“I think I’m gettin’ to be a believer in folks’ maybe needing to suffer some.” -“Lyndon” Our stories/idealizations of the past are killing us. How we’ve been led to believe perfect happiness is possible. How we pretend the 50s were perfect. We’ve always been hateful, miserable people. Lyndon’s speech which contains the above quote is a nihilistic/pessimistic wonderland.
For the record, never have I thought the 50s were perfect–more like a perfect nightmare. Do you mean mainstream propaganda? Yes to the eternal hate and the misery … I need to reread this book.
It’s not just the 50s. We look back with a bit of an idyllic glow no matter the time period. Things have always been better than they are right now.
“My Appearance” is so intricate and spot-on in regards to modern irony. Perfect. But I feel I could read it 100 times and still have no idea how sincere we/I are/am. Which, of course, is what makes it perfect. The “But he’d been looking only at the water [reflection]” on-the-nose metaphor doesn’t even ruin it. It is strange for an author as oblique as DFW to do something so spot-on. Must be ironic. Wink wink nudge nudge.
I can’t remember this story. All your gush about DFW is what makes me love him too.
This is the Jeopardy story. VV talks about it later in her review.
I was tempted to skip “John Billy” because of the language/verbage. But there are nuggets like “the outlining of our mutual Minogue [town] sadness and troubles” couched in there which make the read well worth it. Just have to make sure you don’t drift off too far and are awake enough to catch the gold when it appears.
“all energetic with lust mixed up with regret” sums me up decently.
Between the language and use of something like magic, I should hate “John Billy,” but I loved it. Captures the magnificent hopes, the aggrandized folk heroes of a small town.
It must be a dialect he does that you are talking about the language issues? That’s a pleasure or challenge of the DFW short story, the tones can vary so much from one to the next…
To not title the collection “Westward The Course Of Empire Takes Its Way” seems to be a gross oversite. Seriously. Themes run throughout the stories and its the last story of the collection. With that title, I wouldn’t have contemplated getting this book every time I went to the Library for the last year and instead would have grabbed it instantly.
Great alternate title, yes. I can see the point of retitling it. Funny to know you judged a book by it’s cover/title.
The old saying about not judging a book by its cover is hogwash. A title/cover is one of the best ways to judge a book. Put me in a room with 1,000 books, only 1 of which I’ll like and no knowledge (read reviews, familiar author names) and I’ll find the good 1.
I read this in 2003 or 2004 and it was the first DF Wallace for me. It impressed me so much I bought it for my brother.
Gutsy to buy DFW for someone. Could be a pretty big failure. I get nervous recommending things, figuring the person will judge me if s/he doesn’t like the recommendation.
I don’t really remember any of the stories except the one about Jeopardy, which I have gone back to for some reason a few times. Maybe I am obsessed with Alex Trebeck. The satire was so thick–it was funny and bleak at the same time.
I was living alone for the only time (nine months) in my life when I read this book. I had a noisy old apartment in St. Paul on Selby above a barber shop off Snelling. I would go the library after work and load up on the nights I wasn’t seeing anyone. And I would read and drink vodka juice by myself. I was probably drunk when I read most of this book and that’s why I don’t remember it. I had an e-journal that I kept password protected at the time and now I can’t remember the password so I can’t check my notes on the book.
I did a fair amount of drunk-reading in my brief spurt of college. Death In Venice and Edward Abbey come to mind. I underlined almost everything in Abbey because it was so powerful. Oh boy.
So I remember thinking of DFW as a close friend of mine in these intimate moments. He was my drinking buddy, and we would wallow in our deep depression pits together. I am a little scared of the intensity of those dark evenings thinking back and that may be why it took me ten years to pick up another one of his books (Oblivion, more shorts, which I can post once I clean it up).
Someday I will try to read Infinite.
Michael Schur (of creating Parks and Recreation and tweeting about baseball) owns the film rights to IJ, did his thesis on IJ and crammed a bunch of IJ into a recent episode. And directed a Decemberists’ Eschaton video. None of this is super-relevant, but it all makes me greatly happy. And I feel confident in saying Schur would be one of the few people I would have confidence in making an IJ movie.