Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace

I started with the title essay on this one, then skipped back to the beginning and am reading the rest of the way through. The second piece, "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction," made me feel kind of smart at first, because it's extremely dense and reference laden and yet I almost understand it. Then I noticed the thing was written in 1990 when the author was maybe ... 28? Possibly I'm not such a genius after all.

On page 31 (of the hardcover edition I checked out of the library), Wallace discusses an episode of an old TV show called St. Elsewhere in which a mental patient thinks he's Mary Tyler Moore. A woman who had been in the Mary Tyler Moore show is in this episode and when the patient sees her he calls her by her former character's name. In 1988, this was the height of post-modernism in television, apparantly. I wonder what Wallace thought of 30 Rock.

I read Infinite Jest, Wallace's master work that numbers over 1,000 pages, when I was barely 18. It was a Christmas present in 1997, when I was home over break from my freshman year at St. Bonaventure University. I had nothing to do but work maybe 6 hours per week, and, thus, plenty of time to read a 1,000-page book.

Or was it Christmas of 1998, during my sophomore year? Because I have a distinct memory of bringing the book with me when I went to work one of those overnight lock-in things at the local YMCA, and I think I only worked at those my sophomore year. Specifically, the kids were sleeping, or supposed to be sleeping, in the gym upstairs, so all the lifeguards scurried downstairs to abuse our free reign of the place. Everyone else decided it was time to go skinny dipping in the Y's pool, but I put the ixnay on that (ew, after all) and, instead, sat in the parent waiting area reading a really, really thick book.

It's possible that my memories of a youth filled with hedonism and debauchery are not exactly accurate.

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