Wednesday, October 20, 2010

David Foster Wallace.

I first heard about David Foster Wallace in 2008 in a university class for grammar. The professor handed us an essay written by Wallace on SWE (Standard Written English). The very next week, our professor told us David Foster Wallace had committed suicide. I still remember how he said it...not to talk badly about my former professor, but he was very matter-of-fact and almost amused by the news of Wallace's death.

The fact that he's more popular after his death is something I'll overlook in this post. This video is important to me based on how he, an author of talent and stature and intelligence, doesn't put a lot of stock in publicity and making appearances.

The reclusive, hidden author who's always out of the public eye, creating his or her latest masterpiece...does this maintain the traditional legend of the subversive, effective author? Fitting into old, respected romantic roles... .

I can understand his discomfort with reading his work aloud - I personally can't decide on what sections of Disassociation to read aloud because every paragraph falls under a greater context and reading one out of context to people who haven't read the book is always a difficult task.

He expresses ennui at going to bookstores and performing readings, saying how an author is relegated to a quasi-celebrity as a result. And I can understand how it would be stiff and impersonal to read passages from a book people have already read, not caring about the content and just wanting to see the creator and how he or she sounds.
But I don't see the discomfort on his level. Maybe it's a less intelligent level. I wouldn't have a problem going to read my already-read work to audiences. I say 'already-read' because whenever I do readings I know the work I read hasn't been read by anyone in the audience before. But I don't see anything wrong with giving audiences...admirers...maybe even fanatics...? a taste of how I look, and how I read. Maybe I wouldn't even read from the work I'd be promoting. I could write entirely new poems and stories and weave the novel/collection I promote into the contents somehow...neglecting my commercial publishers' intents in a middle finger to corporate agendas...
...when you go to a concert and the band plays a different version of the song, are you excited or disappointed? Similarly, if I go to read a passage from the book I'm promoting but put a new spin on it (somehow, without sacrificing the strength of the rest of the book), would that be enjoyable or just confusing and unappealing?

Throughout all of this speculation, I don't have a fame complex, I can live without ever gaining mass fame. I believe fame is a byproduct of creating meaningful works of art, and not the means to the end. It's the same with money...but the argument against this should be a separate post.
To give an audience what they want is completely acceptable to me. After all, I don't believe the strength of my work would suffer as a result. It's a lesson to learn, how writing is really a social act instead of the private suffering act we're pushed to believe in. But there's nothing wrong with subverting the expected... .

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