Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading. Currently can only be used by a single user (myself), but I plan to extend it to support multiple users eventually.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

255

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace

bookmarker.dellsystem.me/s/the-difficult-gifts-of-dfw
11
terms
7
notes

the whole reason I read this book!! hard to summarize this long (40+ page) essay--see notes. mostly about Brief Interviews, but his other works are mentioned periodically as well. she ends the essay with a random list of her favourite things, including:

Smith, Z. (2009). Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace. In Smith, Z. Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays. The Penguin Press HC, pp. 255-319

(noun) trinity / (adjective) ; three in one; / (adjective) of or relating to the Trinity / (adjective) consisting of three parts, members, or aspects

257

that unusual triune skill set

—p.257 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

that unusual triune skill set

—p.257 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago
257

[..] that unusual triune skill set--encyclopedic knowledge, mathematical prowess, complex dialectical thought [...]

describing DFW :D

—p.257 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

[..] that unusual triune skill set--encyclopedic knowledge, mathematical prowess, complex dialectical thought [...]

describing DFW :D

—p.257 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

(noun) a rhetorical or literary figure in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order, in the same or a modified form; e.g. ‘Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.’.

257

the two sides of that chiasmus would be in constant tension

I vaguely remember trying to memorise this term for IB English but I guess I forgot ... referring to DFW's attempt to pursue "morally passionate, passionately moral fiction"

—p.257 by Zadie Smith
uncertain
1 year, 10 months ago

the two sides of that chiasmus would be in constant tension

I vaguely remember trying to memorise this term for IB English but I guess I forgot ... referring to DFW's attempt to pursue "morally passionate, passionately moral fiction"

—p.257 by Zadie Smith
uncertain
1 year, 10 months ago

(noun) a parenthetical flourish in an aria or other solo piece commonly just before a final or other important cadence / (noun) a technically brilliant sometimes improvised solo passage toward the close of a concerto / (noun) an exceptionally brilliant part of an artistic and especially a literary work

258

in mad cadenzas of simian gibberish that break suddenly into glorious soliloquies, then plunge again into nonsense

quoting from a negative review of Brief Interviews in the NYT

—p.258 by Zadie Smith
confirm
1 year, 10 months ago

in mad cadenzas of simian gibberish that break suddenly into glorious soliloquies, then plunge again into nonsense

quoting from a negative review of Brief Interviews in the NYT

—p.258 by Zadie Smith
confirm
1 year, 10 months ago
262

It strikes me when I reread this beautiful story how poor we are at tracing literary antecedents, how often we assume too much and miss obvious echoes. Lazily we gather writers by nations, decades and fashions; we imagine Wallace the only son of DeLillo and Pynchon. In fact, Wallace had catholic tastes, and it shouldn't surprise us to find, along with Sartre, traces of Larkin, a great favorite of his. Wallace's fear of automatism is acutely Larkinesque ("a style/Our lives bring with them: habit for a while/Suddenly they harden into all we've got"), as is his attention to that singular point in our lives when we realize we are closer to our end than our beginning. When Wallace writes, At some point there has gotten to be more line behind you than in front of you," he lends an indelible image to an existential fear, as Larkin did memorably in "The Old Fools:" "The peak that stays in view wherever we go / For them is rising ground." Then there's the title itself, "Forever Overhead": a perfectly accurate description, when you think about it, of how the poems "High Windows" and "Water" close. That mix of the concrete and the existential, of air and water, of the eternal submerged in the banal. And boredom was the great theme of both. But in the great theme there is a difference. Wallace wanted to interrogate boredom as a deadly postmodern attitude, an attempt to bypass experience on the part of a people who have become habituated to a mediated reality. [...]

on Forever Overhead

reminds me of how much I love High Windows. the title alone is perfect

—p.262 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

It strikes me when I reread this beautiful story how poor we are at tracing literary antecedents, how often we assume too much and miss obvious echoes. Lazily we gather writers by nations, decades and fashions; we imagine Wallace the only son of DeLillo and Pynchon. In fact, Wallace had catholic tastes, and it shouldn't surprise us to find, along with Sartre, traces of Larkin, a great favorite of his. Wallace's fear of automatism is acutely Larkinesque ("a style/Our lives bring with them: habit for a while/Suddenly they harden into all we've got"), as is his attention to that singular point in our lives when we realize we are closer to our end than our beginning. When Wallace writes, At some point there has gotten to be more line behind you than in front of you," he lends an indelible image to an existential fear, as Larkin did memorably in "The Old Fools:" "The peak that stays in view wherever we go / For them is rising ground." Then there's the title itself, "Forever Overhead": a perfectly accurate description, when you think about it, of how the poems "High Windows" and "Water" close. That mix of the concrete and the existential, of air and water, of the eternal submerged in the banal. And boredom was the great theme of both. But in the great theme there is a difference. Wallace wanted to interrogate boredom as a deadly postmodern attitude, an attempt to bypass experience on the part of a people who have become habituated to a mediated reality. [...]

on Forever Overhead

reminds me of how much I love High Windows. the title alone is perfect

—p.262 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

(adjective) facing outward

266

If Wallace insists on awareness, his particular creed is--to use a Wallacerian word--extrorse; awareness must move always in an outward direction, away from the self.

