When Self-Aware Is All You Got

I had lunch today with a friend who had seen The End of the Tour — which I have not seen — and he asked me if he should read David Foster Wallace.

Ugh. I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask. My only credential is that I think I’ve tried to read everything he’s ever written, and I’ve never gotten even 50 pages deep in any of it. Except for Consider The Lobster, which I did manage to crack 100 pages, but that was for a book club where I take pride in finishing everything.

So you can imagine that my endorsement of the DFW was pretty weak. I think I said things like painfully self-indulgent and self-absorbed, and that I just got bored of him quickly. I went on like that for a while.

What I did end up telling was the counter-story for my big meh on Wallace: the story of how I’ve hated Annie Proulx for many years based on the insane hype from The Shipping News, how I found her realism tedious and her narrative focus so stilted and narrow that she bored me, and then how being forced to read Close Range and then Postcards (book club again!) later in life I completely reversed my view and have fallen in love with her work. I think I get her now, her spareness and subtlety and patience. Her quietness.

I guess on the DFW front it’s probably fair to say that I’m in some kind waiting mode. I may get the revelation. Lord knows I have a few of these dudes I’ve been circling (ahem, Pynchon..).

But today after reading Deirdre Coyle’s Men Recommend David Foster Wallace to Me I think I’m unlikely to turn the Annie Proulx corner on the old four-eyed raghead any time soon.

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