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Oblivion

08/12/2011

I’m halfway through The Man Born to Be King: The Life of Christ in Twelve Dramatic Episodes by Dorothy L. Sayers, started The Zero by Jess Walter per The Biblioracle’s recommendation, and have The Keep by Pulitzer-winning Jennifer Egan on deck, but I’ve put them all aside in favor of good old DFW.

I did try, J. Walter. I tried for about 10 pages and it DID seem interesting and I do trust you, John Warner (i.e. The Biblioracle himself though the other time he suggested a book for me I didn’t read it because it was “political satire” and I’m wary of that genre for no good reason and yes someday I will read Catch-22),  but it had just been too long since I’d curled up with DFW, specifically, it had been since May. So maybe that’s sad, that I couldn’t go without him for more than 2 months.

Or maybe it’s not sad that when I got past the excruciatingly acronym/corporate jargon dense beginning of “Mr. Squishy” into where the intrigue and heartbreak and vocational lostness and layered betrayals  all coalesced, I felt at home again, wandering in DFW’s oft-wandering prose. Right now I’m in “Good Old Neon,” which I’ve read before, but it remains as heart-rattlingly convicting as the first time–the self-aware fraud who knows he’s a fraud because he does everything he can to control how others view him but can’t stop even though he knows what the problem is.

It’s funny, but since joining tumblr I’ve been following the DFW tag and seen people repost bits from the Kenyon Commencement Speech and other things from stories, interviews, or IJ. There’s not much activity on the tag (unlike other ones I frequent like *cough* “harry potter”) but most are devotees or are struggling to get through IJ or just finishing IJ and wondering what the hell to read next (I recall feeling the same way; I think I read some Neil Gaiman, maybe Neverwhere?). I don’t really have any hipster sort of sadness that “oh noes other people like reading him too” because YES I want more people to read him. But not revere him hagiographically with no discernment, which is a great temptation for me. Such earnest love for DFW has definitely put off many lit-heads, leading to statements like “oh they worship at the shrine of DFW” and to writing infuriating little articles explaining “why people do this ” that I can’t even read because I already know and it needs no explaining.

So, while I’m devouring Oblivion, there’s an uneasiness inside me too: That soon I’ll have read everything he’s written that’s been collected into books, and then I’ll go after all the articles/interviews that I haven’t read/seen/listened to yet, and then eventually it’ll all be done.

Not that it’ll be devastating or something–probably will be a good feeling (“why yes I’m familiar with his entire oevre“), but it will be a weird feeling. I’m trying to read as much as I can of DFW’s previously published work before starting on The Pale King with Luke (who is finishing up our summer read of 2010– Roberto Bolaño’s 2666). So I still have Consider the Lobster and Girl with Curious Hair and if I’m feeling  philosophically/mathematically ambitious, Fate, Time, and Language and Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity.

Sigh, the travails of fandom/borderline obsession. I did put IJ as the number one book on a recent “Books that Changed My Life” list I had to write for a job application. Book lovers know how hard that is, ranking books in terms of life importance, but it wasn’t a hard decision at all. Ah well.

Just for fun, here’s a great BBC interview with Geoff Ward and others about DFW’s work:

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