—p.266 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

If Wallace insists on awareness, his particular creed is--to use a Wallacerian word--extrorse; awareness must move always in an outward direction, away from the self.

—p.266 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago
266

[...] Brief Interviews pitched itself as a counterweight to the narcotic qualities of contemporary life, and then went a step further. It questioned the Jamesian notion that fine awareness leads a prior to responsibility. It suggested that too much awareness--particularly self-awareness-has allowed us to be less responsible than ever. It was meant for readers of my generation, born under the star of four interlocking revolutions, undreamed of in James's philosophy: the ubiquity of television, the voraciousness of late capitalism, the triumph of therapeutic discourse, and philosophy's demotion into a branch of linguistics. How to be finely aware when you are trained in passivity? How to detect real value when everything has its price? How to be responsible when you are, by definition, always the child-victim? How to be in the world when the world has collapsed into language?

James = Henry James

—p.266 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

[...] Brief Interviews pitched itself as a counterweight to the narcotic qualities of contemporary life, and then went a step further. It questioned the Jamesian notion that fine awareness leads a prior to responsibility. It suggested that too much awareness--particularly self-awareness-has allowed us to be less responsible than ever. It was meant for readers of my generation, born under the star of four interlocking revolutions, undreamed of in James's philosophy: the ubiquity of television, the voraciousness of late capitalism, the triumph of therapeutic discourse, and philosophy's demotion into a branch of linguistics. How to be finely aware when you are trained in passivity? How to detect real value when everything has its price? How to be responsible when you are, by definition, always the child-victim? How to be in the world when the world has collapsed into language?

James = Henry James

—p.266 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

(noun) the expression and emotional discharge of unconscious material (as a repressed idea or emotion) by verbalization especially in the presence of a therapist

270

The little slip is telling, and the word abreactive, too

defined in a footnote (from the OED); referring to a scene in Brief Interviews

—p.270 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

The little slip is telling, and the word abreactive, too

defined in a footnote (from the OED); referring to a scene in Brief Interviews

—p.270 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago
273

[...] There are times when reading Wallace feels unbearable, and the weight of things stacked against the reader insurmountable: missing context, rhetorical complication, awful people, grotesque or absurd subject matter, language that is--at the same time!--childishly scatological and annoyingly obscure. And if one is used to the consolation of "character," well then Wallace is truly a dead end. His stories simply don't investigate character; they don't intend to. Instead they're turned outward, toward us. It's our character that's being investigated. [...]

this is referenced in note with pk 279

—p.273 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

[...] There are times when reading Wallace feels unbearable, and the weight of things stacked against the reader insurmountable: missing context, rhetorical complication, awful people, grotesque or absurd subject matter, language that is--at the same time!--childishly scatological and annoyingly obscure. And if one is used to the consolation of "character," well then Wallace is truly a dead end. His stories simply don't investigate character; they don't intend to. Instead they're turned outward, toward us. It's our character that's being investigated. [...]

this is referenced in note with pk 279

—p.273 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

the highest point in the development of something; culmination or climax

274

The apotheosis of this technique is "The Depressed Person."

on recursion

—p.274 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

The apotheosis of this technique is "The Depressed Person."

on recursion

—p.274 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

the capacity to embed sentences in other sentences; some linguists (e.g., Chomsky) see this as fundamental to language

275

something DFW (author) likes to do a lot, especally in The Depressed Person (section)

—p.275 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

something DFW (author) likes to do a lot, especally in The Depressed Person (section)

—p.275 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago
289

There is a weird ambient sameness to Wallace's work. He was always asking essentially the same question. How do I recognize that other people are real, as I am? And the strange, quasi-mystical answer was always the same, too. You may have to give up your attachment to the "self." [...]

—p.289 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

There is a weird ambient sameness to Wallace's work. He was always asking essentially the same question. How do I recognize that other people are real, as I am? And the strange, quasi-mystical answer was always the same, too. You may have to give up your attachment to the "self." [...]

—p.289 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago
289

[...] It's about as far from an autobiographical portrait of Wallace as one can imagine, but it's fueled with a disgust that feels somehow personal. Wallace was constitutionally hard on himself, apparently compelled to confess not only to who he was but to who he dreaded being or becoming. [...] he is truly selfhood expressed to its unbearable fullness. We get a meticulous description of his self, the exact spot in which he sits (in a lounge, by a pool, in a garden) as well as exact coordinates in relation to the sun (as if it revolved around him). [...] Wallace annihilates him. God help the man who has chosen to worship himself! Whose self really is no more than the awards he has won, the prestige he has earned, the wealth he has amassed. [...]

