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Awed Shucks: 4 Views

David Foster Wallace endeavoring to explain the box of stars in his head.

David Foster Wallace endeavoring to explain the box of stars in his head.

Take I: In attempting to power through David Foster Wallace’s brilliant and dense Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays, I was stunned into a literary-induced coma by the following sentence:


The positivist assumptions that underlie Methodological Descriptivism have been thoroughly confuted and displaced—in Lit by the rise of post-structuralism, Reader-Response Criticism, and Jaussian Reception Theory, in linguistics by the rise of Pragmatics—and it’s now pretty much universally accepted that (a) meaning is inseparable from some act of interpretation and (b) an act of interpretation is always somewhat biased, i.e., informed by the interpreter’s particular ideology.

By the time I came to, I had been knocked into the next chapter. Wallace’s arguments, which he conveys with the force of a firehose pressurized at 200 psi (enough to keep a Mini Cooper airborne for 6 minutes), are tossed-off with easy éclat – like he’s armed with a ready nose-dropper of concentrated insights and pinches a tiny tincture into each sentence. However stingy he may be with his pinches, they swamped me like a tsunami. When I finally surfaced I realized I didn’t understand much of what he was saying – at least at first. But when I thought about it some more I realized, I didn’t understand any of what he was saying. Read the rest of this entry »