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topic/ambition

David Foster Wallace

the pursuit of fame and how not to let that destroy you

[...] 'You burn to have your photograph in a magazine.' 'I'm afraid so.' 'Why again exactly, now?' 'I guess to be felt about as I feel about those players with their pictures in magazines.' 'Why?' 'Why? I guess to give my life some sort of kind of meaning, Lyle.' 'And how would this do this again?' 'Lyle, I don't know. I do not know. It just does. Would. Why else would I burn like this, clip secret pictures, not take risks, not sleep or pee?' 'You feel these men with their photographs in magazines care deeply about having their photographs in magazines. Derive immense meaning.' 'I do. They must. I would. Else why would I burn like this to feel as they feel?' 'The meaning they feel, you mean. From the fame.' 'Lyle, don't they ?' [...] 'LaMont, perhaps they did at first. The first photograph, the first magazine, the gratified surge, the seeing themselves as others see them, the hagiography of image, perhaps. Perhaps the first time: enjoyment. After that, do you trust me, trust me: they do not feel what you burn for. After the first surge, they care only that their photographs seem awkward or unflattering, or untrue, or that their privacy, this thing you burn to escape, what they call their privacy is being violated. Something changes. After the first photograph has been in a magazine, the famous men do not enjoy their photographs in magazines so much as they fear that their photographs will cease to appear in magazines. They are trapped, just as you are.' 'Is this supposed to be good news? This is awful news.' 'LaMont, are you willing to listen to a Remark about what is true?' 'Okey-dokey.' 'The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.' 'Maybe I ought to be getting back.' 'LaMont, the world is very old. You have been snared by something untrue. You are deluded. But this is good news. You have been snared by the delusion that envy has a reciprocal. You assume that there is a flip-side to your painful envy of Michael Chang: namely Michael Chang's enjoyable feeling of being-envied-by-LaMont-Chu. No such animal.' 'Animal?' 'You burn with hunger for food that does not exist.' 'This is good news?' 'It is the truth. To be envied, admired, is not a feeling. Nor is fame a feeling. There are feelings associated with fame, but few of them are any more enjoyable than the feelings associated with envy of fame.' 'The burning doesn't go away?' 'What fire dies when you feed it? It is not fame itself they wish to deny you here. Trust them. There is much fear in fame. Terrible and heavy fear to be pulled and held, carried. Perhaps they want only to keep it off you until you weigh enough to pull it toward yourself.' 'Would I sound ungrateful if I said this doesn't make me feel very much better at all?' 'LaMont, the truth is that the world is incredibly, incredibly, unbelievably old. You suffer with the stunted desire caused by one of its oldest lies. Do not believe the photographs. Fame is not the exit from any cage.' 'So I'm stuck in the cage from either side. Fame or tortured envy of fame. There's no way out.' 'You might consider how escape from a cage must surely require, foremost, awareness of the fact of the cage. And I believe I see a drop on your temple, right... there...' Etc.

—p.388 by David Foster Wallace 2 years, 5 months ago

'But perhaps one does attain this, to win. Imagine you. You become just what you have given your life to be. Not merely very good but the best. The good philosophy of here and Schtitt — I believe this philosophy of Enfield is more Canadian than American, so you may see I have prejudice — is that you must have also — so, leave to one side for a moment the talent and work to become best — that you are doomed if you do not have also within you some ability to transcend the goal, transcend the success of the best, if you get to there.'

[...]

'Then,' Poutrincourt said, 'and for the ones who do become the étoiles, the lucky who become profiled and photographed for readers and in the U.S.A. religion make it, they must have something built into them along the path that will let them transcend it, or they are doomed. We see this in experience. One sees this in all obsessive goal-based cultures of pursuit. Look at the Japonois, the suicide rates of their later years. This task of us at the Enfield is more delicate still, with the étoiles. For, you, if you attain your goal and cannot find some way to transcend the experience of having that goal be your entire existence, your raison de faire, so, then, one of two things we see will happen.'

Thierry Poitrincourt talking to Steeply

—p.680 by David Foster Wallace 2 years, 5 months ago