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David Foster Wallace, Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way

Expansive in scale yet involved in detail: pure DFW. The question and paralysis of PostModern fiction is dealt with like a turning point in the/his ouevre, with personal finality, to be done with it all, tired of internal argument and hungry to consolidate the forces of fiction that make it worth having at all. Whilst of course using all the touchstone techniques of meta- and pop-cultural -reference, authorial intrusions and uncloakings, stories within stories, academic buzzwords masquerading as literary fidelity. There is a real wrestling with the format (and what it means) at the same time there’s real trickery and messing with the reader. Dotted, as always, with real character-driven pathos and amazing group dialogues.

DFW keeps things contemporarily relevant: an adman with an apocalyptic idea-event to end all need for advertising; dysfunctional sons sans fathers and unlocked daughters and excesses of body-consciousness and of course sports analogies. A discourse melding PoMo theory with Advertising’s usurping arrow through fear & desire, as well as pop culture’s pure entertainment slash vapid cultivation of the solipsistic and drug-addled self. Yes, and still managing to pull enough narrative weight to keep it interesting.

If it weren’t for DFW’s acute humour (the Ronald clown going "Varoom!"), some of the Creative Writing classisms would certainly ache and fatigue by story’s end. In terms of raw analysis, the structure of Westward is wholly improbable and diffuse, yet nothing is wasted – unless, with for example the workshopped story near the end, it’s clearly marked as flowery and overdone. It’s remarkably in line with the other stories in Girl With Curious Hair. It’s the point where the no-hands-isms of Broom anticipate the toasted teens and pathos of the Jest – where the real state and issue of literature are perceived and nailed with prose precision. Where graduate writings programs are discarded, their petty themes and discussions jettisoned like so many watery clichés.
"You saying there’s no politics going on on that show?" [Hawaii Five-0] […]
"Pure entertainment." […]
"Especially in reruns, syndication, that you’ve seen before," Sternberg says, into it, feeling, feeling disembodied, other, flaccid. "Incredibly comforting. You just know how the universe is going to be for the next hour. Totally secure. Detached but connected. A womb with a view." [p317]

posted by rino breebaart  # 7:02 pm
DFW confession time - I've never read Westward. I made it to the end of Girl...and turned back. Everything about it seemed designed to repel a reader - subject matter, tone. Even though it is Wallace, who should surely, in this fan's estimation, be capable of no wrong. I think I was most put off by the discovery that it was his Masters submission, or something like that...all a bit po-mo, the kind of evil self-referentiality DFW takes apart with such sniperish coldness in "Pluribus". But maybe I will read it now.

I've got two essays left to read in "Lobster" - the title piece and the loooong grammar essay. I sucked nearly the whole book down in two days - then waited, saddened by the idea that once I was finished, that was "it" until the next collection...or, dream of dreams, NOVEL...but I began the grammar essay this morning, and will have a full report soon. Is it available in Ireland yet?

One more piece of ridiculous DFW news - yesterday's Sun-Herald contained a review of...wait for it...Oblivion. Yep, only a year and a half late. Next week: The Corrections, the novel of the moment.
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Alternatively, read about it at: The Slow Review or the long blog. Or even Nurture Health

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