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Book Burning Club / May 23, 2011
By Ramon Glazov

From The eXiled’s Australasia Correspondent

PERTH, AUSTRALIA–You have to give David Foster Wallace some credit – he was better at making his fans bash themselves than any other writer of the Pynchon school. His magnum opus, Infinite Jest, is a 1000-page novel full of intestinally-shaped sentences and fine-print notes on calculus, organic chemistry and VCR programming. Normally, when a book like that comes out, people realise its purpose right away: terrorising B.A. students into meek submission. Wallace, however, found a very shrewd way to counter this by pretending that his work was really “a late-night conversation with really good friends, when the bullshit stops and the masks come off.” So instead of menacing the reader in the old Joycean way, Wallace chums it up whenever the technical stuff appears, acting like he really doesn’t mean to discourage anyone. Swapping lecture theatre dread for tutorial group paternalism – that’s the aesthetic in a nutshell. (And even if he IS being dense on purpose, it’s all for our own good of course.)

So far, it’s worked well. Most David Foster Wallace fans have a self-mortifying attitude that goes something like this: “I don’t feel I’m even close to understanding Infinite Jest, but I don’t want to think that’s deliberate. Wallace always seemed like such a warm, down-to-earth person. No, not arrogant at all. He had long hair. He wore T-shirts, for Christ’s sake! Better to think he was struggling to communicate something, something deeply felt, about the limits of language. How he really wanted to connect with other people but couldn’t. Just think of him in front of the word processor, caged in his own affectedness like John McCain in the Hanoi Hilton. Imagine him for a moment, tortured by the Viet Cong of whitebread smugness! Really imagine! It’s MY fault I haven’t gotten it, not his.”

This is where DFW’s suicide has really paid off – without a corpse, it’s harder to convince your audience that insincerity qualifies you for victim status, no matter how much you “struggle” with it. Nowadays Wallace is seen as a brilliant young(ish) author who was tragically tiger-mothered to death, killed by his own voluminous intelligence. None of his buddies fail to relate how friendly and approachable his writing supposedly is, either. In the New Yorker, Jonathan Franzen is tactful enough to deny that Wallace was a saint, only to mention “how recognised and comforted, how loved, his most devoted readers feel when reading [his fiction].” But Franzen paints an unpleasant picture of Wallace’s private life, even suggesting he killed himself to “betray as hideously as possible those who loved him best.” Yet while “David” was all-too-willing to hurt his wife and con his psychiatrists, Franzen wants us to believe he had nothing but frankness and affection for thousands of readers he’d never met.

Dave Eggers is even more shameless in his introduction to Infinite Jest’s 10th-anniversary edition. Not only does he claim that Wallace is “rigorously unpretentious,” but he compares Jest to “a spaceship with no recognisable components, no rivets or bolts, no entry points, no way to take it apart. It is very shiny and has no discernible flaws,” he writes, also saying that “it bears little resemblance to anything before it, and comparisons to anything since are desperate and hollow.” Blurb-to-English translation:  “IT’S A COOKBOOK! IT’S A COOKBOOK!

As usual, Eggers is lying like a dog. Infinite Jest belongs (or tries to belong) to quite a few literary traditions, some good, others not. The first chapter, where a rich overachieving brat has a weird seizure in front of three university administrators, is a very plain Kafka imitation. One administrator even compares the kid’s speech sounds to “some sort of animal,” a direct quote from The Metamorphosis. Wallace doesn’t get it, though, that tragedy isn’t just about what befalls the protagonist, but whether the protagonist is admirable enough to make it truly tragic. Gregor Samsa is a poor, self-sacrificing mensch who gives everything away to a family that slowly and painfully betrays him. Jest’s protagonist (“Hal”) is a rich, athletic WASP whom we’re supposed to sympathise with because he writes academic papers in his teens, with titles like “Montague Grammar and the Semantics of Physical Modality.” Oh, and he’s also “very shy,” as if that makes a difference at the top of the high school food chain. Maybe Wallace thinks that Samsa’s muteness is just as cruel inflicted on a pompous 17-year-old tweedmeister as a sad, fin de siècle Jewish wage-slave, but I beg to differ.

Yet there’s another, seedier literary tradition that Infinite Jest can lay claim to – the Great Protestant Addiction Novel, a gloomy genre developed by Hubert Selby Jr. Selby’s strategy was pretty similar to what Insane Clown Posse (ICP) did in the 90s – taking an Evangelical message and dressing it up with enough Korn dreadlocks and John Wayne Gacy makeup to slip it past the kids, hoping they wouldn’t notice how strangely pro-family and anti-drug those albums by “Psychopathic Records” were. In other words: pure stealth Christianity.

And nothing in modern US literature comes closer to ICP than Selby’s Requiem for a Dream, a sadistic 280-page Chick tract disguised as an avant-garde heroin novel. In his ‘99 preface, Selby attacks what he calls “the Great American Dream,” the evil, illusory pursuit of pleasure and possessions that “ultimately… destroys everything and everyone involved with it.” This is the novel’s Puritan core – all ‘worldly’ pleasures are false and drugs always lead to the worst fate imaginable. Requiem has an Evangelical stink right from the schmaltzy dedication page: “This book is dedicated, with love, to Bobby, who has found the only pound of pure – Faith in a Loving God.”

Selby also plucks an epigraph from the book of Psalms (“Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it…”) just to drive home the (Calvinist) point that human beings can’t do anything for themselves without a Higher Power. He illustrates this by shifting the narrative between four characters: a junkie named Harry, his token black friend Tyrone, his Jewish mother Sara, and his model girlfriend Marion. I guess this is meant to show that addiction is a universal condition, affecting all the Unsaved: young and old, male and female, Jew and gentile, black and white. (Except it’s not true – few things are more relevant to the consequences of drug use than money and skin colour; sometimes they’re more relevant than the drug itself.)

While Harry and Friends are feeding their smack addictions, the mother starts amphetamines to drop a few kilos, convinced she’ll soon appear on a game show. Within three months, she loses her mind, undergoes ECT (an extremely unlikely treatment for speed psychosis, even in the 70s) and spends the end of the book as a drooling vegetable. Meanwhile, Harry’s girlfriend Marion suffers a fate worse than death. (Having to work for a living, basically.) As for Harry himself, he loses an arm. Darren Aronofsky, who directed the film version, calls this “a very traditional heroin story.” No, Darren, it’s a fucking depressing heroin story! What kind of sick fuck would write a novel about a one-armed junkie? An Evangelical, that’s who.

Hubert Selby, Jr.

Still, a few passages in Requiem are slightly amusing, like this block of dialogue between Harry and Tyrone as they’re about to visit their dealer:

Sheeit. Why you wanna go there man? Why do I wanta go there? Because they give blue chip stamps with the dope. You know something Harry? You is simple minded. You shouldn’t fuck aroun when you talkin about somethin serious like dope man. Aspecially when you be talkin about mah dope. Yours I’m not carin about. Just mine. And whats so great about the dope here? O man, what you mean? Theys just as many connections right here as there. We could even try somebody new. New? Yeah baby. We could jus ease on down the street and see who have the most fingers up their nose and noddin out an we know where the good dope be, ah mean the outta sight jim. An anyways, we save the cab fare. Cab fare? Who died and left you rich? This moneys goin for dope man. It aint goin for no cab. Ya gotta take care a necessities before ya fuck with luxuries.

Sheeit. You aspect me to ride them mutha fuckin subways with all them poiverts and winos? Damn. You outta your mine. They rip you off before you gets anywheres. Hey man, don’t go pullin that lazy ass ol black joe shit on me.

“Gee, this heroin stuff’s no laughing matter. We shouldn’t be standing around here filibustering like a couple of GOP Senators auditioning for Godot. This is serious business, all these chills and bone aches we’re getting right now. Fuck, it’s serious. (You’d think we’d’ve already worked out a routine, considering we’ve done this often enough to get hooked.) And we should stop using the word ‘dope’ out in plain sight like this – better to say ‘it,’ as in ‘did you get it?’ But Tyro-o-one, what if I don’t know what you’re referring to? I mean, ‘it’ could be almost anything! That’s the whole point! But Tyro-o-one, how much are we gonna set aside for the cab? CAB?! Harry, you must remember that we are heroin addicts; cold, expedient creatures with Spartan discipline, not given to squandering potential smack money on frivolities such as cabs… Gosh, sorry Tyrone, I forgot.”

After having the most pointless conversation two sick junkies have ever had on their way to score, they walk (yes, walk!) to the café where they plan to meet their dealer. Leisurely smackhead that he is, Harry even pauses to observe that the neighborhood is mostly black. At the café, “a cop, blacker than his donut and bigger than a goddamn Mack truck” sits next to him. Harry fantasizes about killing the cop with his own gun until Tyrone returns from the deal. And guess what you get after they inject the “dynamite shit”? Another three pages of streaming dialogue about what very excellent heroin it is.

To Aronofsky, though, this pap was “so violently honest and arresting” that he couldn’t finish it in one go and absolutely had to film it. And he got off so much on filming anti-drug propaganda that he went on to make four Montana Meth Project scare ads, or mini-Requiems, as I like to call them. The Montana Meth Project is run by an IT security billionaire called Thomas Siebel, who donated half a million dollars to George W. Bush’s 2000 election campaign. He then clamored for software contracts from Homeland Security, apparently before the DHS was even formally established. Nice patrons Aronofsky’s got.

What Siebel’s case shows is that very little of today’s anti-drug propaganda is as primitive as Reefer Madness. Films from the 30s about marijuana-induced killing sprees are so tame by now that hipsters watch them for laughs, though few of those hipsters realise that Requiem for a Dream is just as absurd. (With “hard” drugs, there’s no such thing as too lurid.) In short, the propaganda empire never ended; it just went art house.

The same thing’s happened in literature. All those drug-horror paperbacks from the 50s – like Narco Nympho by “John Dexter” – have been replaced by a much fancier crop of titles. See, some people are still provincial enough to think avant garde means “resembling a book written by Joyce in the 1910s,” instead of “at the forefront of art and fiction.” Under this reasoning, anyone who uses pastiche and stream-of-consciousness is “experimental” by default, even if they’re emulating books that are nearly a hundred years old.

And there’s often a second, bigger pitfall right around the corner – that “experimental” fiction goes hand in hand with progressive politics while right-wingers are a bunch of toffs who humph at anything written or painted after 1900. True, you still have a few Roger Kimball and Hilton Kramer types who hate rock music, swear words, “postmodernism,” and embalmed-shark sculptures, but not all reactionaries are that scrupulous. Christian fundamentalists – the biggest troglodytes of all – will happily mutilate any music style, from rap to goth to heavy metal, if they’re convinced it’ll “win” young souls. And Aronofsky’s certainly happy to make film-schoolish propaganda for his Republican, corporate Medicis. He’s not the only fancy director Siebel’s poached, either – Tony Kaye, Wally Pfister and Alexandro Gonzalez Iñárritu have also filmed his meth ads. Anyone still think right-wingers are squeamish about aesthetics? Shit, half of the original, 20th-Century modernists ended up on the Axis side.

The current generation of “avant garde” drug-horror writers started popping up in the 80s and 90s. The prototypical example is Bret Easton Ellis, lamenting how hard it is for rich people to communicate because of their sheer self-absorbtion. Like most young 90s Puritans, Ellis is just rehashing a very old Christian theme – Augustine’s idea that fallen man is incurvatus in se or “turned in on oneself” – with secular postmodernish jargon. And while Augustine should probably be credited for inventing the basic structure of half the titles in your local bookshop’s biography section, there’s a crucial difference between his Confessions and books like Less than Zero. To Augustine, character flaws aren’t just a cause for moping and generational angst, but sins that could affect whether or not he goes to Hell, which, unlike Ellis, he strongly believes in. It’s not pear tree theft or whether his motives are impure that Augustine’s worried about, but the fact that those things put him in danger of burning forever in a lake of fire.

The Augustinian structure flops immediately without eternal torment as a conceit. Sure these jaded Los Angeles kids are a “lost” generation, but why’s it so bad that they’re “lost”? They have plenty of sex, drugs, threads, cars and cash. Lacking a Christian Hell, the writer needs an equally powerful lie to prop up the narrative – either they pretend that insincerity is an emotional hell no amount of money can make up for, OR, they pretend that members of the Hollywood brat pack have the same life expectancy as Ethiopians, dropping like flies from an endless parade of overdoses and Lamborghini accidents, rarely hitting 30. The second option usually requires the writer to massively exaggerate the dangers of drugs, since they’re the easiest way to kill off rich characters without using your imagination too much. Naturally, this has lead to lots of books portraying your Ellis-Frey type as the sole survivor emerging from the wreckage. In the end, this is worse than if these brat pack authors were openly Christian – Augustine’s Catholic Hell would be just as scary if sex and drugs had no material consequences at all. It’s the terror of the hereafter that counts, not the pain of the present. Ellis can’t grasp this. He begins American Psycho with the words “ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE,” but can’t find anything fearful enough to keep that promise. All his supposedly damned narrator can do is assure us that “there are no drugs, no food, no liquor that can appease the forcefulness of this greedy pain.” Pain which Ellis pulls out of nowhere.

The McSweeneyite clique that nurtured David Foster Wallace is slightly less mass-market than Frey and Ellis, but still a hive of bland, wholesome crypto-cons. Dave Eggers, the nucleus of the group, is pretty much the Bono of literature – a sneering, leathery vampire utterly dependent on the plasma of African children to survive. He began his career by dragging his kid-brother (now long-forgotten) around for sympathy. Then, once little Toph was too pubescent to make a good prop, Eggers dumped him for an ex-soulja-boy from Sudan. Who rarely gets mentioned, though, is his older brother William, an equally ghoulish-looking neocon who was once Director of Government Reform at the Koch brothers’ free-market Reason Foundation. He is also a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an ultra-right Republican think-tank whose other members have included Charles Murray, author of an infamous book (The Bell Curve) arguing that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites.

Kinda puts a damper on Eggers’ goody-goody pretensions, doesn’t it?

But Eggers isn’t the worst member of the McSweeney’s group. That honour goes to William T. Vollmann, one of the most god-awful prose writers in the English language. In fact, if there’s one nice thing I can say about David Foster Wallace, it’s that he never wrote a book as hideous as The Atlas, a collection of stories from Vollmann’s international trips. Here’s a sample of that book’s rottenness, a piece called “Lunch,” about New Yorkers in a restaurant:

Faces at lunch, oh, yes, smirking, lordly, bored or weary – here and there a flash of passion, of dreams or loving seriousness; these signs I saw, notwithstanding the sweep of a fork like a Stuka dive-bomber, stabbing down into the cringing salads, carrying them up to the death of unseen teeth between dancing wrinkled cheeks; a breadstick rose in hand, approached the purple lips in a man’s dull gray face; an oval darkness opened and shut and the breadstick was half gone! A lady in a red blazer, her face alert, patient and professionally kind like a psychoanalyst’s, stuck her fork lovingly into a tomato, smiling across the table at another woman’s face; everything she did was gentle, and it was but habit for her to hurt the tomato as little as possible; nonetheless she did not see it. Nodding and shaking her head, she ate and ate, gazing sweetly into the other woman’s face. Finally, I saw one woman in sunglasses who studied her arugula as she bit it. It disappeared by jagged inches, while across the table, in her husband’s lap, the baby watched in dark-eyed astonishment. Her husband crammed an immense collage of sandwich components into his hairy cheeks. He snatched up pommes-frites and they vanished in toto. When the dessert cart came, the starched white shoulders of businessmen continued to flex and shine; their faces glazed at one another over emptiness, much happier now that they had eaten, unthinking of what they had wrought.

This is one of the purest examples of first-year workshop prose you’ll ever read – even Martin “sharking” Amis would edge away from a phrase like “cringing salads.” In fact, I can’t imagine how anyone could produce this except as a class exercise (“WEEK 5: Write a short story, 250 words or less, showing use of defamiliarisation. Be creative!”) and, even then, it’s the kind of thing that gets written in a rush the night before.

