Category Archives: David Foster Wallace

Definitely not Normal: More Reflections Following Reflections on The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) and then The Road back from Normal (following on from The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal))

Just to offer some perspective on the shift I have experienced in getting on and off planes, and the bit in between (@ #DFW19), here’s the Uptown Circle area of Normal, Illinois:

And here’s the High Street of the town I live in:

Perhaps best to hold on to the following sentiment, though I’m not sure what good that’ll do me:

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And just think, the whole thing started with this post: The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal

There’s no place like home, eh?


Reflections on The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) and then The Road back from Normal (following on from The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal))

A by-product of being able to attend the #DFW19 (David Foster Wallace) Conference at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, was the chance for me to visit the site of The Warehouse, 206 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago, considered by many to be the birthplace of House music, or at least the place where House music began commanding audiences, as opposed to just being shared around privately. Anyone with an interest in finding out more can just follow this link.

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The experience of visiting a building that means a great deal to me (because without a place like The Warehouse my teenage years would not have been so much fun – and I would not have begun to understand the bigotry I had grown up with as a child (nothing wildly overt, but the usual racist, sexist, homophobic stuff prevalent in the UK media, which then filters down via one’s parents)) was, as indicated in previous posts, akin to that of a pilgrimage. I only hope that the message of love and shared connections, so often promoted in the lyrics of House music songs will continue to thrive – and on that point, happenstance that Chicago Pride weekend is the time I get to visit.

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Fortunately for me a group of young teenagers (mostly dressed in rainbow colours and seemingly having much fun with one another) happily and politely answer the questions I have about how far it would take me to walk here and there, and generally advise me not to walk in the direction of the inner city ‘hoods (their term, not mine). The atmosphere in the city was amazing, and 50 years on from Stonewall (though there’s still much work to be done to foster understanding and shared connections (both within and outside of the LGTBQ+ community)) it seems like we can begin to imagine a Promised Land: “Brothers, Sisters, one day we will be free, from fighting, violence, people crying in the streets…” (Joe Smooth). At least that’s the optimistic view I’m taking given the young people I have encountered both at #DFW19 and on the streets of Chicago.

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The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal)

206 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago. The Warehouse. Pilgrimage (is that the right word?).

As someone who never really liked The Hacienda, Manchester, because it always seemed too aggressive (and probably too male???), but who can walk past the old site any time I please, I am beside myself with excitement at the prospect of being able to visit the site of The Warehouse in Chicago on Sunday 30thJune 2019 (driving back to ORD from Normal, with a few hours to spare (post DFW19)). I have already emailed the legal firm that resides at the premises to see if I can get any information about the state of the building, and whether there is actually anything to see when I get there – a commemorative plaque, or something similar?

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For me, it will be akin to the sporadic visits I pay to Sylvia Plath’s grave in Heptonstall – a form of worship, and just something I’m compelled to do without quite knowing why (or even knowing what to do when I get there). In my head, the visit to the site of The Warehouse will involve being able to park directly outside, selecting an appropriate song from my playlist (at this point in time that song will be Joe Smooth’s ‘Promised Land’ (but then again I’ll probably also have to play Frankie Knuckles’ ‘Move Your Body,’ as it would be rude not to (and probably also Jaime Principle’s ‘Your Love’))), and leaning against the car with headphones on for however long it takes for the song(s) to play, then I’ll maybe try to find a place for coffee, so I can sit and reflect on what this club meant to my life growing up as a teenager in a relatively down-trodden (certainly at the time) Northern ex-mining town. Notably, it will be the way that, unknown to me at the time, ‘black and Latino LGTBQ+ communities’ affected my white, working-class existence in ways that are truly immeasurable. Long shot this, because this is not the most widely read blog, but I’d be super keen to meet anyone who actually set foot inside The Warehouse – I’d buy you a coffee and probably a cake, so…

As a side note, it’s funny that some of the most profound feelings can be found in the most innocuous looking places.

 


David Foster Wallace and Repressive Taboos

David Foster Wallace’s use of disenfranchised voices in Infinite Jest (1996) receives little critical attention. Clenette Henderson and yrstruly’s narratives raise issues of taboo subjects: child sexual abuse, drug-addiction, and prostitution. A close reading of their voices aims to break over twenty years of critical silence by exposing such taboos.
“Ooh… that sounds like fun!”
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“Saturn Devouring His Son,” Francisco Goya, c. 1819-1823

Engaging with David Foster Wallace’s Hideous Men

Postgraduate English: A Journal and Forum for Postgraduates in English

Durham University’s Postgraduate English is a professionally reviewed journal for postgraduate students of English. We have been publishing postgraduate research biannually since the year 2000. It is published on Open Journal Systems, so all submissions are indexed and locatable through scholarly and library search engines.

