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  • Lance Mannion
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I think what people are angry at you for is not saying you don't like DFW's writing, but for starting the post with such a snide, petty joke. Generally speaking you have to have a lot of talent as a writer to get away with making light of the suicide of a man in his 40s.


Personally, whetstone, I don't think any amount of talent would let any writer get away with making light of the suicide of a man of any age, and I'm sorry that that's what people thought I was doing. I thought I was making the kind of morbid joke about death itself that Wallace himself would have appreciated. Didn't come across that way and I should have known it wouldn't have.

Justin K.

I'm also a Pratchett fan and I too find Godard hard to swallow. I can watch something like the endless traffic jam tracking shot in Weekend and understand that I'm seeing something shockingly original and important but still be put off by the showoffy viciousness that permeates the whole project. Likewise with Don DeLillo's novels. The death-soaked atmosphere of White Noise and never seemed to fit the subject matter to me, DeLillo can't write naturalistic human language for shit, and his jokes are leaden. Minus the gonzo energy and vaudeville of a writer like Pynchon, sweeping pomo assessments of an exhausted world of cultural detritus are just leaden.

I've been thinking about my own experience with DFW's work today. I loved Infinite Jest when I read it in High School. I'd never known a book could be so huge, so nonlinear, so wide in its scope, dopey in its puns, and that endnotes could be so effective. I devoured his other works and even won a writing contest with a story that was a pretty direct adaptation of "Girl With Curious Hair." DFW was my gateway to writers like DeLillo, who left me cold, Pynchon, whom I fervently love to this day, and many others.

I know now that DFW didn't invent the formal experiments that compose IJ, and that writers like Pynchon, Joyce, Nabokov, even Lawrence Sterne did them better. I look back on DFW's stuff now as cutesy, overwrought, sometimes clumsy, and often badly in need of editing, but the energy and vitality and originality of that stuff dropkicked me into a whole new world of great fiction, and I'm grateful to him for that.


No, Lance, you shouldn't have known.

Good grief, but those people (at LGM) are over the top in their indignation.

You wrote a fairly ordinary post about an ordinary everyday event (someone's death) and because he was a writer, added your unvarnished opinion on his books. Your tone was just what your tone always is - thinking out loud. Which is why I love this blog so much.

But with "trigger warnings" for textual news items on liberal blogs, what can one expect? Everyone is forever running around getting their little feelings hurt.

Speaking of getting your feelings hurt, how mean are they over at LGM? And you're still alive to read it all! So I guess your feelings matter a whole lot less than some guy who's dead and can't be offended by anything you say.



Sorry, Lance, feel free to delete that if I'm going too far.



Good points and a nice appreciation of Wallace there.

Apostate, thanks for the thoughts and I'm not going to delete, but you can help me keep this thread on topic by giving your answer to the question at the end of the post. For instance, you and I are both fans of a writer a lot of people---a LOT---react to like pesto, Henry James. Who's your pesto?

Justin K.


Jonathan Franzen is a modern writer who's pesto to me. I can't get past the first page of The Corrections w/o cringing at the portentousness of phrases like "madness of a Midwest prairie winter blowing through," or what ever the phrase is. The nonfiction stuff of his I've read is just so proud and complacent in its navel-gazing that I want to punch the guy.

Justin K.

Wait, I actually like pesto, so Franzen is more like broccoli to me.


Who's your pesto?

I have a whole genre - science fiction/fantasy. (Or is that two genres?)

But I'll give you an author or two as well -

William Faulkner
Ernest Hemingway (not across the board, but yeah)

And although I enjoyed Dostoyevsky's books when I read them as a teen, I think he was kind of a silly man.

Chris The Cop

Lance: quick mental health question:

If you didn't like the guy's writing, if he left you depressed,"sad, lonely, and lost," WHY DID YOU READ ALL (not some) BUT ALL OF HIS BOOKS? Not saying everything we read has to be The Sound of Music, or make us want to go out and produce a Busby Bixby musical, but my God, man, why do that to yourself? All of them?

Authors I like but know I shouldn't: Robert Parker, cause sometimes the writing is so breezy and you turn the pages so fast that you feel like you're cheating; Henry Miller, cause some of it's uh, porn.

Author I don't like but feel I should: P.D. Jasmes-supposed to be a great novelist/mystery writer, but I just can't get through her stuff. Probably because the first thing I read of hers wasn't a mystery but the apocalyptic "Children of Men."


Woody Allen movies. I understand he is (or at least was) an important and talented filmmaker, but I watch one of his films and I just want to shout: Stop all your putrid whining!!

Shakespeare's another one. Again, I understand how freaking talented the guy was, and what an impact he's had over the centuries, but I watch one of his plays and my eyes just glaze over.

