david foster wallace: on reading


"Reading requires sitting alone by yourself in a quiet room... I have friends -- intelligent friends -- who don't like to read because they get, it's not just bored, there's an almost dread that comes up I think, here, about having to be alone and in having to be quiet and you see that when you walk into most public spaces in America it isn't quiet anymore, they pipe music through... it seems significant that we don't want things to be quiet --ever -- any more..."

I came across this interesting bit from famed author David Foster Wallace after reading one of his (long) essays entitled E Unibus Pluram: Television and American Fiction wherein he meditates on the difficulty (if not the impossibility) that fiction writers have when it comes to competing with television in the attempt to entertain/stimulate/etc. American audiences.

In the video, he discusses the distaste many Americans have for reading "serious" works of literature as opposed to more "commercial" books.

DFW wrote two novels, The Broom and the System (1987) which was was a mild success and Infinite Jest (1996) which has pretty much been elevated to "Great American Novel" status. The second book is a 1,079 page (including footnotes) giant of what can briefly be described as meticulous and grandiose writing.

Sadly, DFW committed suicide in 2008, but a posthumous novel entitled The Pale King is due out some time soon.

Originally Posted 09/12/2010

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