Friday Column: DFW, Reissued

Alert: This is Barrett posting, not Scott. The following embarrassments are completely my own.

The word on the street is that David Foster Wallace’s
mega-novel Infinite Jest will be reissued in a new (paperback?) edition this
Nov. 2 in honor of its tenth anniversary. Dave Eggers will pen a forward.

Not only does this new edition make me want to actually
finish the book—yes, let me be the first to admit I haven’t read the thing; I
made one valiant, 300-page attempt before life, and variety of svelter novels,
lured me away—it makes me appreciate the beauty of IJ simply as a book, as an
objet d’art in itself. It is, let’s state the obvious, a considerable chunk of
paper, and like other massive cult-growing novels before, it threatens to
become more talked about than actually read. (I mean, I know a lot about IJ given what little I’ve
read about it and most of that I’ve just sort of picked up by osmosis.)
[Further self-questioning: should I be admitting any of this in public?]
Anyway, my point is that IJ in its initial hard- and paperback editions was an
impressive work of both book design and marketing. (Let us temporarily table discussing
the torrent of verbiage the covers actually contain.)

By itself, Infinite Jest is simply impressive as a piece of
furniture—the fat glowing orange spine, the graphic color-juggling of the
letters, the mysteriously alluring author photo (here sits the mussed,
seemingly slightly autistic bandana-ed genius, demurely ignoring the camera’s eye,
bewhiskered, lost in no doubt digressively brilliant thought, whitely
turtle-necked, sporting curious hair, a vector of bad fashion as if on purpose,
a look of opaque sadness).

[When I grow up and go to big boy school, I want to write my
dissertation on the semiology of author photos, FYI.]

And then there’s the cover image of a cloud-scudded sky,
which for reasons I can’t articulate just feels perfect for the book.
(Remember, I haven’t read the thing so half of this post is total interpretive crapola.)
It’s an image that seemed to trickle down graphically after the book came out.
For instance, I’ve got a Windows 98 machine in my basement, bought in 2000,
which sports a (default?) wall paper of that very same blue sky w/ clouds. And
then there’s Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson’s multi-narrative epic. One of the
movie’s promotional posters uses
the same image, except here it’s speckled with those falling frogs. (It can
also be found on the backside of the DVD case.) All of which is to
say—aesthetic coincidence or homage or not—how totally cool, and furthermore, I
also find it incredibly appropriate how the novel trickled down to a computer—you
could read the compulsive endnotes as a type of manic ’Net-like linking,
no?—and a Hollywood movie, because it’s not hard to prove how IJ affected
writers of all stripes if not in their specific content then at least in their
scope of ambition. I believe the word we’re looking for here is: sprawl. Wallace
has infected the current generation of fiction writers the way, say, Raymond
Carver infected the one before—a highly idiosyncratic talent that sheds
imitators like sparks. Everyone—are you with me on this?—has to deal with
Wallace’s potential influence at some point. It’s like your hometown: you
either spurn its gates for good or you make some sort of peace with it.

Interpolated Rant: And now, I will gripe. Again, I mean, I
know I haven’t actually read this thing and all but who cares; Scott said I can
blogitate all I want and by God, I’m going to blog until I embarrass myself
into silence. Here’s the gripe: why does everyone refer to the notes in IJ as
footnotes when they are obviously endnotes? Now, he uses true footnotes
everywhere else as far as I can tell, and yes, many of these endnotes do
themselves have their own footnotes, but the massive rear chunk of the novel is
where the notes actually live. Take a flip for yourself. You don’t even have to
read the thing to verify that one.

And but so the specter of a new edition haunts me—can it be
as perfectly bound as the first edition? What will they possibly use for a cover?
Can they even approach the beauty of the original? We’ll see. Either way,
remember: lift with the legs.



Recent Posts




Criticism Isn't Free


CR is dedicated to thoughtful, in-depth criticism without regard to what's commercially appealing. It takes tens of hours each month to provide this. Please help make this sort of writing sustainable, either with a subscription or a one-time donation. Thank you!

You could also purchase one of my acclaimed ebooks.





2 Comments

Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

What to Read, How to Read It.

Don’t you hate it when you get halfway through a book, get distracted by work or play or what not, and then feel a tremendous inertia that prevents you from getting back into the book and finishing it off? It…

If I remember right, there were production problems with the book–one you go over a certain page number, things get hinky–and it was printing delays that prevented it from making the NYTBR list. Just a piece of unverified trivia for you…

THE SURRENDER

The Surrender is Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning his lifelong desire to be a woman.


LADY CHATTERLEY'S BROTHER

Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


THE LATIN AMERICAN MIXTAPE

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2017. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.