Sunday, September 14, 2008

DFW Hanged Himself (To Death).

I'm certainly not the number one fan in the DFW fan club, but I read a few of his essays, short stories, and even somehow managed to dig my way through Infinite Jest (in seven months). Some of it I found near impenetrable (so much pseudo-marketing lingo) and some of it wholly compelling. In both cases there was an undeniable sense of the amount of thought and effort that went into the writing. And there seems to be an urge to try and create some kind of homage to Wallace in eulogizing him—a desire to in some small way recreate the dynamism present in his works. While that may be admirable—trying to carry on the spirit of his writing—I'm not sure anyone could quite match DFW in the department of authorial vigor. And really, what is there to say anyway? It seems to me that the best way to remember him is to read the text that he put so much of his life into:

"Did you know that probing the seamy underbelly of U.S. lexicography reveals ideological strife and controversy and intrigue and nastiness and fervor on a nearly hanging-chad scale? For instance, did you know that some modern dictionaries are notoriously liberal and others notoriously conservative, and that certain conservative dictionaries were actually conceived and designed as corrective responses to the "corruption" and "permissiveness" of certain liberal dictionaries? That the oligarchic device of having a special "Distinguished Usage Panel ... of outstanding professional speakers and writers" is an attempted compromise between the forces of egalitarianism and traditionalism in English, but that most linguistic liberals dismiss the Usage Panel as mere sham-populism? Did you know that U.S. lexicography even had a seamy underbelly?"—DFW, from his essay "Tense Present" in Harper's April 2001 issue

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