more thoughts on DFW: distributed identities

March 18, 2009

I have readers now!

So let me share another feeling I had after reading the New Yorker profile of DFW. It was that I wanted to credit the writer, D.T. Max, but I couldn’t help but think Max was more assembling the pieces in the right order, that Wallace had laid down a pattern that was so coherent that it begged to be told. Obviously it took skill and effort to put the pieces together, but it’s like there was one clear best way the pieces would fit. In other words, you might say Wallace was a powerful “meme.” His identity was so strong, and he was so good at sharing it with us, that it had voodoo powers even when fragmented, Voldemort-like into books and articles and Charlie Rose interviews

I think I had self-consciously started to write like him after reading 2/3 of his book on infinity in mathematics, and then I had forgotten I made that choice. There was something so intense and attractive about his personality, his way of looking at the world, that it felt natural to adopt it myself, to be praised for it as though it were mine. This Jezebel writer also talks about feeling a pull to write like Wallace. I picture his influence as this surge of identity spreading out like the shock wave from a nuclear bomb blast. I wonder how strongly he was aware of that and whether it’s what brought him down in the end.


One Response to “more thoughts on DFW: distributed identities”

  1. That’s really interesting, the observation that everyone felt pulled to write like him. I know I did (after reading ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing…’). I suppose it’s thanks to Wallace that I still sometimes use “w/r/t”.

    One thing that I think Mr. (Ms.?) Max does deserve credit for is not adopting an overly elegiac tone. I ended up feeling sad, and sorry, but also potentially angry at DFW for his behavior, his choices. Do you know what I mean? It wasn’t like ‘oh, you’re dead now, so we’ll pretend you were perfect.’

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