William T. Vollman: “Buy my shitty novels or I’ll shoot this artfag!”

If you read carefully, you’ll notice another thing. Vollmann doesn’t mention anyone eating meat, not in the entire restaurant. All the horror at “what they had wrought” is directed at vegetarianism. If this seems odd for a wannabe war-nerd like Vollmann, try to imagine how the story would read if you replaced the salads with “cringing” bacon strips. That’s right – it’d be an anti-meat diatribe! This wouldn’t work in Vollmann’s favour, because there are few things more uncool to his hipster audience than believing strongly in something. Even the vegetarians in those circles usually claim to be doing it for “economic reasons,” since shouting “meat is murder!” is almost as uncool as being a pro-lifer. In all those indie ensemble films that hipsters love it’s usually characters with strong beliefs that get played for laughs, whether it’s the Nietzschean teenager in Little Miss Sunshine, or the existentialists in I Heart Huckabees (with the smug hero rejecting both pessimism and optimism for a bland middle option), or countless set-ups where you have a hipster Everyman playing the “straight” role against a rabid Marxist or feminist. It’s also thanks to hipster irony that no one can use the word imperialist seriously anymore. (Some people even consider it too loaded for essays on the Roman Empire.) Under this situation, Vollmann’s piece makes perfect strategic sense. A story depicting vegetarianism as a Nazi war crime may well be the most retarded thing ever submitted for workshop, but at least it isn’t “didactic.” And that’s what hipsters care about above all else.

The Atlas has plenty of moments like this. Despite visiting all seven continents many times over with Bob Guccione Jr’s money, Vollmann still seems short of material and has to slap together a few desperate workshop pieces. The absolute pits is a story about an airport departure lounge in Mauritius. Describing a crowd of passengers boarding their flight, Vollmann writes: “The loudspeaker called them, and they were gone forever like a convoy to Auschwitz.” It seems Hannah Arendt’s banality-of-evil thesis is license enough to compare anything even slightly boring to Nazism. Still, it scores defamiliarisation points from readers who judge books solely on how many rhetorical devices they can cram per page. And (goes the hipster reasoning) he’s not comparing anyone to a Nazi in, like, like, a preachy, judgmental way or anything. (God forbid!) He’s just doing it to be, y’know, deeeep.

But Vollmann’s most famous for writing about whores. Drug-addicted ones. This isn’t easy to do if you associate with a wholesome group of writers like the McSweeneyites, unless you categorically deny you’ve ever hired a prostitute for fun. I recall reading one of those Paris Review “Art of Fiction” thingies where Vollmann even claimed that he’d pretend to jerk off while interviewing his whores so they didn’t get suspicious. He admitted to fucking them once or twice, of course, but that was all a research necessity. And I confess – nothing makes me shudder more than his Travis-Bickle-like insistence that he’s not just another john, how he’s a sensitive guy who understands these women better than any of their other clients and really prefers getting them to pose for watercolours. Just to show his McSweeneyite audience how sensitive he is, Vollmann describes all his encounters with whores in the most flowery, studiously un-masculine prose you can imagine. It’s a wonder Oprah hasn’t picked him for her Book Club yet, since he has exactly the sort of cheaply paradoxical character her fans crave: “Oh, that sad, sad man. It really touches me that a person so ugly on the outside can be so beautiful on the inside. I never thought I’d be this moved by a book about prostitutes in the Tenderloin but my friend Darcy said: ‘You have to read this! It’ll blow you away!’ So I did and, lemme tell you, it’s not sleazy at all. I don’t think there’s even anywhere in the novel where this guy gets it up if you gals know what I mean, and hallelujah to that! It’s not that kind of story. It’s really about finding beauty and meaning in the most unlikely places and how even the toughest lady on the street has an inner 10-year-old that just wants to be comforted. And I’m still saving the biggest miracle: it was written by a man so hideous he doesn’t even shave his warts!”

Yet, as you’d expect from someone who thinks a Veggie Tales re-enactment of Shoah is the stuff of great fiction, Vollmann isn’t really that sharp around the ladies of the evening. In a story that comes immediately after his legume Holocaust, “Brandi’s Jacket,” he describes how a crack-addicted whore he knows greets him in the Tenderloin, tries to pick his pocket while hugging him, mooches $20 out of him (promising to buy him some rock) and runs off, leaving a jacket as dummy collateral. After he realises she’s gypped him, Vollmann empties the pockets:

There was no crack pipe of course, but I found three lighters, a tube of Vaseline, lots of dirty tissues, a hamburger wrapper wet and yellow with oil, a broken cigarette, some matches, and finally, like some sweet secret, a little Tootsie Roll. Something about the Tootsie Roll touched me, I don’t know why. It was like her, the dearness of her hidden inside all the greed and the lies, the goodness of her that the badness drew on and exhibited and used for its own selfish work.

I left the coat in the hallway where she could get it if she ever came back. I wanted to keep the Tootsie Roll but that would have been like robbing her of her soul.

No, you creep! That “little Tootsie Roll” is not a sign of girlish innocence. The woman’s a homeless addict, making her unlikely to keep a proper diet. This leads to low blood sugar, which is why most street junkies eat large amounts of candy. Female ones, male ones, black ones, white ones – even the rare, mean ones who’ll try to mug you. Personality doesn’t come into it. Vollmann, though, takes an ordinary junkie snack and expands it into a fantasy so cutesy that it borders on lolicon. It’s the kind of thing that appeals to his paradox-hungry fanbase who want contradictory, “well-rounded” characters. (And if a whore doesn’t want to show Vollmann any other sides to her life, well, he’ll just have to invent them.) This is also why conviction doesn’t go down well with Generation Y – strong beliefs are taken as a sign of “flat” personality, since people always seem more complex and thoughtful when they’re weighing their options, stroking their chin and avoiding all commitment. Why else do you think Obama’s such a dreamboat?

And yet despite selling himself as a near-asexual White Knight who only hires hookers for deep literary reasons, Vollmann’s just as prone to cheap sadism as Selby. This is how he opens his novel, Whores for Gloria:

We all know the story of the whore who, finding her China white to be less and less reliable a friend no matter how much of it she injected into her arm, recalled in desperation the phrase ‘shooting the shit,’ and so she filled the needle with her own watery excrement and pumped it in, producing magnificent abscesses.

In other words: “Heh, heh, heh! Those junkies’ll do anything!”

Not only is Vollmann happy to insult his subjects’ intelligence just to titillate a few sheltered readers but he tries to excuse his stupid little 2-girls-1-cup fantasy by pretending it’s a well-known urban legend. (So well-known, he has to recount it in full.) If Whores for Gloria began with a story about a lush who drank his own urine, after “recall[ing] in desperation” that alcohol is sometimes called “piss,” Vollmann’s fawning reviewers would laugh him out of the house. But no one thinks about it when it’s a frightening, unknown, “hard” drug.

A section of The Atlas (“The Best Way to Shoot H”) is more-or-less the same. For some icky reason, Vollmann likes to have his whores give themselves vaginal injections. And do it to each other, with a bit of lesbianism tossed in. He likes to describe the abscesses that result, too. Oh, and he persistently refers to one woman as “the whore who’d been raped with a vacuum cleaner.” (I dunno, maybe she doesn’t have a first name.) Far from being “experimental” fiction, this is just the same old formula as all those Narco Nympho paperbacks from the 50s and 60s. You’ll notice on the covers of those books that female junkies are always shown posing in their lingerie, next to tag-lines like: “Pitilessly exposes the depravity of the true addict, who takes lovers without number, performs every heinous vice, in order to embrace her one true love… the Needle!”

The reason the syringe always ends up as a phallus is because only a small portion of the population will tend to drool over descriptions of opiate use, whereas everyone likes sex. And nobody hams up injection scenes like Vollmann:

The old lady was hitting her with the needle and the black woman’s face was turned away and the old lady slyly knuckled her vulva but the black woman said: I been in the pen but I ain’t never been no lesbian. I don’t have no use for girls, ‘cause they don’t have three legs! Course, I don’t need boys either, when I got dope. (I dunno about that vein there, baby. Maybe you can’t stick that vein.) Dope’s my sex. Dope comes first, food comes second, and boys come last. Sorry, honey, but your finger just ain’t on my list. An’ them boys, they should be thankful they’re on the list at all. ‘Cause if they don’t like it I can just go to the store and buy me a rubber husband. Plug it in and turn it on an’ I don’t need any other kind.

The old lady wasn’t listening. She slid her middle finger inside the black woman’s vagina. Then she eased the plunger down and the black woman’s eyeballs rolled up in gladness.

It irks me anyone could mistake this piece of double-entendre sex comedy – this Carry On Smackhead – for legitimate drug lit. But I’ve always suspected that Vollmann is more of a horny cokehead than a junkie. (Trying opium in Myanmar, he was surprised that it didn’t numb his throat like crack. Dead giveaway, that.) That might explain why he makes everything as hammy as possible – even opiates, the subtlest drugs on earth, whose users can stay poker-faced no matter how much they’re enjoying themselves.

So why do those nice, enlightened McSweeneyites tolerate a guy who devotes half of his fiction to sadistic abscess porn that treats junkies like zoo animals, and the other half to corny China Doll fantasies with all the women as defenceless little flowers? Quite simply, because he fits their definition of a ‘good person.’ He won’t admit to hiring hookers for fun or visiting warzones for the adrenaline rush. Those are the two things you’re not allowed to do in those stuffy circles. Oh sure, Dave Eggers once held a book reading with “exotic dancers” performing in the background, but strippers are mild stuff, the sexual equivalent of marijuana, the kind of thing even politicians happily own up to since it makes them look slightly naughty without really offending anyone. (Kevin Rudd, Australia’s ex-PM, had great success with this in 2007.) You can’t do the same thing with whores unless you can invent a pious excuse for why you’re seeing them. It doesn’t have to be plausible. It just has to be utterly humourless, without the tiniest hint of joy, as if getting full service is about as desirable to you as going through chemo. If you can keep a straight face – congratulations! You are now a certified Nice Person. (Your misogyny license should arrive in the mail within 2-4 weeks.)

David Foster Wallace is a subtler bigot than Vollmann, and a better writer, but, like Selby, he’s still a Calvinist – I think that’s what you call someone who believes human beings are doomed to be wankers no matter what. It’s a lazy ideology that fits the Eggers circle like a glove: “Well, it’s not like I could ever be completely sincere about my parents’ deaths, without at least some profit motive, so I may as well stop trying altogether and hope you’ll love me out of reverse psychology.” But while it works for Augustine to question his motives endlessly, getting all miserable over the fact that even his best deeds have microscopic traces of selfishness, there’s no good reason to worry about this unless you believe in a literal Hell. In fact, it’s downright annoying behaviour for anyone born after the Middle Ages. I guess I can forgive religious people for it, since they’re doing it out of sheer terror, but I can’t forgive mopers who expect sympathy for expecting sympathy for expecting sympathy and expect me to care. And unlike Augustine (who at least had some belief in free will) writers like Eggers and Wallace don’t even try to break out of the pattern because they find it cleverer to flaunt their (painless, terrorless) yuppie version of Mediaeval Scholasticism. (Or worse – because they think “analysis-paralysis” is the only intelligence there is.)

And it’s the rehab clinic chapters of Infinite Jest where Wallace’s prejudices really come out. This is the opening to one of them:

If, by virtue of charity or the circumstance of desperation, you ever chance to spend a little time around a Substance-recovery halfway facility like Enfield MA’s state-funded Ennet House, you will acquire many exotic new facts.

(A list of “exotic new facts” follows for about six pages.)

The most interesting word here is “you” – this is the chapter where Wallace reveals his ideal reader. And what kind of reader is that? Apparently, someone who finds it “exotic” that “females are capable of being just as vulgar about sexual and eliminatory functions as males.” Or “that cockroaches can, up to a certain point, be lived with.” Or “that not all U.S. males are circumcised.” Or that “black and Hispanic people can be as big or bigger racists than white people.” So, Wallace pretty much admits that his book is written for pampered yupps who’ve never lived in a house with cockroaches or heard a woman swear before.

How about his other “exotic new facts”? Some of them are downright wrong. (“That female chicanos are not called chicanas,” for instance – they damn well are! But Wallace claims in another chapter that Armenians are “Slavic” and have “cabbage”-scented farts, so non-WASP anthropology isn’t his strong point.) It gets worse – his list of factoids contains some of the oldest, lamest Christian platitudes you’ll ever find. That “it takes great personal courage to let yourself appear weak.” (In that case, every passive-aggressive mooch on earth would be a hero.) The rotten lie that “having sex with someone you do not care for feels lonelier than not having sex in the first place, afterward.” That “it is statistically easier for low-IQ people to kick an addiction than it is for high-IQ people.” And that’s the ideology that appears again and again in Infinite Jest – drugs and intelligence lead to death and destruction, while ignorance and weakness are the narrow path to salvation. I don’t have the faintest idea why Jest fans mistake crusty Evangelical values like these for some cutting-edge piece of quantum mechanics, but they do.

And then there’s the “exotic new fact,” that “some drug-addicted prostitutes have a harder time giving up prostitution than they have giving up drugs, with their explanation involving the two habits’ very different directions in currency flow.” This is like saying that “some” cocaine-addicted lawyers have a harder time giving up legal practice than coke, their explanation being that blow’s a drug and chasing ambulances is their fucking livelihood! But, to Wallace, prostitution’s a “habit.” Like Selby, he’ll lump nearly anything into one big category of Addiction with a capital-A, whether it’s opioids, masturbation, TV or chocolate. And despite giving a famous lecture telling people to question everyday life (that one about fish not knowing what water is) Wallace never ponders basic things like why whoring’s even illegal. Or whether addiction would be that bad if people could buy opiates cheaply in measured amounts (like they could in De Quincey’s time when opium cost less than beer). Towards the end of the book, Wallace writes that an “addict [is] at root a craven and pathetic creature: a thing that basically hides.” A book written in the 50s could’ve easily swapped “addict” with “homosexual,” or “quarter-Negro.” Before 1945, even “Jew” might’ve worked. But going straight to the politics is too much of a bummer for most McSweeneyites – too didactic, too pesado.

Wallace’s fanbase also seems to think he was a genius polymath. I’ll admit it takes a lot of cunning to make other people feel stupid and still seem approachable, and DFW pulled every trick he could. For starters, he claimed that Infinite Jest didn’t “work the way novels normally work” and was “really designed more like a piece of music than a book,” with lots of “leitmotifs and things that curve back” and “all this stuff about movement within limits and whether you can puncture the limits or not.” So how’s that different from the way “novels normally work”? Fiction doesn’t have rhythm or recurring motifs? Of course it does, but you won’t intimidate many people if you tell them to read your novel like a book. Better to play the obsessive Wagnerian genius, make everyone secretly insecure for touching your work without having a PhD in music history.

If you read Wallace’s conversations with David Lipsky, though, you’ll find out just what sort of torturous crap he really enjoyed – Alanis Morrissette, R.E.M. and Huey Lewis. He admits it right there on page 210 of Lipsky’s book – “I have the musical tastes of a thirteen-year old girl” – and goes on to say:

… But then I’ll happen to hear Alanis Morissette. On the radio. And you know just for some reason – that squeaky orgasmic quality in her voice will just hit me. And so I’ll go like listen to nothing but Alanis Morissette for two months.

And Wallace tells us that the Huey Lewis song, “I Want a New Drug” was “more or less an anthem for me in the 80s.” This confirms what we’ve always known: secretly, hipsters do like all the dreck they pretend to enjoy ironically. The “irony” provides an excuse to enjoy it in a social setting. Nothing more. And there’s no sparing anyone who thinks Patrick Foster Bateman’s personal “anthem” is a good song. It’s just one of those odes to getting pussywhipped into sobriety that Wodehouse was mocking over 50 years ago. Porn for Women’s Christian Temperance Union members who wished they had a chance to tame their own raging drunkard.

