First Impressions and The First Rule
Here it is: I’m scared of this book.
I’ve heard it’s going to clobber me with its heft, it’s going to belittle what pitiful intelligence I thought I had with its towering erudition, it’s going to reduce my pathetic reading ability to the bitter taste of ash and failure by the ferocious power of its subtle complexity I could only pray to ever understand. I’m duly afraid, and I’m glad to read I’m not alone in feeling this way.
DFW is like the ultimate litmus test: have you heard of him? Have you read him? Have you channeled his inimitable writing style to demonstrate the power of post-post-modern American literature? All I knew about the book before I cracked the spine was that it was about tennis and drug addiction, and that Wallace was by all accounts a genius. “How is that going to propel me through ten pounds of pages?” I asked myself, quivering in apprehension. So when I came upon this group of reader/writers that is “part book club, part Fight Club” I was beyond excited. I wanted in! I wanted to take this obese book down to a dirty parking garage and beat it until it begged for mercy! I wanted to make soap out of its flesh, I wanted to leave it out on my dilapidated porch for a week in silence, just to show it who’s boss.
So imagine my surprise, then, when I start reading and it’s not bad. It’s not so opaque as to be incomprehensible, only opaque enough to be, you know, interesting. It’s funny. Sure, I’ve highlighted some parts. Dictionary.com may become my home page. But it’s…wow. It’s good. It’s readable. Is it possible that I might even like it?
I’m not even a tenth of the way finished yet, so I’m still a little scared. But I think now that if I do cry while reading, it won’t be because of my own literary incompetence. It will be because of – who would have guessed? – the power of Wallace’s prose. Even in my limited journey I have learned that all the elitist graduate students were right about one thing: Wallace was a genius, and there is no one else who can write quite like him.
We have to break some rules, though, if we’re all going to get through this without ending up like some Brad Pitt mind-trick: we have to talk about it. We have to talk about the Fight Club.