Chris The Cop

Also, I'm glad to say that although I don't agree with most of your commenters most of the time, without exception they have a whole lot more class than the ones over at LG&M. Never read anything like those, but I lead a sheltered life, blog-wise.

minstrel hussain boy

lance, i have pretty much the same opinion about wallace's work. hell, i've also made myself slog through some devastatingly overwritten and achingly trite pynchon because many folks i like and respect are all agog for him.

i'd find myself sitting there with a huge ass book in my lap, bored as all hell, going "what's wrong with me that i feel that this is such crapola?"

speilberg movies do about the same thing to me. that's even with having made some decent money off playing in soundtracks. of course, i wasn't working for steven per se, but rather for the great, and wonderful, john williams.

anyway. one of the beauties of the 'net is its immediacy. even with just about the biggest goof you can make there's the ability to italic and say "oops, silly, silly, me."

then. move. right. along.

minstrel hussain boy

lance, i have pretty much the same opinion about wallace's work. hell, i've also made myself slog through some devastatingly overwritten and achingly trite pynchon because many folks i like and respect are all agog for him.

i'd find myself sitting there with a huge ass book in my lap, bored as all hell, going "what's wrong with me that i feel that this is such crapola?"

speilberg movies do about the same thing to me. that's even with having made some decent money off playing in soundtracks. of course, i wasn't working for steven per se, but rather for the great, and wonderful, john williams.

anyway. one of the beauties of the 'net is its immediacy. even with just about the biggest goof you can make there's the ability to italic and say "oops, silly, silly, me."

then. move. right. along.


A little pesto off the top of my head: Doris Lessing, John Updike, William Faulkner and his clone Cormac McCarthy, the Kinks, Tom Hanks (though I'd criticize his choices rather than him), Aaron Sorkin, Charles Dickens, Toni Morrison, Gone With The Wind (film), all the Beats, and National Public Radio (note I'm liberal).

I'd never argue any of these entities suck. Just not my cup of tea. Sorkin and Hanks even entertain me on occasion--it's just their material infuriates me more often (Sorkin manages both simultaneously).


KC45s's mention of the Beats reminded me I couldn't get through On the Road.

And oh - I don't know if one is supposed to like him, but I have a sort of idea one is (he's won several Booker prizes, not that the Booker means anything) - Salman Rushdie. Can't stand his stuff.

I'm sure there's tons more so I might be jumping back in as other people's picks remind me of more.


One Hundred Years of Solitude. Blech. I finished it, but lord.

Sorry, trying not to spam. This is a sore topic with me - I've wasted way too much time reading stuff I thought I needed to read, then re-reading it because I thought I must have missed something the first time around. Gah.


I have never understood the appeal Martin Scorcese has for the critics and other film buffs. In particular, I found his "masterpiece" Raging Bull to be a worthless exercise in style. Why I was supposed to give a shit about Jake LaMotta in the first place, I never understood. I certainly regret spending a couple of hours in his company. (I did like Goodfellas, however - though it may have been the soundtrack as much as the film that won me over.)

KC45s - your inability to appreciate the Kinks saddens me a bit, but then perhaps you are even now shaking your head at my apostasy re Scorcese...

Susie from Philly

I've been trying to read "Infinite Jest" for years now and just can't get into it. (I think I'll save it to read when I'm dying and see if it makes sense then.) I did like "Consider the Lobster", though.

I'm with you, Lance. I'll read anything but much prefer the comic novel.


I think the fact that over the last couple of decades it's become semi-acceptable for serious literary types to admit that they find Joyce totally unreadable is a major step forward for civilized society.


I also never could get into Faulkner or Hemingway. And I tried One Hundred Years of Solitude, but I didn't like it.

On the other side, my love for Neal Stephenson's work (I am one of the few people who have publicly admitted to multiple readings of the Baroque Cycle) strikes quite a few as misplaced.


Faulkner. I know I'm supposed to read him, but after that experience my junior year in high school. . .

An entire chapter in As I Lay Dying reads: "My mother is a fish."

Ok, I understand allegory a lot better than I did when I was 16 (Oh, Mr. Walker, either I didn't get it or you didn't explain it well!), but that one sentence just turned me off on the author for life.


I haven't read Wallace's fiction; it intimidated me.

He was a mesmerizing journalist, though, and two of his pieces for Premiere, one about David Lynch and another about the porn industry, will be in my brain forever. He did his legwork, and then married it to a style I've seen imitated many times, always badly, by writers who have well-known names, too. That sort of allusive, digressive style is extremely hard to do without becoming fey or annoying.