Now let’s shoot through those other signs of Wallace’s “genius.” First, for all you pedants, these are the drug-chemical-&-medicine-related howlers I could find in Infinite Jest. (I’d like to imagine Wallace writing them out on a blackboard, for all eternity, in the Circle of Footnoters):

(1) By definition, benzodiazepines are not “lightweight tranqs,” but drugs with a benzene and a diazepine ring fused together. 60s psychiatrists did call them “minor tranquilisers” (along with some other drugs) because they were less debilitating than antipsychotics. However, unlike antipsychotics, they turned out to be addictive, so the “major” and “minor” stuff went out of fashion. Since no one given a choice uses antipsychotics for fun, “lightweight tranqs” is a meaningless phrase on the street.

(2) Buspar isn’t a benzodiazepine – See above.

(3) 25mg of Ativan is not “enough to anxiolytize a good-sized Clydesdale.” Downers usually have the reverse effect on horses.

(4) Antipsychotics don’t cause death by respiratory depression, so you would not have prep-school kids who “never [last] more than a few seasons for the obvious reason that serious tranqs can make even breathing seem too much trouble to go to.” Nor can I imagine anyone abusing Stelazine.

(5) There are no such things as “Quaalude-isotopes” because Quaaludes are molecular and isotopes are atomic – same reason there’s no Mayor of the United States. This is high school chemistry.

(6) Although Infinite Jest takes place at some point between 2008 and 2011 – Wallace isn’t consistent with dates – his characters use an odd amount of drugs that fell out of fashion in the 70s: Preludin (a discontinued amphetamine-like drug popular with the Beatles), “reds” (used by Hunter S. Thompson, now rare), Talwin (an opioid, rarely prescribed after the 70s), Quaaludes (anyone seen them lately, outside South Africa?), Miltown/Meprospan (an obsolete “minor” tranquilizer from the 60s), and, of course codeine syrup in “little Eighty-Proof bottles” (eulogised by Reo Symes in Dog of the South). This means that Wallace probably used a 60s or 70s reference book as a crib for his footnotes.

(7) Another giveaway is that he refers to “quadracyclic” antidepressants, not tetracyclic, the correct word. TeCAs had only just come out in the 70s, and older books mightn’t mention them. DFW claims these “quadracyclics” are “new and side-effect-laden.” Since the real TeCAs wouldn’t be “new” in 2008-11, I’m guessing Wallace’s “quadracyclics” are completely fictional and that he used an old, second-hand pill reference. You’ll also notice that most of the post-70s drugs he does include are antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft. But there’s no mention anywhere of Nardil – the antidepressant he owed his life to. Even though he freely tells Lipsky that he made suicide attempts in the 80s, he denies taking serotonin-boosting drugs for depression. Oh, the shrinks gave him tricyclics “early on,” but only for “terrible insomnia.” Seems he found it easier to admit he was institutionalised than admit he got the tiniest bit of help from Nardil.

(8) Further proof Wallace didn’t know shit about drug culture after the 70s. In his TV essay, “E Unibus [sic] Pluram” [sic] he writes: “My real dependency here is not on a single show or a few networks any more than the hophead’s is on the Turkish florist or the Marseilles refiner.” By the 90s, the French Connection was history, Turkey no longer grew much illicit opium and only beatnik-wannabe posers used words like “hophead.”

(9) I don’t know how common it is for addicts to get “wicked papular acne” during withdrawal, but this would not be because “the skin is actually the body’s biggest excretory organ”; nearly everything recreational goes out through the bladder, and this isn’t still happening “months afterward.”

(10) Doctors know perfectly well why alcoholics’ hearts are enlarged. It’s called cardiomyopathy.

(11) DFW can’t claim that “nalaxone [sic] hydrochloride” is “the Exocet missile of narcotic antagonists,” since naloxone was the only antagonist in use when he was writing his book. Doxycycline, meanwhile, is “the Cruise missile of gram-negative antibiotics.” This is your perfect Tom-Clancy attitude towards drugs. Lots of cool words from Jane’s All The World’s Quaaludes, no interest in the hands-on. And last but not least,

(12) Wallace, the Genius of Mankind, can’t tell the difference between millilitres and milligrams. Put out ten years after the original, the 2006 edition of Jest is still packed with references to “2ml./20ml.-saline pre-filled syringes” and other products with “ml/ml” instead of “mg/ml.” Martha fucking Stewart wouldn’t make a mistake like that.

So if you feel intimidated by all that technical prose in Infinite Jest, then rest assured: half the time, Wallace himself doesn’t know what it means, and those famous footnotes were most likely copied from some obsolete 60s/70s Merck Manual. The information might’ve been translated into 90s slacker diction – “lightweight tranqs” instead of “minor tranquilisers” – but it’s still bookish, armchair stuff. And some phrases (“Quaalude-isotopes”) aren’t there to do anything but make Wallace’s readers feel stupid.


That’s what most of his style adds up to, taking easy concepts and pretending they’re harder to explain than they really are. Like the scene I mentioned before, with the tennis brat, where a university administrator wears his tie in a “Kekulean knot.” In this context, all “Kekulean” means is hexagonal. (Yes, it also allows Wallace to namedrop the discoverer of the six-sided benzene ring. But what does that prove?) Or a withdrawal chapter where a cross-dressing junkie imagines “ants formicating up and down his arms’ skinny length.” Care to guess what “formicating” actually means? Anting. The guy’s being harassed by anting ants – “a gleaming red martial column of those militaristic red Southern-U.S. ants that build hideous tall boiling hills.” Now that’s how you pad a sentence, calling the ants “red” twice, and making it clear the insecting insects aren’t just “militaristic,” but “martial” to boot.

Still, Wallace had the nerve to complain about “puff words” in a popular YouTube video. Seems he has issues with a few small-timers who write utilise instead of use and prior to instead of before – they’re using “more syllables” and “it’s just puffed-up.” He then tells us that: “given the Latin roots, it should really be ‘posterior to’… so if you’re saying ‘prior to’ and ‘subsequent to,’ you are, in fact, in a very high-level way, messing up grammatically.” This is wrong. (Prior means the same thing in Latin as it does in English.) Course, you can forgive a writer for not knowing a dead language, but you can’t forgive them for bluffing about “Latin roots” and “high-level” grammatical errors. You can tell from the video that Wallace’s real gripe isn’t with “puff words,” or empty syllables, or even grammar mistakes. What he hates are plebeian writing errors – the innocent kind you’d hear from Joe Six-packs who haven’t studied creative writing or gotten properly sterilized by Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. But he has no problem with “formicating,” or “Kekulean,” or “Hobbesian” (used simply to mean “savage”), or “martial” in the same sentence as “militaristic.” They may be puff words, but at least they’re not lowly, Middle American puff words.

Just to prove how easy it is to make the most banal, hillbilly logic sound all educated-like, I’m going to give the David Foster Wallace treatment to the mind-blowing philosophy of Dog the Bounty Hunter. You know how he always pretends the druggie whose trailer he’s besieging is the most dangerous man in Honolulu? And how it always turns out to be a mild, courteous Samoan-attorney type? And how, once the guy’s in handcuffs, Dog forces him to listen to the moral of the episode? Well let’s see how Dog’s Final Thoughts translate into Jest-speak.

Dog Quote # 1: “You take that poison and think it’s not gonna happen to you. Well, what goes up must come down, and one day it’ll all come crashing down and next thing you know, you have a habit and yer in jail.”

Dog Quote #1 Wallacised: “Almost for sure, the delusion of Uniqueness blinding nearly all user-criminals comes from their failure to guess that the surfacing of addiction is not the sensation of walking, linear-wise, into a habit, but actually finding oneself inside of a habit, a sensation directly correspondent to waking up in the county lock-up, buddy old pal.”

Dog Quote #2: “Whatever you tell yourself, that crap yer smokin’s gonna catch up to you eventually unless you change yer ways now.”

Dog Quote #2 Wallacised: “While aforesaid tweak may propose that he can indefinitely withhold his methyl-alpha-methyl-phenethylamine-use-consequences under a Zeno’s Paradox schema, with the consequence (C) taking the form of a moving particle, sizeless, subatomic, and aforesaid tweak (T) positioned as the unattainable endpoint, the creep of C towards T can, in fact, be plotted on a Cartesian plane such that C, whether progressing geometrically or exponentially, will intersect T at a definite point of Deep Shit.” [See, you’ve gotta tack a bit of slang onto the end of the sentence to prove you’re the reader’s friend–R.G.] “However, as C is also a dependent variable relative to the extent of T’s use (U), it is possible to stall C indefinitely in real-time by ensuring that U ≤ 0, and doing it ASAP.”

Dog Quote #3: (*Talking through megaphone while his Neanderthal wife bangs on the front door.*) “ALRIGHT, IT’S UP TO YOU. WE CAN MAKE THIS AS HARD OR AS EASY AS YOU WANT, BUT YER NOT GONNA HOLD OUT FOREVER.”

Dog Quote #3 Wallacised: “The realisation dawned on the poor trailer trash, incrementally, with each violent thump, that Dog was not, in fact, a bounty hunter, but rather the bounty hunter, a being, which to their methed-out, methed-in, methed-over consciousness was a Platonic ideal given nightmarish, impossible form. The Heat Death of the Universe. The Old Cold Hound. Gödel, Escher, Dog.[By the way, here’s one to try at home: listen to Tom Lehrer singing “New Math,” then read the tax code chapters from The Pale King or the calculus sections in Infinite Jest. Who does it better? Who uses convoluted textbook language more effectively? My money’s on the dweeby vaudevillian–R.G.]

This could be giving Wallace too much credit, since his beliefs weren’t really much less punitive than all those horrid A&E network shows. At one reading in 2006, he gave a strange, Mafioso-sounding warning to anyone who disagreed with the AA programme: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that people who shit on those traditions do not come to happy ends.” But was it really the 12 Step Programme that kept Wallace alive? You might notice that 1989, the year he joined AA and stopped trying to kill himself, was also when he took up antidepressants. And guess what happened when he quit in 2008? That’s right. Wallace came to an unhappy end by shitting on Nardil, not by crossing the recovery Mafia. To them, he was loyal. In all 1076 pages of Infinite Jest, there are exactly two paragraphs depicting a methadone dispensary. Unfortunately, methadone isn’t useless or paradoxical enough to get Wallace’s respect (just as he won’t admit his own arse got saved by something as un-literary as a mere psych drug). He even has one of his heroes, a former Demerol addict called Gately, play a vicious prank by hanging a sign on the clinic door reading: “CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE BY ORDER COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS.” That’s how much he hates ‘doners.

In fact, there’s something very alcoholic about his junkie characters. They get off on frat-boy sadism like the “Closed”-sign incident. They find Anonymous groups more natural than substitution therapy. And the transvestite harrassed by those anting ants spends two weeks (!) withdrawing, drinking codeine syrup (with the same alcohol content as vodka!) and getting Lost-Weekend-style animal hallucinations. In a ludicrously short time, he develops full-blown alcoholism with DTs. You wonder if this is because Wallace can only describe booze addiction, and needs some excuse to put it in the story.

Whatever the case, he’s not good at suggesting time dilation. An Australian writer, Luke Davies, shows how to do this competently in his novel Candy (not a perfect book, but hugely better than Jest). Here, the protagonists try to go cold turkey and last three days before giving up. And Davies stretches it out, about as much as anyone can without making it unreadable. Just when you think his characters have gotten through Friday, you realise it’s only been Friday morning and they still have afternoon and evening to go. Now look at Infinite Jest’s cold turkey chapter. It has lots of fancy metaphors about time passing “with sharp edges” and entering the tranny “via several openings.” But Wallace fucks everything up with just four words: “By the second week…” This makes his version of detox-time seem pathetically mild – Candy’s heroes would commit mass murder to reach Week Two in only six paragraphs!

Jest also fails to inject much horror into its main plot device, an evil videotape so entertaining that it turns people catatonic. The reason it doesn’t work (besides being a shameless rip-off of Monty Python’s “Funniest Joke in the World” sketch) is because Wallace gives a description of the movie – a hideous woman dressed a mother figure, standing over a camera and “explaining in very simple childlike language… that Death is always female, and that the female is always maternal… that the woman who kills you is always your next life’s mother.”

Where can I begin? First, when you’ve got an impossible, Lovecraft-type McGuffin that turns onlookers insane, it’s a bad idea to describe it in detail unless you want your readers to go: “That’s it?!” Second, if you absolutely have to give the McGuffin away, then at least make it interesting. But what does Wallace have against mother figures? Not just the woman in the videotape, but the domineering mother of his tragic tennis brat as well. If you read the notes he scribbled inside his self help book collection, you’ll find he’s pretty bitter at “becoming what narcissistically-deprived Mom wants you to be – a performer.” And it’s “worse if the parent is smart.”

That’s all Infinite Jest boils down to. An anti-intellectual (yet amazingly pretentious) Calvinist cautionary tale that makes the same death threats about thinking that Requiem for a Dream made about drugs – “Brains: Just Say No!” Plus a few voyeuristic scenes of depraved poor people in a rehab centre. Bum fights, in other words. Cleverish ones. Hobo torture porn for postgraduate smirkers.

Still, if the great Ned Flanders Lookalike Association of hipsterdom has one talent, it’s finding an excuse to adore practically anything. Poking fun at these vermin is like trying to kill bedbugs with pine-scented air freshener. They’ll always find a way to survive, at least until the rest of us take to the streets, form brigades and make it unsafe to be post-ironically ironic after dark. And even then, they’ll just join another, rottener subculture. Eventually, some Wallace groupie will find a way to spin everything in this article into a plus. I can already imagine the blurb: “Brilliant! Like a bum fight refereed by Einstein and Descartes!”

But that doesn’t make it any less of a bum fight.

Ramon Glazov lives and writes in Perth, Western Australia. Email him at “ramonglazov at gmail dot com”

More articles by Ramon Glazov: “Inside Wikileaks: Revenge of the Second Banana” and “How Christopher Hitchens Robbed Hunter S. Thompson’s Grave“.


Add your own

  • 1. Alexander Dubcheck  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Brilliant and painful at the same time.
    I have a friend somewhat subjugated by
    Infinite Jest:
    should pass these words to him.
    Plus, it’s always great when crypto-cons or
    crypto-Calvinist like Eggers or Vollmann are unmasked and exposed for what they really are.
    Now I realize what always made me unconsciously distant from them

  • 2. doctor_gramma  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 8:08 am

    I think you mean “clamoured,” not clambered for gov’t contracts.

  • 3. Leig  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 8:16 am


  • 4. the other Jon  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 8:50 am

    The most important thing for Wallace, Franzen, Vollmann et al. is coming across as smart and deep. For all their purported concern with spiritual torment and authentic redemption, the writing itself is shockingly shallow. Clearly what matters most is the appearance of depth–even if there is nothing underneath–because that’s just a postmodern commentary on the emptiness of existence, or the inherent limitations of symbolic communication, or whatever facile observation passes for profundity these days.

    Whenever I hear people compliment this kind of fraudulent writing, I’m always at a loss–because while I may be cynical and nihilistic, I still refuse to believe that people are really so easily fooled. With critics, it’s understandable: they’re afraid that if they call out someone like Wallace, they’ll be accused of “not getting it”–which, for a critic, is truly the worst fate imaginable–and end up like Glazov/Dolan, correct but doomed to obscurity (which isn’t much consolation). But for readers, I always wonder–what’s the point? Is it really worth all that effort to carve out a niche away from the “mainstream” (the rejection of which, in the present cultural climate, is not rebellious in the least)? I just don’t get it.

    Remember when a generation’s literary heroes were legitimately literary and intellectual–Baldwin, Vidal, Dr. Thompson spring to mind–when an author’s intellectual credentials (not necessarily in the academic sense) were actually evident from his work and not from the opinions of academic hermits, smarmy critics and hipsters? The current critical perspective dictates that any work of genuine substance–as opposed to the pretension of substance–is scorned as “unrealistic,” while charlatans like Wallace, Frey, Eggers and whomever else this generation anoints as literary idols (I stopped paying attention a long time ago) are applauded for their insight. At least this irony isn’t lost on Glazov/Dolan. Too bad it’s lost on everyone else, though.

