Friday, September 16, 2011

Everyone Goes To Dave's (Or at least Ed Champion and Maud Newtwon do)

The shadow of David Foster Wallace, the deep thinking writer of the Ed and Maud generation, is dragged out for another post postmortem post in the form of litblogger disagreement.

(Click headline above to be whisked to Ed's piece, where you'll find a link to Maud's original, "Another Thing to Sort of Pin on David Foster Wallace.")

It's Ed's deep thinking about what he considers Maud's not deep enough thinking. Fine, I've always enjoyed a ligblogger dust-up, though in this one I'm not taking any side. I've been on the sidelines of their generation's considerations and disagreements for years, always in the market for the zeitgeist made visible through their heated debates and always hoping for some sort of revelation/epiphany that I can bookmark to my "The Spirit of Lit" folder.

Both of these litbloggers have treated me and my writing (almost a hobby to their more serious vocations) in a kindly way, as relations might treat a semi-clueless uncle who says something at the Thanksgiving dinner table that embarrasses everyone and yet has a kernel of truth. And perhaps here one might best view that type of cluelessness through DFW's lens, as I've always felt that he was a writer who, intentionally or not, drew a line in the sand that my generation (children of the fifties) could not completely cross. Maybe it was the Youth For Wallace, guardians at the gates checking papers, eyes wide with the question "do you get it?" that sort of cooled me on the scene. I don't know. But as most litbloggers are hot for the current thing, now that DFW is "cold" perhaps one can examine the man's work without the attendant border patrols, cheerleaders and distractions.

No one writer is as representative as all of this as Maud's thesis and Ed's disagreement seems to make us believe. He is aggrieved that DFW is painted by Maud as the signifier of all litblog writing and the shallow style that accompanies that pursuit. I like that Maud makes an effort to explain what it is all about, yet wonder if there are more ingredients to the recipe than she lets on. Could the stew be a tad spicier? She mentions irony. I think that the real irony here is that one of the major lit players of the past decade, Dave Eggers, held DFW at arm's length, seemingly not tremendously comfortable with the product of what it turns out was DFW's tortured mind. That Maud gave such a mind credit for such creation, in no less than "The Paper of Record" is a somewhat subversive act that deserves kudos. That Ed took her to task, in a bruising critique, may be a marvelous statement of his own personal view of litblogging and in a larger sense the spirit of lit. Personally, I think Ed doesn't prove any lack in Maud's thesis, but rather the limited influence and perhaps -- in the big picture -- the ultimate short shelf life of the works of David Foster Wallace. Maud, in highlighting litbloggers, at least nails that limited nature.

Of course I'm just the clueless uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner. Still, I would be surprised to see DFW have anything near the continuing influence of a Hemingway (Oh, alright, THE Hemingway.) And I'm afraid that the examination of the often navel-gazing DFW that Ed and Maud engage in is perhaps an exercise in marking time until "the next big thing," which, coincidentally, is one of the things I always read them both to find anyway.

Could you pass me the cranberry sauce, please?