—p.289 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

[...] It's about as far from an autobiographical portrait of Wallace as one can imagine, but it's fueled with a disgust that feels somehow personal. Wallace was constitutionally hard on himself, apparently compelled to confess not only to who he was but to who he dreaded being or becoming. [...] he is truly selfhood expressed to its unbearable fullness. We get a meticulous description of his self, the exact spot in which he sits (in a lounge, by a pool, in a garden) as well as exact coordinates in relation to the sun (as if it revolved around him). [...] Wallace annihilates him. God help the man who has chosen to worship himself! Whose self really is no more than the awards he has won, the prestige he has earned, the wealth he has amassed. [...]

—p.289 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago
290

To Wallace, a gift truly was an accident; a chance, a fortuitous circumstance. Born intelligent, born with perfect pitch, with mathematical ability, with a talent for tennis--in what sense are we ever the proprietors of these blessings? What rights accrue to us because of them? How could we ever claim to truly own them?

It's very interesting to me that this attitude toward gifts should have within it a current that is strongly anti-American, being both contra "rights" and contra "ownership." I've always had the sense, philosophically speaking, that Wallace's ethical ideas were profoundly un-American: he had more in common with the philosophical current that runs from Kant's "realm of ends" through Simone Weil's "sacred humans" and on to John Rawls's "veil of ignorance" than the Hobbes/Smith/Locke waters from which the idea of America was drawn. Wallace's work rejects "goal-directed" philosophies of human happiness, both because they isolate the self (the pursuit of happiness is a pursuit we undertake alone) and because this Western obsession with happiness as a goal makes people childishly "pain-averse," allergic to the one quality that is, in Wallace's view, the true constant of human life [...] His stories repel the idea that a just society can come from the contract made between self-interested or egoistic individuals, or that it is one's personhood that guarantees one a bigger slice of the pie. (The fat poet's talents or personal merits can't make him more worthy than anyone else.)

(typo in the original: it reads "Simone Weils" without the apostrophe)

—p.290 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

To Wallace, a gift truly was an accident; a chance, a fortuitous circumstance. Born intelligent, born with perfect pitch, with mathematical ability, with a talent for tennis--in what sense are we ever the proprietors of these blessings? What rights accrue to us because of them? How could we ever claim to truly own them?

It's very interesting to me that this attitude toward gifts should have within it a current that is strongly anti-American, being both contra "rights" and contra "ownership." I've always had the sense, philosophically speaking, that Wallace's ethical ideas were profoundly un-American: he had more in common with the philosophical current that runs from Kant's "realm of ends" through Simone Weil's "sacred humans" and on to John Rawls's "veil of ignorance" than the Hobbes/Smith/Locke waters from which the idea of America was drawn. Wallace's work rejects "goal-directed" philosophies of human happiness, both because they isolate the self (the pursuit of happiness is a pursuit we undertake alone) and because this Western obsession with happiness as a goal makes people childishly "pain-averse," allergic to the one quality that is, in Wallace's view, the true constant of human life [...] His stories repel the idea that a just society can come from the contract made between self-interested or egoistic individuals, or that it is one's personhood that guarantees one a bigger slice of the pie. (The fat poet's talents or personal merits can't make him more worthy than anyone else.)

(typo in the original: it reads "Simone Weils" without the apostrophe)

—p.290 by Zadie Smith 1 year, 10 months ago

(noun) pretentious inflated speech or writing

292

Definitely overeducated, supercilious, and full, initially, of bombastic opinions about the girl

—p.292 by Zadie Smith
uncertain
1 year, 10 months ago

Definitely overeducated, supercilious, and full, initially, of bombastic opinions about the girl

—p.292 by Zadie Smith
uncertain
1 year, 10 months ago

(noun) a custom in some cultures in which when a child is born the father takes to bed as if bearing the child and submits himself to fasting, purification, or taboos

294

In the couvade, a man feels his wife's pregnancy: a porous border.

referring to a scene in Brief Interviews, when the interviewee asks if the interviewer knows the term

—p.294 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

In the couvade, a man feels his wife's pregnancy: a porous border.

referring to a scene in Brief Interviews, when the interviewee asks if the interviewer knows the term

—p.294 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

an existential theory developed by Viktor Frankl, founded on the belief that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose

294

Frankl's therapeutic school, logotherapy, explores the idea that selves in an extreme state of personal degradation or loss are often better able to comprehend what is really meaningful. But this, of course, does not mean you create a second holocaust in order to generate meaning.

—p.294 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

Frankl's therapeutic school, logotherapy, explores the idea that selves in an extreme state of personal degradation or loss are often better able to comprehend what is really meaningful. But this, of course, does not mean you create a second holocaust in order to generate meaning.

—p.294 by Zadie Smith
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

A Russian painter of Belarusian Jewish origin who made a major contribution to the expressionist movement while living in Paris in the early 20th century

296

The intense colors of a Soutine.

—p.296 by Zadie Smith
uncertain
1 year, 10 months ago

The intense colors of a Soutine.

—p.296 by Zadie Smith
uncertain
1 year, 10 months ago