  • 5. 16 Shells from a 30.06  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Good stuff. Say… Remember that “Meta-Metamorphosis” thing y’all had from the old Fuckin’ A, that was funny/great. I’m still giggling, and it’s been years.

  • 6. the other Jon  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 9:01 am

    By the way, I don’t know if this was your intent, Glazov, but that picture of Wallace wearing what appears to be an Axl Rose Halloween costume is delightfully fitting to the condemnation at hand. Like Rose, Wallace was all style, no substance. But unlike Rose, Wallace never got to fuck Stephanie Seymour. When Axl Rose has achieved more depth into the profound mysteries of the universe than you, well, that’s just depressing.

  • 7. Derek  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I’ve never read a word of David Foster Wallace, but I read every single word of this critique because there’s nothing I enjoy more than tearing down hipster idols.

  • 8. Dr. X  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Glory to Comrade Glazov!

    Ecrasez L’infame!

  • 9. mojo  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I tried to read Vollmann and walked away pissed off. Amazing access and experience wasted on such a hack.

  • 10. Dammerung  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Dear, sweet eXiled: why can’t your economic sensibilities be as well-founded as your strategic or æsthetic ones?

  • 11. ged  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 11:11 am


  • 12. lyle  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 11:47 am

    cool article, thanks for using the word lolicon.

  • 13. Mudhead  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Dolan’s new job is apparently in Perth. Which would explain his long absence during the Osama dustup. Good luck and nice essay, JD.

  • 14. gary  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    actually all of wallaces work was written by dolan…he can be brilliantly bad

  • 15. maha  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Brutal. Did you miss the point of the title “E Unibus Pluram”, though, or are you just saying it’s not grammatical?
    sup lyle

  • 16. Amir-ul-Moemineen (Mullah Omar)  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    B.R. Myers said it more succinctly and to better effect. To get our juices going, me and homeboy Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden bin Fishwrap used to read passages from the Kandahar Yellow Pages. The Big-O was into female circumcision and had memorized the phone numbers of every townie with a Buck knife longer than an inch. Being more devout, I stuck to jihadi shit and taco cribs with drive-up windows. Now that the whole world has gone to shit, all we have is the likes of

    B.R. Myers, a Crusader dick, currently operates out of Dongseo U., just north of the whore boats in Pusan harbor.

    Excerpts –

  • 17. Duarte Guerreiro  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Ahah, oh man, I want Gary’s opinion on this line: “these signs I saw, notwithstanding the sweep of a fork like a Stuka dive-bomber”.

    I had huge raging fights with my fellow students in Fine Arts over the kind of language obfuscation that hacks like this guy use. They have positively zero to say, but boy do they say it long and hard. You can read a book about quarks or evolution and feel that you learned something, that some kind of information traveled from the pages and into your brain. Not so with the kind of post modernist drivel we were forced to read to placate our hack professors. I once spent an entire day trying to decode 20 pages about “Voyage On The North Sea and the post medium”. I read Lolita when I was 13 and yet understood NOTHING about this piece of shit text.

    HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? Y U NO LEARN TO WRITE?! I mean, if a fucking paralytic wheelchair bound dude that can only type 20 letters a minute can explain the universe to you, why can’t I get a whiff of what contemporary art is supposed to be? It dawned too fucking late for me that, basically, everyone is faking it. The professors and critics live in abject terror of being exposed as too dumb to understand it and the students live in abject terror of looking stupid before the professors. It’s a giant terror circle jerk. Jesus Christ, are you guys right – the defining sentiment of our age is the fear of looking stupid.

    Glazov for Inquisitor-General!

  • 18. the dude  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I like the stuff about requiem for a dream being bs, especially the part about the conversation…I’ve been a junkie for a several years now, one time when I was trying to cop driving around for hours in the city my friend pocket dialed her dad. He got a nice 30 minute message of our “going to cop dope” conversation. I’d love to have gotten to hear that, but it was probably us just bitching about how shitty we felt and how there was nobody out to score from

  • 19. gman  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    model r. glazov 64832: your sacred cow cpu unit has malfunctioned. please return to base for reprogramming.

  • 20. Mark  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Brilliant article. How depressing, though, that this is a genuinely alternative literary takedown, the sort of criticism the oblivious establishment would never touch. We need more of this.

  • 21. AO  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    The Exiled offers the best literary criticism in all the internet. I hope this was actually written by Glazov and not by Dolan. One more genius doing this thing is a good thing. I’ll donate as soon as my paycheck arrives.

  • 22. Flatulissimo  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    @Duarte, above:

    “the defining sentiment of our age is the fear of looking stupid.”

    And from the article:

    “This is also why conviction doesn’t go down well with Generation Y – strong beliefs are taken as a sign of “flat” personality, since people always seem more complex and thoughtful when they’re weighing their options, stroking their chin and avoiding all commitment. Why else do you think Obama’s such a dreamboat?”

    Wait a minute, I thought this was the attitude that Ames pinned on Generation X. You mean the Y’s are even worse? I thought they were sick of the Xer’s shit and were going to get some shit done. I was feeling all Whitney Houston I-believe-the-children-are-our-future an’ shit. Now are we gonna have to wait until Generation Z comes along to see some kids with balls?

  • 23. a dude  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    I agree that DFW is often a preachy, whiny, neurotic know-it-all.

    However, I still had a lot of fun reading Infinite Jest. Eschaton and a lot of the tennis stuff was fun. Well, that’s all I have to say.

  • 24. Soj  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Sheesh, what a bunch of garbage. Yeah DFW had some asshole buddies (Eggers, etc) and some idiot fans (“hipsters”, etc”. Doesn’t stop him from being an awesome writer or IJ from being one of my all-time favorite books.

    The “problem” with DFW’s books (esp IJ) is that they were long, full of notes, full of big words and so a lot of people got intimidated by him/his books and so every two-bit long-winded writer has to take a whack at him to prove they ain’t scared. Wowee, takes big balls to take potshots at a dead man.

    Go re-read “A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again” and if you don’t crack a smile, well then you need to get your head out of your ass.

    A pleasant day to you, Mr. “Glazov”

  • 25. Martin Finnucane  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    @Dammerung (10)

    Dear, sweet eXiled: why can’t your economic sensibilities be as well-founded as your strategic or æsthetic ones?

    Lemme guess — Libertard, right? How about “if only you got how cool the gold standard is,” or maybe “von Mises good!,” or “gubmit bad! gubmit bad!”? These ‘tards got some real sensibilities.

  • 26. Marc KH  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Great essay.

  • 27. Carl  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    After the third paragraph, I could tell that the writer of this article has no clue about what it is like to live. If the writer of the article had a mirror, perhaps he could laugh at himself and get closer to understanding DFW, but the writer’s ego is surely too large for that.

  • 28. Whyawannaknow  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Where I come from, we kill people like you.

  • 29. Lebron James  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    So you picked out a few passages you didn’t like in a 1,000 page book, consistently confused the narrator for the author and nitpicked semantics, and this is a “takedown”? This is almost as embarrassing as some of the comments.

    “this is a genuinely alternative literary takedown, the sort of criticism the oblivious establishment would never touch,” holy shit.

  • 30. matt  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I’m glad I donated to the eXiled….moar plz!!! This article is perfect. I hate that whole literary clique of DFW, Franzen, Vollman, Ellis, Franzen, Frey…shit this could be a longer list!

  • 31. Osby  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    @Flatulissimo: When you talk ‘generations X and Y’ you’re talking mainly about middle/upper-class white Americans. Considering that, I don’t hold out too much hope for Z either. Gen Y isn’t really distinct from X in the way that people who make these names would like; the group of people you’re talking about when you say Gen Y is just an uglier, meaner copy of X who took their predecessors’ attitudes as gospel and are doing their best to deal with where it’s taken them – some will learn the hard way about how empty the intellectual landscapes of their dream-world ’80s and ’90s were, and those who don’t lose their privilege will continue being the conceited, unbearable posers they’ve always been.

    I don’t have much of an opinion about DFW, not having read Infinite Jest, but the grammar-nazi youtube coupled with the drug howlers is lending credence to my hypothesis that squares have no place in literature. I will also never, ever get enough hipster-bashing so hats off and Godspeed Mr. Glazov.

  • 32. avast  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Jeese, you’ve got me to post a comment on your site. Guess you’ve stooped to coaxing wallace-heads from their shells.

    Why all the hate guys? Sheesh. I also thought infinite jest was great fun. First class writing by someone that grew up eating sugar cereal. Wheelchair assasins!

    Maybe check out his new york times article on federer, or “consider the lobster” that was commissioned by gourmet magazine.

  • 33. lcl  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    actually turned out to be kind of interesting, BUT… as the least right-wing person I can conceive of, I still hate hard drugs and have seen what they can do to people close to me… not hollywood type horror, just deep frustration and wasted relationships and potential.

    so… maybe pick your fucking battles?

  • 34. AR  |  May 23rd, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I got to know Vollman from his articles in Spin. I enjoyed them at the time, but I was in my 20s. It was a different take on reporting that I found refreshing. Reading these excerpts leaves me with no other conclusion that he is a pretentious voyeur who lacks any real insight into anything he saw.

    Compare Wallace and Vollman to their contemporary: Sebastian Junger. Junger never wrote like this; he never tried to. I wouldn’t put Junger up there with Conrad, Vonnegut, Heller, or Orwell, but he knew how to find a good story and tell it well. (There is some great writing at the end of The Perfect Storm and some of his other work.)

    Junger is honest with his writing. He never tries to be who he is not. It may be his background or his philosophy that ensures that his writing is never at the center of the story. He doesn’t call attention to himself. He tells a story about amazing, yet ordinary, people. By doing this, Junger achieves more with less.

  • 35. Wyse Guy  |  May 24th, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Ramon, after the first fifteen paragraphs, reading this fucking crap I wanted to knife myself. When you began raping Dog the Bounty Hunter’s words, I wanted to knife you. Go back to fucking talking about Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

    Or trying to find out what rich bastards are trying to do with politics.

    So please. No more Lit Grad petty bitch fight stuff.

  • 36. Wyse Guy  |  May 24th, 2011 at 12:28 am

    Oh you were talking about *these* unfunny C UNTS:

    Alright then, abuse them as much as you like, but for fuck’s sake, do your literary b itch fights in shorter, or at least more entertaining form. Those of us with jobs to live off, and heroin habits to support don’t care for your keyboard based bitchfests.

  • 37. monkeymouth  |  May 24th, 2011 at 1:19 am

    I am just sitting here staring at the blank field here trying to think of what to write. I gotta defend DFW…..IJ was a masterpiece without a doubt. And i aint no damn hipster dickhead either. YOu cant compare Wallace with a hack…..its impossible. You ever read Amis’ ‘the Information’? HAAAAAAACCCCCKKKKKK. Whoever this Vollmann dickhead is, you probably gave fair analysis of– quivering salad…and all. wallace would never say something like that. Dave wallace’s writing is great. IJ was never meant to ‘get’, anyway. Its just fucking entertaining, even with the outdated PDR on his writing desk. (physicians desk reference). who cares, RG. …..all books have holes. some holes gape, while others are inconsequential besides, i bet you a dollar that all that drug talk being ’70’s and earlier was on purpose just to fuck with the likes of hipster critics. Dave was a smart cookie….and a great author. If you dont like IJ, read Oblivion. its heartwrenching.
    Next time, write about something you like…i would like to hear your positive side for a change. there’s no doubt you are an intelligent guy….but whacking away at Wallace the way you did sounds like it was written by a jealous man

  • 38. RJP  |  May 24th, 2011 at 2:20 am

    Weird article. Felt longer than IJ, more joyless than Life A User’s Manual, and more spiteful than Hitchens going after Said.

    I love Wallace because his writing, especially his essays, brought me joy. I find Franzen insufferable as both an essayist and a writer of fiction and yet his work is far more proficient than this hatchet job. I dislike Eggers both as a writer and know him just well enough as a human being to despise him on a personal level too and yet, when he decides to turn it on, he’s capable of a spiteful, black humor which the author of this piece attempts but cannot achieve.

    Pissing on Wallace’s grave is bad form. Swinging at and missing easy targets like Eggers and Franzen is baffling.

    Incidentally, if you want to go after Eggers’ character, leave out the irrelevant nonsense about his older brother and include the juicy bits about he and Lemony Snickett and a few others from that clique getting caught leaving glowing reviews for each others’ works under number fake names each at Amazon a few years ago–or is the writer too ill-informed and/or addlepated to know/remember that incident?

  • 39. Erik Victory  |  May 24th, 2011 at 2:30 am

    The grump who runs Cosmoetica–probably one of the weirdest and curmudgeonly arts review sites on the net–has also written a couple of great take-downs of DFW:

  • 40. my talkative ringpiece  |  May 24th, 2011 at 2:38 am


    200mg/ml you need 100mg how much do you inject? heh heh do the math. A simple trick called the silly long name “dimensional analysis” can and will save your ass.

    I guess I’ve heard of “requiem for a dream” but never got interested strongly enough to want to read the thing.

    These guys here all remind me of Stevie. Stevie was a schizophrenic whom everyone in the Anchor Mobile Home Park who even thought about such things were absolutely sure was a genius who designed all the large bank buildings in Orange County before he got sick. Stevie got into arguments with his voices regularly (I suspect we all would) and was actually kinda fun to snipe at with a BB gun, the guy’d really hit the dirt. Good times.

    To be an “American” is to be a Calvinist, even those of us who are atheist, even those of us who hate Calvinism. Kicking H is probably easy-peasy compared to kicking Calvinism. Heroin addiction requires the needle, the stuff, an actual physical injection, finding a vein, all that. Calvinism requires none of that, it’s far more insidious and far more cancerous.

  • 41. maus  |  May 24th, 2011 at 2:45 am

    “as the least right-wing person I can conceive of, I still hate hard drugs and have seen what they can do to people close to me… not hollywood type horror, just deep frustration and wasted relationships and potential.”

    Then discuss the wasted potential and don’t lie, put forth propaganda, and waste money on enforcement instead of treatment.

    “so… maybe pick your fucking battles?”

    Take your own advice, you fucking loser. Addicts need support, not demonization.

  • 42. maus  |  May 24th, 2011 at 2:48 am

    Liberals that accept this sort of conservative predestination-drivel are the worst people, because they SHOULD know better, they simply don’t care.

  • 43. Thomzas  |  May 24th, 2011 at 4:02 am

    OK, I’ll let Requiem for a Dream take a few knocks. But Last Exit to Brooklyn and The Room are like my vital organs – stomp on them and I might die.

  • 44. Duarte Guerreiro  |  May 24th, 2011 at 4:30 am

    @22 / Flatulissimo

    I think both X and Y are trying to achieve the same thing thru different means. X becomes cool thru being uncool so it doesn’t have to care or put in the effort. Y grew up deep in the middle of the capitalist assault so it lacks even the capacity for that little conceptual switcharoo.

    I know because I grew up in their midst and I never met anyone over 30 who had read something as simple and fundamental as Orwell (I actually borrowed 1984 to a couple of people in the hope of having someone to discuss the book with and it came back both times unread because it was too hard – Orwell, with his beautifully practical prose, too hard!). All they care about is brands, cellphones, shitty TV, shitty 80’s music and Saturday morning cartoons from their childhood. I don’t even think that they are trying that hard to be ironic about it, seems more like a “right to be stupid” attitude. To be cool is to be a cool plastic culture whore but the terror of looking stupid never went away, it just lacks self-reflection now.

    I think mine was the first generation completely placated by consumption and capitalism. Remember all those retarded corporate attempts at being cool and culturally edgy in the 80’s and 90’s, how the X’s and everyone else sneered at them? Well, that was because you weren’t their target: kids without cultural defenses were their target. Notice how that corporate culture bubble has become much more sophisticated (at least in the production values) since then – just keeping up with the retard age curve they created.