You know I love you even if I think maybe the "post" key was hit before it should have been. You've thought that about some of my pieces too (but were too gentlemanly to say so). Some of the LGM commenters need to reconsider that a blog is about taking ideas and working them out in a public forum. In other words, it is hit or miss, and intent should count for something. (I was thinking about this recently during a kerfuffle at the House Next Door, as well.) The title of the post came across as too flip, but someone who reads you regularly knows that isn't what you're about.

I love basil but pesto is always too much for me. And one pesto author of mine is one of Wallace's big influences: Thomas Pynchon. Henry James, however, used to be pesto to me and now, finally, he's steak. Maybe eventually I'll learn to appreciate Pynchon, too.


Acquired taste, Lance. Although sometimes I fall in love with a writer's work and stay there, or at least have remained faithful so far, with other writers I find at first I can hardly force myself to read fifty pages. But then a year or two later, I might pick up the book and not be able to concentrate on anything else until I've finished it. And then it's on to whatever else that person wrote.

It's definitely a question of taste. How we respond--or not--to fiction is possibly more subjective than anything else. (If everyone loves a book, maybe we should call it Big Mac fiction.) Given that, when critics call DFW's writing an exhibition of cold pyrotechnics, I can only wonder how carefully they read his work. Because the shimmering mirrors he held out delighted and hurt me at once.

Frank C.

Everything by Aaron Sorkin (on the nose, obvious, smug), all post 1985 Woody Allen.

Michael Bartley

As a man who has worked in and loves wild lands and the American West (some of its wildest parts are its cities by the way), I am obsessed with the literary west and some of its finest storytellers such as Stegner, Bass, Harrison, Bowden, Abbey, Kittredge, Welch, Momaday, Proulx, Spragg, and, well, the list just goes on and on. The West, by the way, can be a state of mind and includes, for me, the Himalaya, Africa, and South America but mostly that most intriguing country of all Mexico. And this brings me at long windingly last to my pesto. Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano. Tried to read it in Mexico. Tried to read it here in Colorado. Still sits on my shelf staring at me, mocking me. Oh, Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, well let's just say it wasn't bacon to me. Do I need to express my Homeresque love of bacon? Simpson not, well you know, the other guy.

Dan Leo

"De gustibus non est disputandum," as Father Fahey used to say while whacking our smart asses with the rubber sole of a hiking boot...but, y'know, Lance, the one writer whose books I actually snap right up when they come out, and whose out-of-print works I have been known to trample old ladies in order to snatch up in used-bookstores, is...Richard Stark! (But his alter ego's not too shabby either.)

Hate to speak ill of the dead, but I thought Wallace, what I attempted to read of him, was a pretentious motormouth. Life's just too short to try to work your way through all that cleverness.


I'm saddened at news of Wallace's death. I was impressed by the structure of some of the stories in Brief Interviews, I appreciated his attempts to do something new with the form- at least he tried, experimented. But ultimately, the self-consciousness of the formal attempt is tiring, you never forget what the author is doing, never lose yourself fully in the "world" the author has created. He's always there, showing you his strenuous versatility.

Not my cuppa, but I appreciate what he was trying to do. Salman Rushdie is another one who I think is wildly overrated. I've read James Wood's scathing review of one of his books three times: "Salman Rushdie's Nobu Novel" because I love wicked reviews.
(Nobu is a trendy Manhattan restaurant, a celebrity-magnet place- there's two there.)


That's a stunning apostrophe up top, it's like the 2 profiles/vase drawing. It's right, it's wrong, it's right... I nearly hypnotized myself for a second.

p.s. thanks from the bottom of my heart for turning me on to Pratchett, that clip from "The Truth" captured me entirely. (that sentence could go 2 ways as well)


Hey Lance, stop apologizing to these tender flowers, so easily wounded by words on their puter screens.

I am sick to death of seeing the joy and spice drained from one challenging blog after another by folks who adore nursing and whining about the perceived psychic injuries they suffer while reading online.

Be you. Write as who you are, free and with the absolutely least possible amount of self editing. It's why I read you.

And let the tender flowers of gentlest spring go elsewhere to read the comforting, sentimental, fake bullshit which they seek.


Mine is the Brontë sisters.

I knew that Jane Eyre was a classic, so I ordered it from Scholastic Books in the 6th grade. I took it along on an epic, slightly wacky camping trip my mom took us on, where we all went to look for America in a Pinto.

One night, I was reading that dopey book by the light of the Coleman lantern and said, "Mo-o-m! This book is so boring!'

She gave me the words of wisdom: "You don't have to like it just because it's a classic."

In later years, an art history student friend sold me on the dreaded Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae. All through it, she kept harping on the genius of Wuthering Heights.

I tried—Lord, I tried—to get through that book. Somewhere under my bed among the dust bunnies, is a ragged-out paperback of Emily's magnum opus.

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