The pleasure I derived from reading a book filled with David Foster Wallace interviews I believe I already sufficiently derived from reading Infinite Jest although of course I never deny myself of even more pleasure. Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself is the ultimate in DFW voyeurism. How can it not be when it is DFW speaking, his speech transcribed word for word, feeling for feeling, with a sprinkling of asides by its transcriber, David Lipsky, the Rolling Stone writer who was supposed to publish a nice, thoughtful essay about the hot young writer of the sensational novel of that moment.
I’m reminded of JD Salinger’s vehemence about an author’s work having to stand alone and all that JD Salinger kind of crap about a writer’s work having to speak for itself, because in this book of interviews, reminiscences and impressions, DFW elaborates the essence of Infinite Jest, which if you’ve read as I have, you’d probably want explained too, or you’d want to dissect on your own.
David Foster Wallace’s idea of what entertainment does to the life of a person – the needing, the consuming, the never-ending cycle of wanting to satisfy ourselves of things that are life-affirmingly pleasurable like CDs, movies, candies, whores, boys/girls and TV, is crystalline. He dictates how a person can feel infinitely more conscious of the need to want more and more, never seeming to achieve a perfectly acceptable state of contentment in the consumption of things, conscious of his own humanly hunger, not too affected by Zen ideologies and/or stuff like ‘detachment’. What else is there to achieve after all the praises already so generously lavished upon his probably greatest achievement? So much more, of course, and I’m not suggesting that the suicide is apt, but it’s like he had an inkling that life could not get much better, and who are we to judge. The normal, non-Grammy/Oscar/Pulitzer-winning person can and will still aim seemingly forever for the gold. He touches upon that whole mess quite neatly.
Also, when someone freely talks and discusses death and suicide, it is not always insincere. It’s actually very relevant to the preservation of the life of whoever’s mouth matters of suicide comes out of. It would delight you to know, people who intend to kill yourselves, that there is nothing terribly wrong about killing yourself, even though people tend to think it’s cowardly or shameful. You should be warned, though, that simultaneously planning your Big Day and immersing your reading habits with David Foster Wallaces is, to borrow a DFW-favored term, disingenuous. You could do well by letting your DFW phase pass and then proceed with hatching the best, least showy, most meaningful kill self scheme.
It would’ve been a relief if DFW were a reclusive psycho-like person who in his remaining days was generally perceived as a ticking time bomb, although he kind of was but not in an obvious way, but who turned out he wasn’t. That could have been the short explanation for Infinite Jest. As it happens, he was just inexplicably really sad and overly concerned about the meaning of What It Means To Be Alive so much so that the topic of entertainment and comedy and not incidentally, death, are constantly discussed, each of them having a lot to do with one another.
As a reader of him, the best way I know how to pay respects and be less gross about the relatively recent fanaticism (it’s not like I could have read Infinite Jest when it came out in 1996 when I was in grade school), is that if I one day feel like killing myself already, if no one beats me to it, I’ll just think about all the books I could have missed reading, all the times I would have been less lonely for having been stolen by books because ‘books make you feel less lonely’, etc. It’s the one David Foster Wallace takeaway that, for the sake of just my well-being, is harmless and ought to be true.