    Since Y is now facing the shock of seeing their emotional anesthetic being snatched from them as the global markets implode, perhaps that will give them a jolt to start reading some Orwell.

    @5 / 16 Shells from a 30.06

    I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time, thanks for dragging that out of the closet.

  • 45. Zoner  |  May 24th, 2011 at 5:20 am

    Does anybody else automatically think DFW stands for Dallas/Fort Worth? Reading comments with that acronym initially confuses me.

    As for the article, I’ve never read any of these guys except for Franzen’s “The Corrections” and “How to be Alone”. I didn’t enjoy them but felt all proud of myself for being literary and shit. I didn’t try looking for any more in the same vein, and it wasn’t until I stumbled into Dolan’s critiques and the Reader’s Manifesto ( did I realize how goddamn provincial my attitude was. I felt like a hick who got conned the first time he went into the big city, and now I read my comic books and sci-fi novels with no shame.

  • 46. pk  |  May 24th, 2011 at 5:21 am


    Put into words what always had floating in the back of my head whilst reading -somewhat- these fellas’ stuff (Although I knew I hated Eggers pretty much after pg 20. of Staggering Work)

  • 47. Mark  |  May 24th, 2011 at 7:37 am

    @ Lebron James

    Nowhere does Glazov “confuse the narrator with the author.” If you’re claiming it’s unfair to criticise stuffy sentences because they’re technically delivered by “the narrator,” you’re wrong.

    And what did you expect him to do, quote the whole book? God forbid he do what everyone else does, namely: “pick out a few passages you did/didn’t like.”

  • 48. FXM  |  May 24th, 2011 at 7:53 am

    That was brilliant. Long, yet I want more. Thanks.

  • 49. ovaut  |  May 24th, 2011 at 9:33 am

    This is Dolan too? If so, that’s unfortunate, and I’ve lost some respect for him: the ‘Simplify, then shred the simplification’ method is impotent and arbitrary. It doesn’t sound like his Franzen takedown. Perhaps he tried to transform his style a bit and lost some of his eloquence and poise.

  • 50. 16 Shells from a 30.06  |  May 24th, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    all this supposing it’s Dolan is rude

    like persistently guessing names at the Podunk Hollow glory-hole

  • 51. Adam  |  May 24th, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Glazov, you’re amazing! My wife was just force-fed DFuckingW in her intro English class at UMBC. They made the poor girl read his pedantic Authority and American Usage. English not being her first language, she thought she was just too dumb to get it; I had to explain to her that DFW is just a showy pedant who likes to do meta-grammar backflips for his fawning English prof. groupies with passages like this where he explains the purpose of book reviewing:

    “Rhetorically, its whole project is informed by a question that’s too crass to ever mention up front: “Should I buy this book” And because Bryan A. Garner’s usage dictionary belongs to a particular subgenre of a reference genre that is itself highly specialized and particular, and because at least a dozen major usage guides have been published in the last couple years and some of them have been quite good indeed, the central unmentionable question here appends the prepositional comparative “…rather than that book?”

    This reads as: “Look at me! Not only can I utilize a prepositional comparative, but I can actually point it out to you, my dear numbskull reader!”

    Wallace is just high brow coffee table fodder; great to have out when that hottie from your lit theory class comes over for “tea”.

    As for then Gen X/Gen Y debate, I’m surprised no one has anything to say about the boomers because it’s really all their fucking fault: they were the ones who were supposed to change everything but in the end they donned their suits took up nice jobs and used their counter-culture experiences to capitalize on those of X and Y.

    My generation, Y, just did the same fucking thing: we listened to Rage Against the Machine in the 90’s and now we’re reading Joe fucking Klein and Tom fucking Freidman.

  • 52. Phil  |  May 24th, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    So snarky! Are you going to develop this stack of straw men into an episode of 30 Rock?

  • 53. SCENE IT ALL  |  May 24th, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I stopped reading obscurantist doorstop fiction long ago.

    Wallace’s fiction is stilted and claustrophobic, and Wallace himself said that he was afraid he could be just a showoff.

    HOWEVER, I will speak in defense of Wallace’s ESSAYS, specifically the collected essays book entitled “Consider the Lobster”.

    That-there book is a real real gem. Anyone who can read big words and enjoy a laugh at the same time will enjoy the FUCK out of those essays. Espacially rollicking is his takedown of the penis-obsessed 1950’s ‘swordsmen’ writers.

    The book is flat-out hilarous comic genius. It’s simply the best hyper-erudite non-fiction essay writing there has been since 1975, with the exception maybe of Tim Cahill’s “Hold the Enlightenment”.

    Language and idea lovers WITH BALLS should get their hands on those two books STAT.

  • 54. allen  |  May 24th, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    There is this nice little bit in some book I read once about how every new endeavor we take on must weighted in terms of an economy of declining days. Taking that to heart, I’ve given DFW a miss.

    I did briefly entertain reading IJ some time ago when the fairly useless and inaccurate “I wirte like” website thought my undergrad essays reminded it of DFW. It didn’t take too much research at the time to realize that was not a good thing, and I should revise my style.

    With that said … this take down, though long, definitely was worth my time and brought a smile to my face. Academia is a deeply sad waste of your time Dolan, except for the lucky Perth(?) kids that will get you for their teacher. But a guy has got to make a buck, I know.

  • 55. duncish  |  May 24th, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    If one was mean, one could add Philip K. Dick to the list of Evangelical anti-drug authors. But I am not mean and I like PKD, so I don’t…

  • 56. joe  |  May 24th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Sounds to me like your mostly criticizing the crypto-Calvinist sin-porn genre. Sounds like Wallace was a genius who led a sheltered life. He was unaware that he was surrounded by twits and tried to emulate them. James Frey types don’t off themselves for street cred.

  • 57. joe  |  May 24th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    good article though. Criticism isn’t any fun unless its foaming at the mouth.

  • 58. Martin Finnucane  |  May 24th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    The interesting part to me is the misogyny. (“Interesting” like a sirloin steak left in the sunshine and infested with maggots is interesting.) There’s the obviously make-believe whore with a heart o’ gold, but against that there’s the gross out (and gratuitous) needle-in-the-hoohoodilly scenes, and the cruella da ville bad mom from the horror video. Woman is good, as a projection of my own inverted, self-conscious fantasies. Woman is bad, as a real living entity that does things like tell me to clean my room, or at least to, fer gawd’s sake, take that silly bandanna off my head.

    I’ve seen that type before. I think it’s a type characteristic of a certain historic conditions, or something. Anyway, I wouldn’t actually read that mess, unless forced.

  • 59. I'll never work in this town again  |  May 24th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Yes Ramon! Whip on those pretentious fuckers!

    After I trudged through the endless precious pedantry of Infinite Jest, my only thought was that Vonnegut could have done the same things, better, in around 150 pages. (That attitude won’t get me a lit degree though – tant mieux.)

    AS to the other current critical darlings … it’s a self-fucking cluster.

    In the 60’s the trope was that the novel was dead. We’re now subjected to necrophagic cloistered pseudo-intellectuals feasting on its zombie remains, telling us it’s tasty and nutritious. Eat with us! You don’t want to come off like one of them booshwah middlebrows, do ya?

    Thanks again, Glazov!

  • 60. Down and Out of Sài Gòn  |  May 24th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    I can’t see PKD as a Calvinist – he wasn’t a “drugs are bad, m’kay?” writer. But he was quite clear that drug use can have pretty nasty consequences; see the list of friends who were permanently damaged or killed in the Author’s Note to “A Scanner Darkly”, with himself included. Describing his drug buddies as kids playing in a busy highway, he says:

    “There is no moral in this novel; it is not bourgeois; it does not say they were wrong to play when they should have toiled; it just tells what the consequences were… Let them all play again, in some other way, and let them be happy”. That does not sound like Calvinist morality to me.

    I have no problems with footnotes in fiction. Used well, they can allow authors to insert interesting or amusing asides without breaking the flow of the prose. Terry Pratchett is excellent at this, and so is Charles Stross. I have not read much DFW, but I get the feeling he was just doing this to appear “experimental”. Am I right or wrong?

  • 61. Hercule Holmes-Clouseau  |  May 24th, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    #49, #50,

    Dolan certainly did his homework in creating this latest persona. He’s been laying the groundwork for years!

  • 62. ura  |  May 24th, 2011 at 7:56 pm


  • 63. South Texas Casachico  |  May 24th, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    This comment praise is redeemable for 93 grivna in South Ossetia.

    Whatever happened to Joe Sailor?

  • 64. matt  |  May 24th, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Ramon Glazov has to be a pseudonym, right? Even if it’s not, I think Dolan and Ames should write about an author they actually like. Dolan has written about PKD, Celine, HST, and Limonov, but there have to be other writers they admire enough to write about here. I would love to read Dolan’s much written about thesis on de Sade.

    If not, just keep up the hate, the “inflict and endure” way of doing things. Makes the subscription worthwhile.

  • 65. Bore  |  May 25th, 2011 at 12:37 am

    You didn’t put a hand on Requiem (the film), but then I see you didn’t really try. Just danced around it with insinuations. I’d suggest you go for the throat, next time, but you’d miss.

  • 66. myxomatosis  |  May 25th, 2011 at 2:41 am

    Glazov = Barrett Brown?

  • 67. d  |  May 25th, 2011 at 4:56 am

    so tell us how you REALLY feel! 😉

  • 68. peter  |  May 25th, 2011 at 5:27 am

    Ridiculous. What a bunch of hyperbolic nonsense. You’d have to be under the age of 18 to think this is serious criticism. It’s worth questioning these author’s acclaim but badmouthing authors their popularity is surface from the get-go. Eggers is not “a sneering, leathery vampire”. I don’t believe you read Eggers with a 1/2 way open mind if you actually believe that. It’s not in the work.

  • 69. spark  |  May 25th, 2011 at 6:19 am

    Wonderful deflation of three of the most pretentious writers in American literature Worthy of King Wenclas.

  • 70. Michael Straight  |  May 25th, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Take that, David Eggers! Trying to pretend you’re organizing events to support indie artists and raising money for charities when in reality you have a brother who’s a jerk!

  • 71. whatever  |  May 25th, 2011 at 9:02 am

    You seem to believe that reading and liking Infinite Jest immediately makes one drooling and Wallace-obsessed. I would say that itself is a testament to how powerful and, by simple virtue of that power, *good* the book is. (Though personally there are many reasons I enjoyed it; but those are my own and not germane to this discussion, as trying to bring Eggers and Vollmann into your article was not remotely germane to whatever your point about Wallace was supposed to be.)

    But, frankly, I don’t believe you even read IJ (I mean you criticize the opening pages, man, and then one page about Ennet House and a footnote or two about drugs).

    And, given how prolific Vollmann is, it is kind of pathetic that you read one book (I also doubt you did more that skim it, just as it was nearly impossible for me to forgo skimming this article and actually force myself to read it) and cited it as though you had enough background or insight to make an intelligent point, which of course you didn’t.

    What I think you did was merely aggregate existing criticism and search inside PDFs for quick quotes and wrote this self-congratulatory, I-am-better-than-you-because-I-am-not-fooled-like-everyone-else tripe without even bothering to edit it afterwards.

  • 72. dglen  |  May 25th, 2011 at 9:47 am

    uh, isn’t that cardiomegaly?

  • 73. Andrew Gross  |  May 25th, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I read Infinite Jest the year it came out, before I had ever heard of David Foster Wallace, and had no idea that it was something of an “event”. It was, and remains, the single most enjoyable book I have ever read. It is pure fun from cover to cover. There is nothing particularly difficult to understand in the book; comparing it to Pynchon or Joyce is just strange.

  • 74. Karl  |  May 25th, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Glazov is not Dolan; a photo of Glazov can be found approximately halfway down this page:

  • 75. duncish  |  May 25th, 2011 at 11:29 am

    @ 60 I was mostly joking, although PKD occasionally shows some surprisingly conservative and misogynistic opinions (like about abortion).

    Something I’d actually love to read is Glazov’s or Dolan’s opinion of Tristan Egolf.

  • 76. Really Metafilter?  |  May 25th, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    lolicon? white knight? artfag? 2girls1cup?

    This reads as though you’ve graduated from the prestigious institution of 4Chan. Utterly worthless analysis.

  • 77. another laugh  |  May 25th, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    “even opiates, the subtlest drugs on earth, whose users can stay poker-faced no matter how much they’re enjoying themselves.”

  • 78. Sonic Yoots  |  May 25th, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    @76 – so you can smell your own, eh?

    Wow, what a bunch of butt-hurt fags posting here. Most of you jackasses probably got here through googling either one of your faux-brow heroes and were totally caught off guard by Glazov’s kickass expose.

    You should know where you are right now; check around the site, there’s a unity of vision here which includes braising literati wannabees, and we can thank Franzen, Eggers, and DFW for producing these awesome takedowns.

    Ames, Levine, Jones, Dolan – give Glazov plenty of sun and water; I see a bright future ahead!

  • 79. Huge Bush  |  May 25th, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    mark this comment under who gives a shit though clearly i do since i posted this comment hope someone else gives the same shit as i do about not giving a shit

  • 80. whatever  |  May 25th, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    @78 – I would suggest that whatever “mission” you and this site attend to, and whatever benefits the “awesome takedowns” might have, are *completely* nullified by homophobic, infantile language such as “Wow, what a bunch of butt-hurt fags.”

    I know nothing of this site, but if you are a representative I know enough to ignore the content herein.

    What a jackass.

  • 81. Marion  |  May 25th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    At best this was painfully put together group of generalizations that was really only tangentially related to Wallace. Any time someone purports to criticize a figure who they don’t evince any real knowledge of you know it’s going to get silly, but this one was especially weird because it went like: I hate hipsters (whatever those are), and I’ve heard they like these authors, who I’ve already formed impressions over, and so now I’m going to write an essay on the penultimate group which really targets the primary group based upon my erroneous conclusions from the last group. And yes that was supposed to be self parody.

    Being uncharitable, though, it seems like all this essay’s author and all his boosters are hiding the fact that they can’t/won’t make a good faith attempt to read Wallace behind their supposed bravery in tipping these sacred cows. So rather than owning the fact that you can’t/won’t read & enjoy a work that other people have read & enjoyed and that that makes you feel inferior, you instead attack the work’s author and get to feel superior instead. Nice.

    Also, criticizing, meandering fiction as being tedious and pretentious is really uh, experimental, at least when you’re doing it within a 10 000 word article touching on the history of drug use in fiction & Calvinism when its supposed to be a portrait of an author.

  • 82. joe  |  May 25th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    If you like this article you will love Dolan’s expose of James Frey. Read it for its epic-opra-inciting glory:

  • 83. joe  |  May 25th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    In fact read all of his articles. Beware you will not get a single piece of work done for the next two weeks.

  • 84. David  |  May 25th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    What have you written? I only ask because I assume you must be an amazing writer to critique others so vehemently.

    If you haven’t written any great fiction, what do you hold in high esteem that was written in the last 25 years?

    See because I’m a celebrity-worshipper, and as far as I’m concerned, only celebrities or people with pedigree should have the right to criticize other celebrities. And I would like to add that yes, I am a fantastic shoe-shiner.

  • 85. the offended  |  May 25th, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    As a DFW fan, I guess I’m supposed to be offended by this attack on my favorite writer, but if someone is this offended by a work that was not really meant to be offensive, then it must say something about something, no? I have a very hard time believing that Glazov is THAT much (if at all) different from the hip snoots that he so rails against for appreciating this work, and yet he is compelled to say all of this? This essay that certainly took a lot of time, and research, and hate to put together? Maybe I disagree with Glazov on a number of levels, but at least he cares. What he cares about, I don’t quite have an idea, but caring is at least worth something, because one can come on here and defend DFW, or say “right on, brother!” in Glazov’s direction, but that is not quite caring the way that putting this article together is, or the way that writing Infinite Jest is. The parallels between the work being undercut here and the work that undercuts it are striking and significant. Just a thought.

