Literature, with the naughty bits

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Redemption in Prose

I'm not even done with this book yet and already it feels vitally important, exactly what I needed to be reading at exactly this moment in my life. (As if to prove that, at my audition last night one of the other actors was wearing a homemade David Foster Wallace T-shirt: across the chest was DFW, then a superscripted 1; across the bottom of the shirt was the footnote David Foster Wallace.) I can tell I will soon be collaring my friends and thrusting the book at their chests with evangelical fervor. Guys: You have to read this. It is so good.

The opening pages, in reintroducing me to this literary personality I adore, made me cry. They also help me understand his 2008 suicide somewhat--that it was the end of a long and deeply sad battle, that it disappointed him too.

I am--maybe--beginning to understand why I love his writing so much. (As with any writer, the understanding is a lifelong process.) It's not just that he's brilliant, or that he's the most accessible genius you've ever encountered. It's the expansive sense of forgiveness that pervades his work: forgiveness of himself for being what he was, forgiveness of humans for being what we are, forgiveness of the language for being what it is--this last taking him past all the elementary-school dogma about Garbage Words and all the grad school dogma about literary prose and letting him just use the words he needs to use. If the words were sometimes inelegant, sometimes academic, sometimes earthy, sometimes distracted, sometimes obscene, then far from being less artistic, they did a better job of capturing how it feels to be the mess of contradictions that is a human.

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