer-laden, will come sometime over the next few weeks.  Please bear with us.