  • 86. Down and Out of Sài Gòn  |  May 25th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Marion: sounds like Ramon is doing his job – reviewing the book, telling us why he dislikes it, and linking it to other books with the same failings. This is a good thing. Since a lot of us have time constraints, we have a limitation on how much we can read in a year. Some of us may be undecided as to read Infinite Jest or tackle China Miéville’s latest output instead.

    You allege that he didn’t read it, which seems to conflict with the evidence. He’s compiled a list of drug-related errata, for god’s sake. I also find your sentence suspicious:

    “So rather than owning the fact that you can’t/won’t read & enjoy a work that other people have read & enjoyed and that that makes you feel inferior, you instead attack the work’s author and get to feel superior instead.” You’ve conflated reading and enjoyment. Reading may be necessary to enjoy a book, but enjoyment isn’t implied by reading. And how do you know Ramon felt inferior? You obviously didn’t read the review, so how do you know?

    One thing that concerned me: if DFW got his pharmaceutical facts wrong in his voluminous footnotes, what else did he get wrong? The French seems to be nonsensical, and he’s made elementary errors in math:

    The calculus mistakes may be down to printer errors, but how can he get the Binomial theorem wrong? I could make some contrived excuse for DFW involving “unreliable narrator” and “authorial intention”. Or I can use Occam’s Razor and state “He did not do the research”.

  • 87. John Drinkwater  |  May 25th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I don’t see many people even trying to refute Glazov’s points. A lot of people here and on Metafilter are calling the review a “screed”, but it reads like a calm, rational, and fairly sophisticated takedown to me.

    It’s not as good as a Dolan takedown, of course, but nobody’s as talented as Dolan. Bottom line here is that David Foster Wallace was a pretentious fraud, and Ramon Glazov is a good prospect. The Wikileaks piece was especially well done. I look forward to reading more from Ramon.

  • 88. John Drinkwater  |  May 25th, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Funny Wodehouse link, too: “My Battle with Drink” – ha ha ha. Send that to the broken down fools at AA.

  • 89. anon  |  May 25th, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    I honestly almost like that Vollman excerpt, it’s just immensely cute. (What had they wrought, one wants to ask?)

  • 90. Robert  |  May 26th, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Ramon mate, we all got pissed when we discovered how great and how absolutely on-the-mark DFW’s work is. It’s irritating – he was the total package and we know he got laid, sold out book stores in major cities and has left a video/audio archive that portrays him as senstive, humble, smart and generous. You and I Ramon will never do this. Ever. You won’t come close. I’ll probably come a little closer, but still… It’s over. The dream of being so good it hurts is over, and the worst part is neither you or I had the foresight to believe that someone could even be so deep and rad. It sucks. He touches parts of us that we thought noone else would touch. Reading him is in a sense like being violated. But please Ramon, go read Good Old Neon again. Read BIWHM. You could never write that. Try! See? You cannot. He is amazing. I am happier and a better person because of him. So are many others. Don’t be mad at the hipsters just because you cant pull it off. Neither can I. Also, accept that DFW is better in bed than you will ever be. Did you like the bits in BIWHM where he talks about the look in the females face when she reaches orgasm! Yep, that means he probably brought a girl to orgasm. Don`t worry, one day you might too. In the meantime get on your knees every morning and every night. Pray not for his gifts, but to learn from them. Learn to think. Learn to read. Learn to love.

  • 91. the other Jon  |  May 26th, 2011 at 3:03 am

    Robert, what the fuck are you talking about?

  • 92. John Drinkwater  |  May 26th, 2011 at 4:35 am

    I think Robert was writing a parody of a DFW groupie. Either that or some DFW groupies really are a cult-like bunch.

  • 93. David  |  May 26th, 2011 at 5:27 am

    I really wasn’t trying to be overly critical before you got so defensive and added all that stuff to my comment.

    I really am curious what you hold in high esteem so that I can put this review into context.

    I appreciated your perspective and do not think that only celebrities should be followed. I don’t know why you would try to piss someone like me off after reading your work and trying to continue the conversation. Is it because I’m a worthless fag? And why would I call myself a “worthless fag” unless someone–say, the comments moderator, put these frankly homophobic words in my mouth.


    The commenter formerly known as “worthless fag”

  • 94. joe  |  May 26th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I wouldn’t use the term crypto-calvanist I would use closet-Calvinist for they know not what they do. Hubert Selby’s requium for a dream may have been a propaganda piece but Hubert didn’t do it intentionally. Just because Hubert never met a black man or a junkie before dosen’t make him a complete dumb-ass, just means he writes unrealistic drug fiction. Just because its propaganda dosent make it suck. The movie flattened my balls.

    Look you cant write a drug story without showing the bad side of drugs. Was trainspotting a propaganda film?

    DFW got some of his facts wrong. The book wasnt a textbook. DFW has a pretentious writing stile. That dosent mean hes a dumbass. Thats why I like dolan. I gotta bust out the thesaurus to read him but he’s not pretentious enough to avoid quoting Ralph wiggum.

    DFW wasnt part of the junkie sub culture. He probably touched on it in his 20s which is why his shit is out of date. DFW was part rich kids get drugs from a shrink culture.

    Reading these comments is like watching two horse fetishists arguing over who has the larger manure mustach.

    All DFW meant by using the word isotope is that it was a similar chemical in its effect this does not mean the chemical differed in the number of neutrons. It was a similie.

    In conclusion:
    1.DFW has a pretentious writing style
    2.DFW got some of his facts wrong in a work of fiction because he was never a druggie
    3.Ramon dosent like DFW’s pretentious writing cuz it reminds him of other hack writers
    4.Ramon nitpicks about the mistakes
    5.Ramon is spot on about the calvanists and pretentious twits
    6.DFW is still a genius
    7.DFW is not a fraud in the sense that he made shit up for the sole purpose of making money ala james frey.
    8.Apparently disagreeing with Ramon on some of his finer points makes me some sort of artsy angsty emo goth lensless-chunky-frame-wearing bisexual douche-fag who’s sneezes into his(her) art-scarf in the summertime.

  • 95. joe  |  May 26th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I should prolly STFU though. I never read the book. I’m just bored at work. Thank you exiled for brightening my day.

  • 96. Franz  |  May 26th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    since you’re flinging ad hominem at DFW is it fair game to call you out for wearing a fedora and trenchcoat in public and saying shit like “artfag”?

  • 97. harry  |  May 26th, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Unlike some others, I found this essay neither fully persuasive nor thoughtless. I thought it made some valid points. Yet it only addressed some of the things DFW was trying to do in his work; he had other opinions than those critiqued here. And IJ does some things well, I think. It’s surely understandable, not some terrible flaw, for an ambitious book to succeed in some ways and fail in others, and yet it’s not unreasonable for RG to point out some of those flaws. So now, I still like DFW, just less uncritically than I had. To me that makes the essay worthwhile, although I still find it too one-sided and extreme in its judgments of its primary subject. (I haven’t read Eggers and most of the others mentioned.)

  • 98. Organleroy  |  May 26th, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    All of those pomo twats read “Gravity’s Rainbow” without having read “V” or “The Crying of Lot 49” and thought that it was the whole world. Reading works by all three was a supposedly enlightening thing I’ll never do again.

  • 99. Johnson  |  May 27th, 2011 at 6:05 am

    @80 – Go back to your sterilized Time mags; it’s not safe for you here.

  • 100. Trevor  |  May 27th, 2011 at 11:45 am

    This will probably get me some flak but Wallace wasn’t all that bad. I admit I never read Infinite Jest but his shorter works always struck me as much more character focused, something Eggers and Vollman (and Pynchon, a thousand dicks in his mother’s ribcage) don’t understand and don’t want to understand. Though I’m a Lovecraft fan from way back so I probably have a tolerance for all that high-falutin’ diction.

  • 101. spark  |  May 28th, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Trevor: agreed.

    DFW was pretentious, had some very annoying stylistic tics, badly needed an editor to call him on his bullshit, and was basically guilty of all charges made in this piece, but he had some good stuff, too. When he sinks his teeth into an extended riff like the “video telephony” section of “IJ”, it’s worth the read.

  • 102. Palmer  |  May 29th, 2011 at 1:41 am

    I can’t believe that no one has called out Ramon Glazov for blasting David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest itself on grounds of “paternalism,” yet.

    Exiled’s ongoing campaign to vilify DFW as some kind of golem composed of putrid class privilege is pathetic and bizarre in the first place, but up until this point, I’d never found any of the Wallace criticism on here to be utterly nonsensical.

    I can only imagine what an awfully dull and wrongheaded person you’d have to be, in order to come up with a reading of his work that suggests that he was sympathetic with the world’s exploiters and oppressors.

  • 103. Shade  |  May 29th, 2011 at 7:30 am

    Although it took you quite a bit of wordspace to get to the “meat” of the topic, this is a most excellent article. As one whose young adulthood was defined by getting dragged through the Recovery Mafia’s perpetual recovery scam, I can definitely relate.

    The pseudo-literary cult you describe here also highlights a larger elephant in the room, a junkified enraged postmodern bull elephant to kind of wallacize it, so to speak… That is, the recovery mafia as a business model. Think of all those poor, addicted people, convinced they need perpetual treatment for the rest of their miserable, recovering lives, at 50 bucks a therapy session (at least), then factor in how many are pushed into in-patient treatment programs, with the resulting horrendous medical and boarding fees. Then think of how this gets promoted as a sort of cult, how these poor, miserable recovering addicts are encouraged to drag their partners in life-misery into these treatment programs, their spouses, relatives, even their friends and co-workers. You wont believe how many people get dragged into this perpetual recovery cult bullshit for non-addiction issues, each one paying through the nose (yeah, yeah, I know, how ironic) for something they’re told they’ll need indefinitely… I know, just like the heroin dealer, but hey, this addiction is GOOOOD for you, right? Don’t you just NEEEED this goodness in your life?

    What it turns into is yet another exploitative cult scam, in our perpetual scam of a hyper-capitalist society.

    Perhaps you could hit upon these sort of issues in a follow-up article…

    Anyway, tragic thing about Foster’s suicide; apparently being one of the highest profile pastors of the perpetual recovery cult wasn’t enough to sustain him, but hey, at the very least, he made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause (cult?) of literary irony….

  • 104. jim  |  May 29th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Vollman’s first novel was very good, everything since has been self-indulgent paperweights IMHO.

    Memo To Vollman: MOAR BUGS LESS DRUGS PLZ.

    How do you write at such length on this subject with absolutely no mention of the original Typhoid Mary of the Hipster Druggie Redemption Saga virus, Jay MacInerney?

    Without the chorus of joyful praise for “Bright Lights, Big City” perhaps we’d all have been spared the plague of clones that followed him. Let’s just be generous & assume the critics in the late 80s were all as permanently coked-up as Jay’s protagonist – because that was by far the weakest novel I ever had to write an essay about.

  • 105. rapetor__jeezus  |  May 30th, 2011 at 12:02 am

    thumbs up if u were linked here from /b/

  • 106. Tminusfun  |  May 30th, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Actually, the fact that DFW believed in some from of self-improvement. Glazov seems uncomfortably angry with anyone who sees a value in something other than gaudy gratification. I wonder if he checks under the bed for Republicans before he goes to sleep.

    DFW’s real fault was that he embodies self-indulgent, post-modern, post-structural, self congratulatory fiction more concerned with “groundbreaking” gimmicks than actual beauty, paired with the constant dry self-congratulation that David Eggers and David Sedaris love so much.

    A return to pre-modern moral tales would actually be refreshing. We could use another Hillaire Belloc.

  • 107. darthfader  |  May 31st, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    An interesting read but what does this mean:

    “This is also why conviction doesn’t go down well with Generation Y – strong beliefs are taken as a sign of “flat” personality, since people always seem more complex and thoughtful when they’re weighing their options, stroking their chin and avoiding all commitment. Why else do you think Obama’s such a dreamboat?”

    I’m lost.

  • 108. hobomaker  |  June 2nd, 2011 at 2:22 am

    it’s time someone here at Exile reviews all this fantasy scene, especially the two r.r.’s, tolkien and martin.

  • 109. Chris  |  June 6th, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I don’t care for DFW. Now do I need to write 10000 words to justify my dislike for his writing? No, I just say: my unreasonable aesthetic tastes preclude me from enjoying DFW. There, bam.

    But I did especially enjoy the author’s digression into KNOW UR CHEMICALS level bullshit. That was a nice touch.

  • 110. SPIC POWER  |  June 8th, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    lol @ this clueless dork commenter trying to pull a hatchet job on mr ramon and his brilliant takedown of df wallace and hubert selby, ranting about “hipsters” and “mcsweeneyites”

    i especially like my internet-weaned drug-nerd contrarian-pedanticism here (“downers usually have the reverse of the reverse effect on horses”)

    the number of positive comments on this article depresses people like me even more than the usual because I’m a mindlessly cynical, non-smartass

  • 111. Graham  |  June 9th, 2011 at 1:45 am

    I will pay the phrase “Swapping lecture theatre dread for tutorial group paternalism” So would DFW I’m sure. However… ‘takedowns’ as others are putting it are really the easy stuff. Creation is much harder. No one should confuse the type of effort required for a ‘takedown’ with the type of effort required for creating and exposing to the world something new. Since this takedown is exposed the world and has some effort put into it and I’ll give you a 5 out of 10. See how easy it is for me to sum you up and rate you? Problem is you really haven’t brought anything new or useful into the world. You’re just a little monkey brain arguing with other monkey brains. And I’m the pot of course.

    This review was based on selective and unsympathetic reading of DFW IJ. I read IJ at I time I was giving up Marijuana. It marked the breaking of that particular addiction for me. I didn’t find it so much funny as a bit of a magic spell which out-talked my own over-talkative head speech. It killed the painful time of withdrawal and forced me to sort through the accumulated self-justification issues in an exhaustive way.

    It didn’t lead me into any sort of cult of addiction and in fact was an effective substitute for any such cult/ medical/ psychotherapy/ group therapy approaches.

    One thing DFW was ahead of his time on was recognising that, for some people, marijuana can be an aggressively addictive substance.

    My specific criticism and where I started to tune out of your review is… the apparently un-ironic description of Hal as “a rich overachieving brat” This obviously reflects your view of DFW too.

    Are you, yourself, a rich over-achieving brat? Well don’t be so hard on yourself – at least in this case you have under-reached yourself for once.

    There are many of us talented brats who have romances with substances. I thank DFW from the bottom of my heart for thinking our suffering was worth any sympathy. To you thanks for nothing except the chance to participate in this interesting discussion.

    How to unravel the brain-talk that goes with being a rich-overachieving brat was one of DFWs vital concerns. He took it a few steps further than Bob Dylan with ‘Miss Lonely’ in Rolling Stone.

    DFWs suicide does not ‘pay off’. It actually undermines him. For me not enough to stop me loving his work. The Pale King is a funnier novel/novel fragment than IJ. It’s a shame it didn’t get evolved to reach the insane density of IJ – I wanted more.

    Ok my critique of your critique is pretty slight but it will probably have a pretty small readership … time to move on. ‘Takedowns’ are the stuff of blogs I suppose. What a degraded genre it is.

  • 112. reynolds  |  June 11th, 2011 at 10:24 am

    “Crritic!” Glazov couldn’t carry DFW’s jockstrap.
    Btw, Glazov’s not John Dolan. John Dolan can write.

  • 113. Jerms  |  June 14th, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    DFW writes better than this crack addict ever could, and contemporary “crack hipsters” were not invented when IJ was published.

    Smells like teen spirit?

  • 114. jim  |  June 21st, 2011 at 4:26 am

    I agree with the few people who have mentioned DFW’s ‘consider the lobster’ essays. it’s a good read. it is entertaining.
    there’s an essay in there about the adult industry awards that i particularly enjoyed.
    but at the same time, milling around at a porn convention, being, in turns, titillated and disgusted by the filthy, gauche extravaganza… staring at your shoes a bit… feeling weird about having a boner… glazov is absolutely correct in his analysis. it’s middle class morality porn. getting off on feeling equivocal about being judgmental about a bunch of people doing “crazy” things that you could not or would not do.
    DFW wrote some good stuff, some average stuff, and some bad stuff… he’s guilty of being an author. i think what really tics critics like glazov (and myself) off, is the cultural and social climate that produces and fawns over a pissweak literary movement like McSweeny et al.
    DFW is the thin end of the wedge.

