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Here’s a Question

What do you know about Wallace and his life (and his death) that influences your participation in Infinite Summer? Annie Lowrey over at A Supposedly Fun Blog made me think to ask:

This [reading has been far more poignant than others] in part because I know, I think, a bit too much about DFW for comfort now. I read the D.T. Max and the Rolling Stone pieces on him, and many other outpourings. I wish I hadn’t, at least in the context of reading IJ.

It’s a great post, and the bloggers over there seem to be off to a solid start all around. I don’t especially need more to read about Infinite Summer and its subject, but into my feed reader they go. (Disclaimer: If their blog turns out better than ours, we’re totally going to stagger, my zombie compatriots and I*, arms outstretched, and eat their brains.)

I’ve blogged already about what baggage I bring to the project. What about you? Is Wallace’s death a big factor in your signing on? Are there things you’ve learned about his life (e.g. that he was depressed for a long time, that he was a near-great young tennis player, etc.) that were factors? Given any such factors, can you bring yourself to avoid succumbing to the intentional fallacy? (And should you?)

Just curious.

* I actually have not gotten pledges from any other Infinite Zombies bloggers to do this. Also, this is not a cutesy attempt to use notes the way Wallace does. I find that kind of irritating. But I was inside a parenthesis and a bracket just didn’t feel right.

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  1. June 29, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    He’d been on my radar for a while, so I was sort of kicking myself in the ass when he died, because I felt like I’d missed out on a chance to read a living writer, as most of the things I read are by authors long dead. I don’t know that there really is any epistemological difference, when you look at it closely, but it certainly feels different, if only for the reason that the work itself is still developing, rather than already closed off, complete (or as complete as things get).

    His book had been on my list of things to get around to someday. I think his death and the IS project just gave me the impetus to take part in something collaborative, which isn’t very typical of me either. It sounded like a fun project, and a fitting tribute for Wallace, whose principle concern, as far as I can tell so far, was the difficulty of getting outside your own subjectivity long enough to meaningfully communicate with another person. So maybe he’d approve of this, if he’d lived to see it (of course, I think his death fueled it, in a way–made it more urgent).

  2. June 29, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Great comment. I agree re impetus. I’ve kind of sat quietly by during a number of group reads on the wallace-l mailing list. There are some really crazy smart people on there who bring a lot to the table. But my participation has been largely passive. I’ve basked in the intelligence and eloquence of these other members. Participating in IS — and particularly with something of a commitment (if one without penalty) — to blog the thing, makes me engage more.

    I think that Wallace would actually have been horrified by this project! Or, abstractly, he might approve of it, but as it related to him, he would choose to try to ignore it and would still feel very uncomfortable about the fact that it was going on. He’s said as much about wallace-l, at any rate. But I take your point. 🙂

  3. June 29, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    You’re totally right. It’s probably just as well for DFW that he didn’t live to see this. It would stress him out to know that we were all (mis)interpreting his work. 🙂

  4. Alex
    June 30, 2009 at 12:14 am

    I met him thrice or, more accurately, I heard him read and watched him sweat and squirm and felt his intense ambivalence towards too much attention directed at the man and the headband-donning, spitoon-carting, ludicrously smart yet kinda straightforward Midwestern man. I knew him not one bit as this person and I worshipped his words and swagger, and a second run through this book (I’m way behind) is heartbreaking…

  5. July 1, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Reading DFW was formative for me. I felt like he was my brother although of course I never met him. His death was absolutely staggering for me. Once I stopped googling for more information on his suicide every 30 minutes, I decided I would try to read everything he had written before the first anniversary of his death. I am failing miserably, but I will have read a good chunk of it this year – and Infinite Summer seemed to me like the best possible way re-visit the book. Somehow in the company of thousands of others, all slack-jawed in awe at his humor, intellect, and compassion for his fellow humans.

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