June 21, 2012

Literary Shenanigans

“There is something wrong with you!”
I can’t count the number of times my wife says that to me on any given week. Day? It's usually after one of my eccentric obsessions reveals itself, before burrowing back into the depths of my...Want to use the word soul, but realize that such a word is far too trite, but I am too lazy to think of a better one, so I will leave you to do it dear reader. Please humor me...
I am not here to argue with her. There are indeed more than several things wrong with me, most often at the same time. The older I get, the more I realize that I have borderline OCD tendencies. I'm definitely somewhere on the spectrum. And I am okay with that. This post is but one example. You tell me-- something wrong with me or am I on my way to becoming a cuddly old man?

I take my relationships with media (books, music and film) very personally. When I read an author, listen to a band, or watch films by a director or writer I respect,  I like to swim deep. If I experience something profound and life-changing, I will often consume everything the artist has ever done. I will research their life online, make connections to their influences and hopefully tangle myself in his/her web. Because let's face it, we are little more than nodes in complicated webs of meaning and beauty. I love my media. I am my media.

Recently, I was desperate for a book at the airport, and I found a collection of essays and speeches by Jonathan Franzen, who happens to be one of my favorite writers writing today. I have read everything he has ever published and can't state more clearly how much I love his worldview and mastery of language. Not withstanding the time he stuck his foot so far down his throat with the Wharton debacle, when Franzen speaks, I listen.

In his latest collection Franzen writes on three topics: writing, birds, and David Foster Wallace. I was intrigued my the last one. Of course Infinite Jest has been a satellite in my orbit for years, but I knew (know) very little about it or Wallace. I didn't even know he was a suicide. Like most popular books, I let Infinite Jest spin ad infinitum until something or someone would shed a brighter light on it, forcing me to read it. Franzen was said beacon.

Here is where the weirdness begins-- I couldn't find Infinite Jest in Jakarta. And since I do not want to do any research or learn anything more about Wallace until I read his seminal work, I have been mired in a state of anticipation and excitement, like a racehorse all saddled up, raring to go, but trapped in the gate and forced to chew on the bit and watch the dust. I haven't read any wikipedia articles or watched any youtube clips on Wallace. I have chosen to leave him alone until I read Jest. That is not true. I saw and bought Pale King, his last novel, before leaving Jakarta. I also ordered Infinite Jest, which my in-laws will bring to me in July.

Problem is that after I bought Pale King, I discovered that it was never actually finished, furthermore after speaking with Ari, I found out that it was left in the room in which Wallace committed suicide. Can you see my dilemma?

I cannot start my Wallace experience with Pale King trumping Infinite Jest. There has to be an order right? Seminal work> research> bizarre final novel/suicide note> other works. Mairin thinks I am crazy.

"This is what you stress about?"
"Ari understands." I mumble.
"Of course he does."

To make matters worse, I was at the bookstore today, a massive Kinokuniya in Singapore, and obvisouly they had Jest, Pale King and everything else Wallace has ever written, but now I have to wait till July becuase the book has already been ordered and shipped. These events make me anxious.  I just want to get lost in Infinite Jest and Wallace and go for the ride, but alas I cannot

So what do I do? I've decided to start the work of another author, one that I've been terrified of since college. But first another short story! What? You're busy? Really? What else do you have to do?  Come on, finish this. It's not like you are reading a 15 page New Yorker essay. It is a blog post for goodness sake. Defy what they say about modern day attention spans. Back to my story...

Back in nineteen-ninety-something I was taking a Post-Modern lit class at San Fransisco State. A class in which the professor doused us in difficult, unapproachable texts and dared us to admit we were lost. I was young and often drunk and not really paying much attention. Despite my lack of attention,  I did discover Barth and Nabokov. True, I gave up on Pale Fire, but at least I was introduced to Lolita.

But Pynchon, oh Pynchon. What the hell was that? It was clear that I was not smart enough for Crying of Lot 49 at the tender age of twenty-something. Not while working and partying full time. Pynchon has haunted me for years. I am thirty-eight now. I was so much older then, I am younger than that now.  I decided today that it is time. I cavalierly scanned his shelf and randomly chose Vineland. Just like that, I will dive into Pynchon while waiting for Wallace. Bold move you say? Wildly irresponsible you say? I agree, but I am ready for some literary shenanigans. 

Sidenote: I also grabbed The Fight by Mailer, a book I have been wanting to read for years. I have been making my way through the Mailer catalog as well. Even reading his terrible Jesus book.

Do you think so much about books? Is there something wrong with me?

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