This is the last blog I’ll ever write, and I’ll admit, the timing couldn’t be better. At the same time, this blog has been an amazing platform for exploring personal questions Wallace has stirred up in my head, and it has considerably expanded my understanding.
At the start of the semester, we read the McCaffery interview. Throughout this course one quote has stuck with me. He claims that the distinguishing quality that separates good writing from bad writing lies in:
“ be[ing] willing to sort of die in order to move the reader, somehow”.
The first time I stumbled on this quote I took it to be a standard by which I could evaluate Wallace’s own writing. He writes after this:
“Even now I’m scared about how sappy this’ll look in print, saying this”
I can’t avoid the fact that Wallace’s death, the blow that it was, has undoubtedly affected my interpretation of his words. Though, when he mentions “be[ing] willing to sort of die in order to move the reader”, his death shouldn’t be thought of as a way of instilling his work with a sense of posthumous prowess. I think this quote has lasting significance in my mind because it communicates how much heart, mind, and soul Wallace strived to fill his work with.
Another memorable quote taken from the McCaffery interview, perhaps due to its thematic prevalence throughout Wallace’s work, is:
“The interesting thing is why we’re so desperate for this anesthetic against loneliness.”
This thought seems to become a fact after reading the loads of substance abuse and degrees of distance from reality present in his writings. What I find most compelling about Wallace’s body of work is how exactly frustrating it can be. This frustration likely comes from a combination of Wallace’s superior intellect and insight in respect to my own, and how his work can be either fiction or nonfiction, but no matter what, it always has room for philosophical meditation.
The feature of Wallace’s work that leaves me asking can be mind-blowing frustrating, but at the same time I know that this is one of the reasons why I like him so much. Most of the work that I currently read raises questions or offers areas of ambiguity, but in the end clarifies these areas and leaves me with a sense of satisfaction. This satisfaction though is so accurately described as an “anesthetic against loneliness” though, and that’s the problem. Wallace’s work, on the other hand, frequently leaves me unsatisfied and questioning and this seems to be the real point. In my opinion, Wallace’s work is most meaningful and provocative because of the questions it leaves unanswered. It fails to provide a quick fix, but leaves in its place a weird hung over feeling inside of you. There’s something uncomfortable about not knowing, and knowing that you might never know, but in the end it’s infinitely more gratifying knowing that something is there to be figured out.
While I’ve grumbled over my keyboard on several Sunday nights, this blog has really helped me begin to hack away at some of the questions I’ve gathered from Wallace’s work. Its been fun.