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Dirty stories by Jack Stratton

RIP DFW

I sort of have other outlets to talk about the serious non sex and relationship stuff, but since I write here I suppose I should address something that is kind of rocking[1] my world right now.

I have a weird pantheon of writing heroes and lovers. I don’t write in the same vein as I read, if that makes any sense. I grew up on Dickens and Mark Twain, a lot of Sherlock Holmes and classics. In high school I started my lifelong obsessed with Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, while also reading Stein, Hemingway, Faulkner and the like just to hate them with some foundation of proof. I read a lot of beat writers too but disliked the majority of them, Burroughs being the exception. I dabbled in this and that.

In science fiction William Gibson is my god and to this day his writing style effect the way I write and things more than anything else I’ve read with the possible exception of Nin’s journals. Philip K Dick, obviously, as well as Heinlein and the irrepressible Harlan Ellison top the list[2].

After high school I started finding the postmodernists. Pynchon, Coover, Barthelme, Vonnegut. More important to me were people like Italo Calvino, playful and fearless when it came to bending the rules. Then I found DeLillo who seemed like the missing link between the PoMo writers and where the world was now. Then I found David Foster Wallace.

It seems like I’ve spent a lot of time defending a lot of these authors. That got boring by the time I was 22. I actually never find myself having good discussions about these writers because most of my literate friends are into very different literary eras and movements than I am. David Foster Wallace was always an argument waiting to happen. Eggers too, though I never liked his text as much as his taste.

In general I have grown accustom to the rolling eyes that come with being a fan of postmodernism as both a literary movement and as a sweeping philosophical and critical movement. Being asking for definitions. Condescending rebuttals followed my pompous explanations of what I am missing. Sometimes I think postmodernism exists only to give other movements something to call pretentious.

The first book I read of DFW’s was his first book of short storiesThe Girl with Curious Hair and it is still my favorite of his work. The short story is my favorite medium, and these are profound, funny, smart and they just resinated with me on so many levels. Then I bought Infinite Jest. I bought it and it just sat there for a long time. I’m not good at long books, I just don’t have the emotional stamina. I never finished Gravity’s Rainbow[3]. I hated War and Peace. When I finally sat down with the damn thing I was never fully hooked in, I was alway worried about time. Then I sort of realized that it wasn’t like an ordinary novel. Like Pale Fire it was fractured and broken. Everything trailed off into tangents. It was schizophrenic. It was even hypertextual. It was funny and sad and honest and profound and it made me look at things differently the way the real important books of your life do.

His other books all have really different and interesting places in my heart and head. Supposedly Funny Things I’ll Never do Again and Consider the Lobster are basically blog posts evolved to the highest attainable degree.

On September 12, 2008 he hanged himself and that sucks because I well never get to read a new book by him. I say that in loving memory because frankly it is the reaction I hope people have when I die.

I’m sort of heart broken. Dave, these footnotes are for you.

[1] And I don’t mean the good kind of rocking.
[2] Though I found him later, Thomas M. Disch is also on this list and his suicide two months ago also shook me up and left me bitter.
[3] Though I have tried many times.

2 Comments

  1. i felt the same way when i heard/read about his death. ive been rereading brief interviews with hideous men and feeling heart-broken as well.

  2. i felt the same way when i heard/read about his death. ive been rereading brief interviews with hideous men and feeling heart-broken as well.

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