  • 115. GB  |  June 21st, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    If I had the energy I would criticize your almost complete lack of cogency in for some reason trying to make generalizations about Infinite Jest that include a trite attack on Requiem for a Dream (and from there digressing to a bemusedly irrelevant discussion of “Narco Nympho” literature), but really, your struggle to remain coherent is not the most immediate problem with this piece. It seems to me like you’ve taken aim at the wrong target. I’ve grown up around hipsters, I know who you’re trying to talk about here, and they don’t assemble into little groups to celebrate DFW’s coolness in substituting heavy ponderousness for real conviction. If you’re looking for somebody to lambaste over erroneous factoids that actually defeat the purpose of their work why not take a shot at Malcolm Gladwell? If you’re so insistent on belaboring a point that people have taken for granted for decades (“hipsters who do it to be hip are lame”), why not spit some of your vitriol toward Chuck Klosterman? Instead you’ve assembled an argument consisting of “lol Wallace doesn’t know chemistry” stirred in with little smirking jabs at a larger culture that doesn’t contain or really even border literature like Infinite Jest. The fact that isotopes are atomic might be high school level, but so is the ability to maintain some kind of workable thesis in an essay. I can tell you’re not at all stupid, but you sure made yourself look dumb just now.

  • 116. Charles  |  June 24th, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    I want to be you.

  • 117. Dan  |  June 30th, 2011 at 7:19 am

    I’m pretty sure Sarah Palin wished she wrote this comment.

  • 118. dominic  |  July 20th, 2011 at 12:19 am

    I just re-read this article and its even better than I remembered. Dolan (Its that simple) is the only literary critic worth reading, and I’m not surprised he’s as marginalized as he is. Until I found his writing I just figured I was totally alone, a cynical asshole drowing in a sea of shitty writing. That said, I should point out that there are only two kinds of DFW ‘fans;’ nerdy academics who dont know shit about the real world, regardless of the subject matter, or nerdy drug ‘dabblers whose drug of choice is limited almost exclusively to marijuana. I would like anyone interested in gaining a little more insight into this subculture to please take “joe’s” advice and read through the Dolan archives, paying particular attention to his article on literary frauds. But to boil it down, DFW was an academic (read recluse) who could never get over his fleeting brush with the real world (rehab), and closest his drooling fans come to brushing with the real world is reading Wallace. So how would they know they’re being decieved?

  • 119. Graham  |  July 20th, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Domonic – an insane critique. The ‘real world’ does not pick and choose but beats nerds and right wing wankers equally over the head until we all spew out our weaknesses and then start eating them up again with a spoon and then spewing them up again ad infinitem until the day we die.

    Only a blind idiot would think that addiction is class conscious. That, DFW was not.

    You say
    Recluse = Academic
    Real World = Rehab

    So I guess my part of the world is full of academics hiding in the woods.

    …and rehab is the temple of enlightenment…

    #2 DFW might sympathize with.

    I just wish you lovely critics would get over the fact that you are not DFW.

  • 120. dominic  |  July 25th, 2011 at 1:02 am

    i dont think rehab is class consious. did i say that? and perhaps “recluse” was a bad choice of words, i admit, its just that academics seem to supplement living with reading and somehow think they are equivalent. Anyway, how’s about a book written by an addict whose been in and out of dozens of rehabs over several decades in several different states? Probably be a much different book.

    I simply think Wallace, and most of his contemporaries, are weak writers. Change the discussion to Faulkner and or Hemmingway (or any number of others) and my critique would be far humbler.

  • 121. Jobby  |  August 6th, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Seriously, this is ridiculous and smacks of petty jealousy. I agree almost completely about the Vollman/Eggers stuff, but DFW had something that very few people have anymore and he wrote beautiful work with it. It is rare for arthumpers like me to be this simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking.

  • 122. Strelnikov  |  August 10th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I’m fucking suprised nobody has used the “unreliable narrator” excuse for all of DFW’s mistakes in “Infinite Jest”, that or DFW was somehow protecting his audience from the “horrors” of pill-popping by using obsolete or unavailable drugs….when I read that massive bastard a decade ago it screamed “shaggy dog story”, one of those “event” novels that nobody remembers twenty years later, like the John Updike “Rabbit” novels, or Solzhenitsyn’s sequel to “August 1914.” Another possible excuse would have to be that “Infinite Jest” takes place in an “alternate history” of the US (but there is no clear-cut turning point away from real history like in Phillip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle”) and all these fuckups are a part of the alternate history. The only reason I plowed through Wallace’s shitty book is that it was from the library, and I force myself to finish library books.

    On AA all I can say (not having ever been a member) is that it is highly anti-intellectual; members are forced to believe that they are powerless against booze, and that their only survival lies in going to those meetings every week. The State loves AA because it is free, which is why you see AA in prisons, halfway houses, any warehouse for this society’s “garbage.” Alcoholics Anonymous has a 5-percent success rate while the anti-booze drugs have a 100-percent success rate (as long as the alcoholic keeps taking them, that is.) The only reason AA survives is that there are too many powerful people who have been through it, and they think it works. David Foster Wallace was not one of those people; he was an artist who mixed AA propaganda with his writing, so he was a sucker trying to pull a con on the “literary” public.

  • 123. Bill  |  September 2nd, 2011 at 9:09 am

    This article is just great. I love the scathing, point-by-point tear-down of Wallace’s work. The like minded zealotry reflected in the comments of support(“Brilliant article! You’re a genius!”) is also good for a laugh.

    The sweet, sweet irony of it is that you yourself have become the hipster you claim to despise. So very self concious in that you are supposing that everything that anyone does/writes/says is done so with the purpose of impressing someone or appearing hip/cool/smart (and that’s certianly not the point of your little blog, right?). You’ve written a long-winded, puffed up, superficial, surface level anazlysis of one of DFW’s works (Infinite Jest), barely acknowledging the actual content or any of his other work, but rather focusing on surface level details that will help you to achieve a succesful campaign against post-modern phonies (which is a laugh given DFW’s thoughts on post modernism- but you already knew that, right?).

    Just as you rail against Wallace and other writers of his ilk, for being attention seeking phonies, so too have you placed yourself in that camp. Claiming a place of majestic superiority in tearing down the work of others (some deserving, some not). It’s clear that you’re so consumed with virulent hatred for the man, that you’re willing to submit in your attention seeking, “look-at-me-I’m-so-outre” blog, that you actually know very little about the man and that the venom you spew only serves to make you appear excessively foolish. Have you read any other interviews the man has given or do you only cherry pick the ones taken out of context that make him seem beneath you (His taste in music)?

    I doubt you’ve read any of his comments railing against irony and cynicism, citing that they only serve as defense mechanisms which distance and protect us from being seen as weak (sentimental). Here, with your corrosive and exceedingly cynical diatribe, you prove again to have no more than a surface level understanding of what you hate or why you hate it.

    Like the hipsters you claim to hate, your writing, no matter how you deride them, shows that you act in exact accordance with them. You judge based on surface level details and revel in self aggrandizing cynicism. You are exactly what you claim to hate, you’re just so up inside of yourself that you can’t see it. Oh, look at you, how cool, how detatched, you can see through the smokescreen that the rest of us can’t. Pure garbage. Infinitely limited mind indeed.

  • 124. I agree with Bill  |  October 18th, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    lol @ you 4 grouping Wallace and Eggers together.

  • 125. JJM79  |  November 28th, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Hey man, just a little heads up grammar wise. “None” takes the singular. You said, “None of his buddies fail to relate how friendly and approachable his writing supposedly is.” I think you mean to say “None of his buddies fails to relate…” It’s a fairly common mistake in writing, but a helpful hint you can use is just to imagine none as no one, so you wouldn’t go around saying “no one are as strong as I am.” You would say, “no one IS as strong as I am.”

  • 126. Dynamo_Moggi  |  December 9th, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    JJM79, you’re actually incorrect. Figures a conversation about DFW would involve hyper-correction at some point.

    ( used with a plural verb ) no or not any persons or things: I left three pies on the table and now there are none. None were left when I came.

    Special note: Since none has the meanings “not one” and “not any,” some insist that it always be treated as a singular and be followed by a singular verb: The rescue party searched for survivors, but none was found. However, none has been used with both singular and plural verbs since the 9th century. When the sense is “not any persons or things” (as in the example above), the plural is more common: … none were found.

    It’s the sort of linguistic mistake historically made by those trying to sound more educated than they actually are – the same sort of folk who pronounce the “t” in often (makes you wonder how they’d try to say “hasten” or “listen”).

  • 127. Dynamo_Moggi  |  December 9th, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    (or the same sort of folk who’d add a hyphen to “hypercorrection” :))

  • 128. Fred  |  December 12th, 2011 at 5:46 am

    Couldn’t finish this. The writer can’t write. Goes off on a tangent by the tenth paragraph, somehow concluding that anti-drug messages are christian propaganda.
    In a similar vein, here’s my analysis of the author based upon the few words I read. s/he has been in the proximity of pseudo-intellectuals for too long, coming to the conclusion that they are loathsome. Probably true. However, what then happens is the inevitable response by somebody who is just as dishonest about their own intelligence; he completely changes his views to counter theirs.
    Reacting to the hipster reverence for people like david foster wallace, that drug movie he talked about, and american psycho etc. Rather than accepting these things as being flawed but commendable, the author instead applies rhetoric as empty as the praise the hipsters use to elevate them to masterpieces.
    Idiot bitch.

  • 129. Dynamo_Moggi  |  December 15th, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    To you, it’s “changing his views to counter theirs”. To most of the thinking world, it’s called “presenting a counter-argument”.

    Saying that DFW’s lack of credibility regarding drugs impairs part of his legacy as an incredibly hip, knowledgeable Voice of Truth isn’t really “empty rhetoric”, and your implied alternative seems to be along the lines of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then just be quiet, stop TRYING so hard”. You seem like the sort of person more geared to analyze critiques of Anne Frank fanfiction than actual published novels, but perhaps I’m way off base – Anne Frank fanfiction critiquers are probably better-equipped than you as well, you’re nothing but weak entertainment at a bring-your-own-bottle party.

  • 130. funnyhaha  |  December 19th, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Just how unfamiliar with Vollmann’s work must a person be to type this sentence?

    “This wouldn’t work in Vollmann’s favour, because there are few things more uncool to his hipster audience than believing strongly in something.”

    This is the guy who spent two decades writing a book about when violence is and isn’t justified. Vollmann’s open for criticism in a lot of ways, and frankly his sentences got a lot sloppier after his first novel (though Imperial has moments that show he can still pull it off when he wants), but the idea that he’s afraid to seem Uncool by taking a stance on something? Really? Have you ever seen him give an interview? The guy bleeds Uncool. He’s so Uncool that it makes you wonder if part of his brain is missing–if he’s somehow damaged. It’s unnerving.

    Also. ‘artfag’ = instant loss of credibility. Congrats.

  • 131. Will  |  January 4th, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Is JJM79 the Exiled sensor? That shit is classic.

  • 132. Rachael  |  January 10th, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    It was recently suggested to me that I preface any potential foray into DFW’s fiction a his collection of essays… So far as hipsterdom and what not, I will say that I actually avoided reading the book donated to me in public for fear of being judged as someone who wants to be judged – I myself wanting out of the cool/not-cool-game.
    Has the author read “A Supposedly Fun thing I’ll never do again”? Sounds like Wallace had some pretty shitty friends, but I’m not sure how that discredits him. Rather, it discredits the author of this article…
    I will attempt to YABBA DABBA DOO with a previous YABBA DABBA DOO as to this article’s YABBA DABBA DOO
    This comment was too long.

    “7. Derek | May 23rd, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I’ve never read a word of David Foster Wallace, but I read every single word of this critique because there’s nothing I enjoy more than tearing down hipster idols.”


  • 133. suck  |  February 5th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    You’re an idiot.

  • 134. Diana  |  February 11th, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Thank you so much for this! I was beginning to think I was the only person in the world that could see the banality at the core of DFW’s writing. I really began to think ‘I must be on crazy pills’ and ‘there MUST be something I’m missing here’. I just read the Granola Cruncher story in Hideous Men tonight and was so disturbed by how simplistic and ridiculous the central idea was that I couldn’t go to bed until I found at least ONE person who wrote an intelligent negative review of DFW. THANK YOU!!!! I can sleep now.

  • 135. JR  |  February 21st, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Jesus I thought I’d never be a troll who said as many words say almost nothing…. I mean I’m totally DFW’s auntie. What a yawnfest.

  • 136. yikes  |  February 25th, 2012 at 10:23 am

    you sure are mad that someone doesnt like drugs

  • 137. blug  |  February 26th, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Hey congrats, you agree with Harold Bloom on a thing

  • 138. Joseph  |  March 6th, 2012 at 3:03 am

    This was so astoundingly persuasive that I went into it pretending I was agreeing with the basic premise and came out feeling considerably less worthy of commenting than I was at the start. The icky sycophancy I generally express for DFW just makes it worse.

  • 139. dominic  |  March 20th, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    im starting to think these comments are all the work of the censor….anyway Diana mentioned Hideous Men, and yeah, that was some awful shit. American “lit” is in quite the sad state these days.

    Morris Berman, who is a pretty annoying little dude overall, has some books about the downfall of American culture. His basic premise about writing is that all fiction is basically now some version of David Brooks’ “Bonobos in Paradise,” reaffirmation of white middle class that their shit doesn’t stink, a big jerk-off fest for the suburbanites who’re ruining life as we know it. Anyway when i heard him saying all that i just remember thinking of John Dolan…or wait, is it Ramon Glasov now?

  • 140. Some Wallace groupie who's found a way to spin everything in this article into a plus  |  March 24th, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    i dont get why this is being seen as such a righteous sacred cow slaying type review. i mean i get the whole epater-le-hipsters reason why everyone *wants* it to be – yeah, fuck those guys and their haircuts!- but looked at closely, it’s pretty thin stuff.

    Some people in the comments have pointed out that no one’s dealing with the actual claims of this takedown.
    Glazov’s ass-covering line of ‘only a matter of time till some Wallace groupie…’ notwithstanding, here goes…

    -First, it’s pointless pointing out the ad hominem attacks etc. This isn’t a review that has any pretence of being charitable.
    But then, there’s just as much reason to make a charitable interpretation of IJ as there is an uncharitable one.
    One commenter mentioned Occam’s Razor, to suggest it’s more likely DFW fucked up his research / was trying to be smart while being lazy. Again, what with it being a *work of fiction*, plus DFW’s claim that everything’s there for a reason, plus other related context and interviews etc, there’s just as much reason Occam’s razor to cut the other way.

    – Regarding the narrator vs author stuff, various sections, inc the footnotes are from Hal’s pov, Hal who is defined as a bit of a precocious twat who should be pitied if anything, and not admired.
    The more interesting parrallell isn’t Hal as DFW but IJ as a mirror of Ulysses: Don Gately as Leopold Bloom – decent, dull – who almost goes the whole novel without meeting Hal Incandenza / Stephen Deadalus: the academic, over-intellectual young man with mother issues – again NOT the hero who you’re supposed to agree with the worldview of.

    – The Kafka reference is a good spot. The stuff about tragedy is lame tho. Hal isn’t meant to be comparable to Gregor Samsa: in IJ, the scene is about solipsism / private language while in the metamorphosis, it’s about (among other things) shame – hence the scenes in each one are supposed to inspire different feelings, not both aim at tragedy.
    sure you’re in the end supposed to feel sorry for Hal, but not to think that he’s tragic, not in the capital T Greek or Hegelian sense. But then you’re not supposed to feel that about Gregor Samsa either….

