Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Obsession

I have a thing for David Foster Wallace.  To my mind, he is the greatest writer of his generation (although of course I've not read anything close to all the writers of his generation).  His writing is uncanny, hilarious, transformative, illuminating: his review of a usage dictionary more persuasively defends prescriptive grammar than any linguist's work I've seen has been able to support either side (and, unexpectedly, he presents the most morally coherent viewpoint on abortion I've ever encountered--such parenthetical asides are an integral part of his style, and part of what makes him such a delight), his description of the Maine Lobster Festival is ruminative and ethically challenging, and his chronicle of the McCain 2000 campaign distills all the angst and disillusionment I've felt over the cynicism endemic to politics into one brilliant piece.  The measures of great writing are wide and deep, but no one one quite rivals him for creating that effect where, when you finish, you say to yourself "Yes, exactly!  Exactly that!"  But he does more than articulates your thoughts and, in fact, reveals the essence of something that has always lurked in your subconscious as ineffable for its strangeness or inscrutability-and then he leaves you thinking, thinking still--not by any means satiated, but now with a sharper understanding that only piques your curiosity further, and life with all its mystery becomes more profound, and therefore worthwhile--joyful in its complexity and even its sometime ugliness. That last sentence describes, in large measure, why I read, and this is why David Foster Wallace is my favorite.

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