The Best Mind of His Generation: David Foster Wallace

Understanding the postmodern context.  Is it even possible?  Somewhat, perhaps.  In any case, whether it is possible or impossible, our attempt at understanding must begin with the first step of immersion in the culture of postmodernism.  By this I suggest that you read.  And not read books about postmodernism,  rather books written from a postmodern mindset.
Infinite_jest_cover
Yesterday as I was reading through the New York Times I came across an essay/article entitled “The Best Mind of His Generation”.  Naturally the title alone peaked my interest and I clicked on the title.  David Foster Wallace was described as, “the kind of literary figure whose career was emblematic of his age.”  The article continues, “He may not have been the most famous novelist of his time, but more than anyone else, he exemplified and articulated the defining anxieties and attitudes of his generation.”(emphasis mine) Intrigued by the article I drove to the nearest bookseller and purchased his Infinite Jest a novel of 1079 pages described as having “set his generation’s benchmark for literary ambition…for all its humor, an encyclopedia of phobia, anxiety, compulsion and mania.”  In the foreward to Infinite Jest, writer Dave Eggers writes about Wallace as a writer who wanted “(and argably succeeds at) nailing the consciousness of an age.”  Our current age ie Postmodern Age.  I would be remissed if I didn’t include the following description.  “…Infinte Jest is something other.  That is, it bears little resemblance to anything before it, and comparisons to anything since are desperate and hollow.”(Dave Eggers)

As I began to read Infinite Jest yesterday I was vaguely reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea. Something about the increased feeling of anxiousness as I continued to read.  Be forewarned, Infinite Jest is not for the weak at heart.  It requires patient reading.  At times re-readings.  It is a book where you might find yourself being described.  Scary I know.  I have only just begun reading the book, but the content in the first few chapters has caused me to write pages of reactions and responses in my moleskine journal.  I plan on posting later today or tomorrow about the second chapter “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment”.  But for now pastoral duty calls.

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