We publish full-length scholarly articles on all areas of English literature and related disciplines, peer-reviewed by our editorial board of established academics, and book reviews.

In addition, we also invite reflections on postgraduate teaching and academic careers. They can be added to the Forum section on a related website, including interviews with academics, in which recently appointed academics discuss how they made the transition from Postgraduate to paid academic, and teaching tips and anecdotes. We are also happy to publish details of conferences or colloquia aimed at postgraduates.

No 32 (2016): Spring

Table of Contents

Articles

‘Man is the Measure’: The Individual and the Tribe in Modernist Representations of the Primitive PDF
Victoria Addis

 

Voli Me Tangere: Touch and Tenderness in the Lady Chatterley Novels PDF
Annabel Banks

 

Bridging Music and Language in Samuel Beckett’s Ghost Trio and Nacht und Träume PDF
Lucy Jeffery

 

Imagined Surfaces: the ‘Undetermined Capacity’ in Henry James PDF
Yui Kajita
Engaging with David Foster Wallace’s Hideous Men PDF
Alexander Matthew

Build-up period to David Foster Wallace archive visit #3

The end of March marks the beginning of another period of research at the Harry Ransom Center, Austin, working on the David Foster Wallace archive. As the research becomes more focused, the archive materials are whittled down to the stuff that’s really important in terms of relevance to my thesis. What this means is that with each visit, the frantic searching that went on during the very first visit becomes calmer, more structured, which is all good and well as far as the PhD goes, but something’s been lost along the way.

James Joyce, allegedly (but that’s not what’s been lost):

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For example, the delight and surprise in finding unexpected bits and pieces seems is likely to occur less. Like pulling out a notebook with FBI evidence tape across its covers, leaving me wondering as to the authenticity of the tape (quite naive like that) and even entering into an email discussion with someone who had requested that the FBI release all data it held on Wallace in the interests of full public disclosure (or something like that). Anyhoo, is something like that ever going to pique my interest again, I wonder?


Infinite Jest @20 & @EmWatson (Book Clubs) #2

From my last: “[…] on the forty-five minute bicycle ride home from the train station, the latter part of which involves riding down a few hundred yards of pitch-black, serial-killer kind of country lane.”

Here is said image:

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After listening to one of the Infinite Jest @20 book club’s participants disclose that she cannot now brush her teeth without thinking of Infinite Jest‘s Don Gately, I am minded of an association of my own. Riding the final leg of the journey home down this particular path, in the dark, consistently evokes a childhood memory. As a group of 6/7 year olds my friends and I were fascinated with/horrified by tales of the Red Brick Wall – a wall made of red brick that had a path running by it and which surrounded private land next to a heavily forested area (all very secluded and quiet back in the day). During a session of who could tell the scariest story, someone came up with one about the Red Brick Wall. The wall had a small wooden door that was always locked. The tale goes that one night a couple drove their car down the path, it was raining and all that, and the car broke down unexpectedly, close by the door in the wall. The driver got out and thought of knocking on the door and maybe getting some help. It all goes quiet for a time and the passenger gets nervous/anxious about what has happened to the driver. Suddenly, the driver’s head lands upon the bonnet of the car, attached by rope, and at the end of the rope is a stick, and holding the stick is a crazed, disfigured mad-person who intends to do a similar thing to the passenger.

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And on the Emma Watson front, still working through the bell hooks book – nothing creepy there.


Esta es Voluntad?

Just a very quick post as I’m finding it hard to tear myself away from the figure of St. Theresa of Avila, whom I’m reading about because of the reference to Bernini’s sculpture, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. And so this post manifests itself in the aftermath of Reggie Yates’ documentary, more on which here, the second in his series titled Extreme UK (#ExtremeUK), which deals with a certain kind of anti-feminist rhetoric (wryly titled “meninism” by some Twitter users, a term I happen to like, funnily enough).

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Should we be surprised at the “disenfranchised,” “disempowered” men speaking such anti-woman (as much as anti-feminist, if we’re being honest) sentiments? After all, it seems to hail from a tradition dating a long way back into our shared human history; in fact, we may pause to consider Paul’s words here: “The women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

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Some doubt Paul’s misogyny, and in some respects that’s really beside the point, for it is in the countless ways in which such words have been used to keep women “in their place” over the centuries that the key issue is to be found – we need only look to St. Theresa herself for a concrete example of this. Anyway, back to the book (Alison Weber’s Theresa of Avila and the Rhetoric of Femininity (which is very good)).

