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On A Supposedly True Thing Jonathan Franzen Said About David Foster Wallace

@hypnosifl I agree. It's a chicken and egg problem. Let's say you have an incredibly gifted and incisive writer who is suffering from crippling depression. He describes himself as a horrible person and his description rings true, even to people who've never met him. How do we know what came first: the self-loathing or the self-analysis? Maybe he hates himself because he correctly understands his own flaws. Or, maybe he has a neurological condition that directly causes baseless but overwhelming feelings of self-loathing that he then rationalizes, using his prodigious ability to imagine plausible characters.

Posted on October 13, 2011 at 11:56 pm 1

On A Supposedly True Thing Jonathan Franzen Said About David Foster Wallace

@Rex Manning Day I wouldn't infer from anyone's fiction what they thought about suicide in general, let alone their attitude towards their own future suicide, nor would I reason back from their suicide to any particular interpretation of their work. That said, I have also have serious doubts about whether Jonathan Franzen's theory about why DFW took his own life is any more reliable than what you can infer from reading his thoughts about the experience of severe, chronic depression.

You don't have to assume that DFW had the same motives as the narrators or the characters in his books in order to conclude that he knew a lot about what it's like to be driven to suicide by chronic depression. Unrelieved depression is not the only reason people commit suicide, and maybe it's not even the most common reason, but it's undisputedly the condition Wallace was in when he killed himself. He was hospitalized for the same illness as a young man.

Franzen's surmise about why DFW committed suicide conflicts with what the people who were with the author during his final illness said about his motives. Obviously, they have their own biases. But I'd trust DFW's mother's theory over Jonathan Franzen's any day. At least she hasn't publicly declared herself to be consumed with anger over what happened.

All journalists take out the "uhms" and "likes" when they write direct quotes. That's acceptable per the AP Style Guide. The fact that a nonfiction writer is willing to add punctuation to quotes tells you nothing about their approach to nonfiction, except that they can write.

Unless Franzen elaborates on how he knows that DFW made up dialogue, his statements are meaningless. The two had a voluminous correspondence spanning many years, so maybe Franzen has the smoking gun where DFW says, "Fuck, man, I made up that whole exchange with the little old lady on the cruise ship. And nobody gave a shit about my stupid tuxedo t-shirt." Or maybe this is just something Franzen inferred from other things DFW said or wrote. Or maybe it's just Franzen's wild-ass self-aggrandizing guess about how DFW worked.

Posted on October 13, 2011 at 11:07 pm 0

On Jon Stewart's March Toward False Consensus

We've reached the point where you can't ridicule Glenn Beck's delusions of grandeur without being accused of being a stooge for the establishment and/or a radically partisan Democrat (depending on how well you dress).

That's sad because it means that everyone is buying into Beck's delusions of persecution, even people who hate him.

Beck is so crazy that a logical satirical response is to hold a self-proclaimed rally for sanity. It's a serious point and an over-the-top ridiculous concept.

Whether you believe that Jon Stewart's mushy but decent centrism has the monopoly on sanity is up to you. I don't take Stewart seriously as a political thinker, but I tend to overlook that because I admire him tremendously as a comedian.

Posted on September 21, 2010 at 10:01 pm 0