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Three-pronged battle among the forces of irony, cynicism and idealism

Rick Groen in a thoughtful, personal Globe and Mail piece on David Foster Wallace’s honest search for truth (thanks to Judith Fitzgerald)

"Yet Wallace gave that hoary po-mo label both real meaning and sharp teeth. His best work captures the incessant barrage of mind-numbing, soul-fracturing noise that is modernity. But that’s just the first and easiest step. The next is to isolate within that noise the very battle that most of us are waging inside our heads, that three-pronged battle among the forces of irony, cynicism and idealism. Then comes the hardest part: To sign an individual truce, to find a still point, where irony fights to win a victory over cynicism that isn’t Pyrrhic, that doesn’t in the fray also obliterate our hopes and ideals, doesn’t slay the fragile (and so un-chic) angels of our better nature. That’s terribly brave and enormously difficult. Yet essential. And crucial to Wallace’s sensibility."

Then a quote directly from Wallace answering a question on the nature of fiction posed in a Salon interview:

"Well, the first line of attack for that question is that there is this existential loneliness in the real world. I don’t know what you’re thinking or what it’s like inside you, and you don’t know what it’s like inside me. In fiction, I think we can leap over that wall itself in a certain way. … There’s a kind of ah-ha! Somebody at least for a moment feels about something or sees something the way that I do. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s these brief flashes or flames, but I get that sometimes. I feel un-alone – intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. I feel human and un-alone and that I’m in a deep, significant conversation with another consciousness in fiction and in poetry in a way that I don’t with other art."

Mention too of this DFW interview with Charlie Rose from a decade ago, which contains some interesting thoughts on po-mo and David Lynch. Sadly, it ends with Wallace assuring Rose that he ‘isn’t about to jump off a building.’


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One Response to “Three-pronged battle among the forces of irony, cynicism and idealism”

  1. Lee Says:

    Interesting that DFW didn’t mention the aesthetic pleasures of fiction, to my mind at least as important.

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