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Top-Knots, DFW, Men’s Fashion

A radio interview with David Foster Wallace’s sister, Amy, hears her tell of DFW wearing his hair in a top-knot and being discouraged to do so by his family, sensitively, so as not to hurt his feelings. Amy’s explanation of why DFW should not be wearing his hair in a top-knot was that it’s kind of the thing that little girls do – I’m paraphrasing here – and that the reason the family had to be so sensitive about breaking this news to him was that he had a problem with feeling that he wasn’t ‘masculine’ enough. But DFW was obviously rocking this look at a time when others weren’t – and fair play to him for that. Doing anything that makes you stand out is kind of tough, and wearing a top-knot sometime in the 80s, I’m guessing from Amy’s recollections, must have been a pretty hard look to pull off for a guy from the Mid-West. Fair enough, you might say, but, what of the current surge in top-knot wearing?tumblr_mwypodYTTl1s968ago1_1280

The current trend for top-knot wearing is interesting, and controversial. It doesn’t always work, but don’t knock a person for trying. Anyhoo, here are a couple of links to do with men wearing top-knots – although the New York The AWL feature has lots of pictures of ones worn at the back of the head – surely not a top-knot by its very definition (a top-knot should be worn above the occipital bone, and preferably above the recession, IM humble O).


Life After Television @aaronsw #citizenfour – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Nine)

I’ve been wanting to read, or at least take a look at George Gilder’s book, Life After Television, for a while now. The reason being its inclusion in ‘E Unibus Pluram,’ DFW’s now infamous essay on television and U.S. fiction. LAT is a strange book, part proclamation on future technologies and part advertisement for Fed-Ex (and part anti-Japan rhetoric, oddly), with lots of pictures of Fed-Ex drivers, amongst other stuff, delivering packages in romanticised locations; my favourite being a shot of a Fed-Ex van crossing a bridge in Bruges at 9:23am, taken with the sort of filter that leaves the picture looking like it’s been steeped in milky coffee to give it a warm glow.

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Anyhoo, my comment here comes from Gilder’s assertion on p.31 that [Sic]:

The force of microelectronics will blow apart all the monopolies, hierarchies, pyramids, and power grids of established industrial society. It will undermine all totalitarian regimes. Police states cannot endure under the advance of the computer because it increases the powers of the people far faster than the powers of surveillance. All hierarchies will tend to become “heterarchies” – systems in which each individual rules his own domain. In contrast to a hierarchy ruled from the top, a heterarchy is a society of equals under the law.

 

To wit, DFW leaves a comment in the margins: “And how will law be enforced, you smug prick?” (that made me giggle a bit).

It does make you wonder if the future democracies that seem to have been promised as a by-product of the advent of technological advancement have floundered somewhat. Do we feel that our powers are greater than that of the surveillance society? Do we see an end to totalitarian regimes? Two recent documentaries speak to these questions, but I’m afraid the answers they provide are not all that optimistic.

The first, The Internet’s Own Boy, tells of Aaron Swartz’s (@aaronsw) story. It is almost too sad a tale to be true, but unfortunately it is true, and a young, gifted individual now lies dead while those people who did little to avoid his death, and did much to accelerate it, go about their lives with hardly a care, it would seem.

The second, Citizen Four (#citizenfour), is almost too dark to be true. Whether what Edward Snowden says about the information he has in his possession is true or not, there is a sense, like the sense you get from watching The Internet’s Own Boy, that the ‘freedom of information’ that the Western world prides itself on is not all that free after all.

And here we have pause to consider DFW’s comment and to think, in light of seemingly endless revelations of wrong-doings by institutions that are meant to represent ‘the people’ (by the people; for the people), just how will the law be enforced as we move further along with technologies that are meant to provide us with unseen levels of personal freedom?


#fivedials – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Six Entry Four)

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Not that I intended writing a fourth entry today, not that I plan things that way as anyone who reads these pages will know – bursts of stuff all at once and then nothing for weeks (and ever so random in ways that today’s entries attest to). This entry snuck up on me when I read the Five Dials piece commemorating the life and work of David Foster Wallace. The opening by Amy Wallace-Havens is astonishingly beautiful. That’s it, really.


Queer and Transgender Representation, and the Queering of Language in the Works of David Foster Wallace: So What [is] the Exact Pernt to that Like [?]

‘Queer and Transgender Representation, and the Queering of Language in the Works of David Foster Wallace: So What [is] the Exact Pernt to that Like [?]’ by Matthew Alexander, as part of a special issue of The Luminary – an open access journal, based at Lancaster University’s Department of English and Creative Writing.

The North West Gender Conference 2014

Constructions of Gender in Research

Gender symbol

Issue 5: Winter 2014

ISSN 2056-9238 (online)

The second annual North West Gender Conference was held at Lancaster University on 22nd April 2014. The conference was attended by 80 postgraduate students from across the UK who came together to discuss gender in a variety of contexts. This special issue of The Luminary contains a selection of conference papers which were submitted for publication. The diversity of the papers highlights and reflects the range of research areas that were represented at the conference.

Read online by following this link or download the NWGC Special issue pdf.


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