Wish I could’ve been there

I missed the opportunity to see DT Max at Skylight Books in Los Angeles (my daughter had a dance performance), but he made a later stop at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. My brother-in-law, a Googler, was gracious enough to go to Max’s presentation and to get my copy of Every Love Story is a Ghost Story signed.

 

Here is the link to the video of Max’s presentation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPIAiX3zQVQ

Enjoy.

 

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Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, Letter 1

Dear Dave,

After reading Every Love Story is a Ghost Story,[1] I thought I would go back and blog my way through each chapter. But it was the quote from ‘Good Old Neon’ before the start of chapter 1 that caught my attention, begging me to respond. It reads:

“What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant.”

I’ve studied and taught language and literature for quite awhile now, and the more I do so, the more I am convinced that – as this quote alludes to – language simply fails to take us into the deepest depths of the human experience. The inner turmoil, the hurt feelings, the confusion. But also the joy, the elation, the rapture. So much of what we experience – whether physically or mentally or emotionally – goes beyond our ability to articulate those experiences. Our vocabulary can only take us so far; can only scratch the surface at best.

In the introduction to his Holocaust memoir, Nobel Laureate Elie Weisel recounts how language failed him in writing the horrors and atrocities of his story. He explains:

“I also knew that, while I had many things to say, I did not have the words to say them. Painfully aware of my limitations, I watched helplessly as language became an obstacle… All the dictionary had to offer seemed meager, pale, lifeless” (Night, ix).

Don’t get me wrong; I believe that language can be a powerful tool for expression. Like paint on a canvas or notes from an instrument, words can evoke strong feelings and passions.[2] No matter the form – narrative, poetry, whatever – there are incredible examples of what language is capable of. There are poets and novelists who can weave a wonderful tapestry to words that when we hear or read them, we proclaim, “I know exactly what that feels like.” There are those who can give words to thoughts and feelings when words escape us regular folk. They help us better understand “what it means to be a f***ing human being.”

But their words can only take us so far, “barely sketch[ing] the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given moment.” They bring us closer to understanding ourselves, but so much still remains an unknown mystery.


[1] It was a very fast and frantic read. DT Max agreed to do an interview here on Letters to DFW, and I needed to finish the book before we spoke. I’m working on writing up the interview and hope to post it soon.

By the way, we had a wonderful conversation. Max was extremely gracious and a pleasure to talk to. I only wish I had more time to ask him more questions.

[2] It wasn’t until after I started reading Wallace that I truly understood the meaning of the term “language arts.” In the introduction to a reading that he did at the Hammer Museum, he was called, “America’s most radical language artist,” and it just clicked.

Today

I reached the last page of DT Max’s biography of Wallace today, and a number of friends posted favorite pictures or quotes in memory of his passing four years ago today. I’ve posted an elegiac piece each of the last three years, but I feel like I’ve run out of things to say.

So instead I decided to post a picture that I think best captures my feelings on this 12th of September: my daughter’s ninth birthday and the anniversary of the death of a friend I’ve never actually met.

Just Dave

I first heard about DT Max’s biography of Wallace about two years ago. There was an open call on The Howling Fantods for all things Wallace: letters, notes, stories, etc. Max was asking for fans and friends to send anything that might help him in writing what would become “Every Love Story is a Ghost Story.”

This sparked quite a discussion on Wallace-l, one filled with what could best be described as a cross between Chuck Norris jokes and Dos Equis commercials. “Dallas-Forth Worth Airport was named after Our Man,” and “David Foster Wallace knows an English word that rhymes with ‘orange.'”

Fast forward about eighteen months when a release date for “Every Love Story” was announced. I used an Amazon gift card to preorder the book. And the wait began.

Over the past several weeks and months, the internet has been a-buzzin’ with reviews and responses to reviews and discussions of responses to reviews.

Another discussion on Wallace-l arose in the last few weeks. Someone posed the question of “what do you hope for the biography?” Responses varied, but many wanted the “warts-and-all” story that we haven’t heard yet. Not that people wanted juicy, gossipy details; but rather they expressed a desire to see Our Man as just a regular guy. To knock him off his pedestal a bit.

I never chimed in, but it got me thinking. What do I hope for as I read Max’s book? I read Max’s piece in the “New Yorker” and Lipsky’s piece in “Rolling Stone,” so I know most of his story.  And with all the prerelease material that’s been circulating, I doubt there will be many surprises when I read it. But I guess, like others, I want to get to know Dave. The man. Not just the writer or public figure or the persona he created. Just Dave.

And now the release date has arrived. I received an email this afternoon that my book has finally shipped. It should be here on Saturday.

But I got this other email. A rep from Penguin Books asked me to post a promotional video commemorating the long-anticipated release.

My response: I’d be happy to.

So here you are. Penguin Books’ promotional video.

Enjoy.