Friday, February 4, 2011

David Foster Wallace on Pretension

When I happened upon this little snippet, I was actually looking for a quote from David Foster Wallace on Pynchon. In reading Gravity's Rainbow (still 450), I've found some unmistakable similarities between GR and Infinite Jest: The use of a few pretty esoteric words I remember looking up for the first time in Infinite Jest, for one, the ending of chapters in mid section as in Broom of the System, and the two author's serious treatment of the mystical and supernatural.
But it turns out DFW wasn't necessarily thrilled about the prospect of having his work compared to Pynchon's:

"Pynchon was important to me when I was in college. The first book
that I wrote, Broom of the System, some reviewer for the New York
Times said it was a rip-off of The Crying of Lot 49, like that I
hadn't read yet. So I got all pissed, and then I went and read The
Crying of Lot 49, and it was absolutely, incredibly good. 
....Gravity's Rainbow is a great book, but for the most part Pynchon 
kind of annoys me, and I think his approach to a certain amount of stuff is kind of 
shallow, to be honest with you"
-Transcript from David Wiley, The Minnesota Daily, Feb. 27, 1997

"There were a few -- That thing in Infinite
Jest where two representatives (Steeply and Marathe) of two
countries are on a cliff-side and are making enormous shadows and
playing with it -- and there's even the use of the word
Brockengespenst, which comes out of Slothrop and Geli Tripping
(from Gravity's Rainbow) fucking on the Brockengespenst -- that's
an outright allusion. And I think there are a couple -- that's not
supposed to be any kind of inter-textual allusion.  
 -Transcript from David Wiley, The Minnesota Daily, Feb. 27, 1997

The last article I read was an early review of Infinite Jest by one of the editors at The Atlantic from 1996. The writer made the case that what's Pynchonian about Infinte Jest is the 'renegade spirit in a world gone as flat as a circuit board...tailoring that richly comic idiom for its new-millennial uses.' I loved this image and, honestly, it's helping me bring 'texture' to my reading of Gravity's Rainbow. The book can be a little cold for my taste- all esoteric references and dramatic getaways or near-getaways at any rate. I'm trying to see Slothrop as a renegade now and not just a luckless, lab-rat being acted upon. Goodness. Here's hoping.

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