    – “Augustine’s idea that fallen man is incurvatus in se or “turned in on oneself”
    The theme of involution, of self-reference in life and literature being a dead end can be found in IJ, and a lot of other DFW stuff (Westward… for example). DFW, talking about Markson’s ‘Wittgenstein’s Mistress’, describes the problem of language being an ‘adam-like Fall’. Whether being unable to communicate or escape solipsism are sympathetic problems depends on your pov. Worse than the terror of hell? Techinically no, but neither is it worse than the terror of the boogeyman. But hell and the boogeyman aren’t real. Nonexistent worse supernatural terrors can’t be used to invalidate real secular ones.

    – Glazov says: “because there are few things more uncool to his hipster audience than believing strongly in something.”
    DFW says: “[the intelligentsia] distrust strong belief, [and] open conviction. Material passion is one thing, but ideological passion disgusts us on some deep level.”
    Aw, you guys are so alike!

    – “Calvinism: I think that’s what you call someone who believes human beings are doomed to be wankers no matter what.”
    Don Gately isn’t necessarily doomed. He changes. IJ ends with him at his lowest ebb but soon to be on his way to try break the cycle by going to Ennett house. True, he’s partly on the lamb, true his freedom from his cycle is to surrender himself to something, but by the time he’s refusing painkillers in hospital, i think he’s excercising some pretty good free will.
    (also, ‘fatalist’ DFW’s philosophy thesis was a whole fucking defence of Free Will..)

    – “Lame Christian platitudes”
    Sheesh, but the book is *about* platitudes, about rehabilitating cliches while remaining ambiguous about them; accepting how trite they are but how they might work; the book uses them to make a case against irony and affectedness and posing and feeling superior (for example, superior to the plebian, like the reviewer later on claims is an attitude he dislikes…)

    – “drugs and intelligence lead to death and destruction, while ignorance and weakness are the narrow path to salvation”
    Is that really the message of IJ? Isn’t it more (to put it crudely) that taking certain drugs for certain reasons within a certain addictive culture will fuck u up, and that a certain kind of intelligence (the kind the reviewer hates) – pretentious, narcissitic, flashy, po-mo smarts – is bad while hard-earned wisdom and strength (not ignorance and weakness) might just help; wisdom like the ‘crocodiles’ at Ennet house have, strength like Don Gately’s…

    – AA in general
    There’s far too many references in IJ to AA being like a cult and a fascist regime to accept that DFW has an uncritical and unqualified support of it inside IJ and out.

    – “A book written in the 50s could’ve easily swapped “addict” with “homosexual,” or “quarter-Negro.” Before 1945, even “Jew” might’ve worked.”
    Inspired trolling. And did you know if you replace the word bad with jewish most books are worse than the protocols of elders of zion!

    -“And there’s no sparing anyone who thinks Patrick Foster Bateman’s personal “anthem” is a good song.”
    This bit’s actually pretty funny.

    -“Kekulean knot.” In this context, all “Kekulean” means is hexagonal. (Yes, it also allows Wallace to namedrop the discoverer of the six-sided benzene ring. But what does that prove?)”
    Nope. In this context kekulean obviously means annular, the snake-devouring-own-tail story behind the discovery of the molecule. this is esp. obvious given the thousand fucking other annular references in IJ, the structure of the book’s ending and beginning, the theme of involution… this is high school stuff.

    – “ants formicating up and down his arms’ skinny length.” Care to guess what “formicating” actually means? Anting.”
    Close but no cigar. the first pun that anyone who doesn’t know latin (i.e. most people) will get is formica, the plastic grainy looking material (whose etymology does indeed come from the latin for ant – i looked it up!). you know, formica, the material that looks like a swarm of ants, hence how it got its name. in which case, ‘formiacting’ is not a redundant ant pun, least not in the first instance, it’s a piece of imagery: his arm looks like formica.

    -““a gleaming red martial column of those militaristic red Southern-U.S. ants that build hideous tall boiling hills.”
    Padding or maximalism? ‘Martial’ and ‘militaristic’ are doing two different things, the column is martial, the ants are militaristic (‘hideous tall boiling hills’ is good). for example you could have a martial column of ants, or a column of militaristic ants. The effect is thru cumulative repetition: the first clause is the poetic image, the second clause is a description of what said image is composed of. Two similar but distinct details. Why else would DFW use the word ‘red’ twice as well?

    -the Prior To youtube grammar nazi thing.
    This is the key passage and a real fuck up on RG’s part.
    watch the clip properly. Wallace isn’t claiming that instead of ‘prior to’ you should use ‘posterior to’. He isn’t saying that ‘prior to’ is the wrong thing to use in place of ‘before. he’s saying that if you’re gonna go and use it in place of ‘before’, then to be grammatically consistent, you should use ‘posterior to’ in place of ‘after’. (would a logician not know the difference between a priori and a posteriori logic?) His actual words in the ytube clip: “But would you ever wanna say ‘posterior to’? no. so you don’t say ‘prior to’.”
    And how you go from him criticising marketing style jargon to him hating on joe 6-pack is beyond me. must… crowbar in… class-hatred… angle….

    -Wallace parodies
    Also v revealing. they’re just not very accurate parodies. if you really knew how to hate on DFW, these parodies would have nailed it. instead, they’re like someone doing a shakespeare parody by just saying ‘thou’ a lot.

    -“Anecdotal evidence suggests that people who shit on those traditions do not come to happy ends.”
    This comes from The Awl site, transcript of q&a where DFW was asked to comment on the then recent Frey scandal. it’s unclear whether he’s referring to Frey shitting on traditions or himself for answering the question. in any case IT’S OBVIOUSLY A JOKE.

    – “‘that’s how much he hates ‘doners.”
    His character does something mean to ‘doners = DFW hates ‘doners?
    Jesus. This is again, as the review says, high school stuff.

    – “First, when you’ve got an impossible, Lovecraft-type McGuffin that turns onlookers insane, it’s a bad idea to describe it in detail unless you want your readers to go: “That’s it?!”
    Or you could argue it’s brave and vastly more interesting not to take the easy way out by refusing to suggest what’s on the film.
    True, there is a ‘That’s it?’ moment, but a) the description of film is someone’s report, we the reader don’t see it, only have it reported to us (after all, no one can see it and then come tell you about it directly) and b) there’s reference to how lenses and optics might also be having an affect on the pleasure centres of the brain, thus partly explaining its power.
    In fact, it doesn’t even seem plausible that the description of the film was meant to get a reaction of “But of course!” – i mean, how could it possibly have done? How do you possibly describe an infinitely entertaining film? The ‘’That’s it?’’ feeling is the *right* response: why else do you think you have the story about Steeply’s father’s addiction to M*A*S*H* of all things? The addictive thing doesn’t deserve to be addicted to, and yet it happens…

    And of course the description is there for entirely consistent thematic reasons too. The Entertainment as the ultimate mollycoddling; drug-warmth as womb-warmth and vice versa; passivity as the return to infancy, the devoted concern of the mother figure, and finally the absolution, “i’m sorry, i’m sorry’ – not from you admitting you’re sorry, but somebody else doing even that for you.

    INTERLUDE: Fact-checking the fact-checking:
    As much as the words ‘wikipedia says’ are the new ‘webster’s dictonary defines’, you nonetheless don’t have to go much further than wikipedia to check the following:

    – Benzodiazepine and “lightweight tranqs”: had IJ used the term ‘minor’ then RG would be right, it wouldnt make sense now that the terms major and minor had gone out of fashion. however benzodiazepines *are* tranquilisers/sedatives, and not the heaviest in the world so ‘lightweight tranqs’ makes complete sense.

    – Ativan *is* used by vets for its ‘anxiolytc and sedative effects’.

    – re antipsychotics and breathing: ‘respiratory depression: hypoxia and aspiration contents can occur in children and in mixed overdose”.
    Besides, the line about stelazine seems more a joke about being too fucked to breathe rather than a comment about actual health risks of antipsychotics.



    Elsewhere, ramon glazov tells you not only when he was reading Nabokov but when he was so over him – at age 18. (Why not 16? 15? 10?). As someone has pointed out in the comments, there are more young precocious and ultimately incorrect show-offs around here than Hal Incandenza and DFW.

  • 141. Kent  |  March 30th, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    A valid swipe here and there, but this essay mostly fails to connect. Never mind the fact that, my oh my, the author could use an intro rhet/comp refresher, to remind him of the virtues of concision and a susinct thesis. (What was that lengthy departure in the middle all about?! Ohhh: trying to establish some illogical collective DFW, Eggers, Vollmer, “McSweenyite,” straw man to jab at–I see what you did there. Weak sauce.) Mostly I don’t understand all this vitriol. And the Calvinism/conservativism stuff is positively paranoid.

    Wait a second. I’m starting to figure this out. I have wandered into that strange part of the Internet where Hunter S. Thompson and Vonnegut acolytes patch together some strange communion. Someone will surely find an excuse to bring up Bill Hicks soon…

  • 142. Victor  |  May 1st, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Yo Ramon Glazov, from the bottom of a Perth boys heart, this article sucks ass.
    You had 1000 pages to cherry pick Wallace quotes and you came up with some weak ass shit. “Hey guys, this guy wrote information that he got from A BOOK that he had to RESEARCH, what a fraud!”
    “He said unflattering things about addicts… IMAGINE IF HE SAID THOSE SAME THINGS ABOUT MINORITIES!”
    Your Wallace parody doesn’t even approach accuracy, let alone humour.
    I’m not even gonna count the number of times you used “hipster” as a pejorative without irony like a big fukken autistic dweeby.
    Also LMFAO at your implication that Wallace tricks people into thinking he’s clever with pleonasm and obfuscation, given your own writing is wordy unfocused blithering leaving people free to believe its a devastating critique on DFW just because they want it to be.

    “I’ve never read a word of David Foster Wallace, but I read every single word of this critique because there’s nothing I enjoy more than tearing down hipster idols.” – this ignorant idiot shitlord, bandwagoning on opinions he doesn’t even understand to prop up his biases is your target audience, so don’t ever confuse the echo chamber as indicative of your ability.

    To anyone that has read a lot of DFW your post looks like a high school late night assignment based on cliffs notes, which you’ve tried to hide by beating us into submission with a great wall of text. If only someone had given you a few more wedgies.

  • 143. steve jobs  |  May 16th, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    you all suck.

  • 144. steve jobs  |  May 16th, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    and yeah… what Victor said in post 142 is right on.

  • 145. Zep  |  June 9th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I don’t want to make any assumptions about the underlying intentions or personal experience about the author of this article (a courtesy I wish he would have extended to DFW), but he sounds like someone who has never struggled with depression. As someone who has, I found DFW’s descriptions of mental habits and addictions incredibly compelling. The author of this article is correct about both the foolishness of intellectual angst and the feeling of superiority one might derive from it, the whole “they don’t understand me, I feel things more deeply” bullshit. But anyone with depression and a little maturity realizes the fallacy of this sort of thinking—Wallace certainly seems to—and would never argue that there is anything superior about such a distorted and masochistic pattern of thinking.

    Wallace’s first novel, Broom of the System, is most deserving of the claims leveled in this article. Wallace himself said that he was motivated in writing it by “an essentially vapid urge to be linguistically callisthenic.” But as he matured as an author, that style began to take on real substance, definitely in Infinite Jest and more so in the haunting beauty of The Pale King.

    The comparison here to Bret Easton Ellis is just silly. The two authors could not be more differently stylistically. I agree that Ellis is essentially vapid, but Wallace tries (and I think succeeds) in writing, in his words, “about what it means to be a fucking human being.” It’s certainly you’re prerogative to disagree, but you’re missing out on all that Wallace has to offer. It sounds as though you, the author of this article, would prefer the perverse and wacked-out ethos Hemingway

  • 146. john tonkovich  |  June 23rd, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    thanks for stating what needed to be said about david foster wallace.

    an obviously talented man, a victim of some insane childhood, and, ultimately, a man who fell for the aa bullshit, and then constructed an elaborate – yet unconvincing – fiction – about his experience.

    another “post modern”, pseudo intellectual poser. in the end, he was the victim of his own :creativity” (sic).

  • 147. GABRIEL  |  June 24th, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    This article and the comments are both hilariously uninformed and reflect a lot of what the pretentious Glazov argued against. But DFW was one of the few modern writers who wrote against post-modern detachment. Just because ‘hipsters’ like him, Glazov reductively assumes that DFW was everything he hates about modern culture.

    Childish, poorly written, and way too long. Hey Glazov… sounds just like your DFW!

    Oh also, just because you’re a leftist doesn’t mean you’re exempt from acting like a heartless asshole who will write anything for some attention. You’re a scummy symptom of modern capitalism.

  • 148. GABRIEL  |  June 24th, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Oh and also to the commenter who wrote this:

    “Like the hipsters you claim to hate, your writing, no matter how you deride them, shows that you act in exact accordance with them. You judge based on surface level details and revel in self aggrandizing cynicism. You are exactly what you claim to hate, you’re just so up inside of yourself that you can’t see it. Oh, look at you, how cool, how detatched, you can see through the smokescreen that the rest of us can’t. Pure garbage. Infinitely limited mind indeed.”

    Yeah, that too.

  • 149. Mark  |  July 26th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I couldn’t read this whole thing but one glaring rhetorical mistake:
    “(10) Doctors know perfectly well why alcoholics’ hearts are enlarged. It’s called cardiomyopathy.”
    This would be called begging the question: Why do alcoholics get enlarged hearts? Well that’s because they suffer from enlarged heart muscle disease (dialated cardiomyopathy).
    You literary folk are certainly a prickly bunch.

  • 150. Danny  |  July 27th, 2012 at 7:04 am

    I think this is extremely hypocritical. You seem to hate how pretentious he is, and how hard he tried to be unique in his suffering/opinions. But you are no different. I’d say this article has just about the same density of references per unit volume of any work of Wallace, except he doesn’t attempt to find petty mistakes in highly esteemed pieces of literature the way that you are. Also, I think that by reaming his popular and somewhat glamorized work, you’re being a bit of a hipster yourself, only your’e so unique that you can see past the forced uniqueness that unique people like. In your attempt to insult, you have really just displayed the things that you are afraid of seeming to be.

  • 151. Danny  |  July 27th, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Also sorry, but I’m pretty sure ICP is notorious for loudly supporting weed. I guess I could be wrong, but I’ve always made fun of them for being more dumb seeming when it comes to weed than people who can recite passages from cheech and chong.

  • 152. Richard  |  September 2nd, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    The incessant witch-hunt for vapid intellectuals in the “art” world seems to be one of the most common traits of “critics” such as Ramon Glavoz. Armed with irony they approach their victims to unveil them as something ultimately stupid, ugly, and hollow. David Foster Wallace was of course a stupid, and ugly, and hollow human being. Reading through Infinite Jest should key you in on that pretty easily as Glavoz gleefully points out. Yet Glavoz’s purpose here is too myopic to actually lend any effectual criticism on Infinite Jest. In this essay he wants so badly to be part of this sanctimonious crusade to show the praised “intellectuals” for what they really are, that he becomes the imaginary creature he events in the process.

    By debasing Wallace on every level without any actual recourse to reasoned criticism , he entirely misses that beyond Wallace being a stupid, ugly, and hollow being, he was also brilliant, capable of love, and most damning of all, susceptible to being sincere in his writing. I suspect that Glazov truly fears the latter, as even though his own writing seems clear and complete in its loathing, it is riddled with irony and paranoia of ironic intentions by other people. Take for example,

    “This confirms what we’ve always known: secretly, hipsters do like all the dreck they pretend to enjoy ironically.”

    How can a person like Wallace possibly wear t-shirts, if his writing is admired by social elites? Glazov sees the world in absolutes and figures that Wallace must be acting “normal” on occasions with ironic intentions. Yet Glazov’s myopic perspective does not permit him to see Wallace as being entirely sincere. Sincerity for Glazov, while perhaps making him blush and feel alarmed, still exists as a good in humans, a good which is of course entirely illusory. Humans I suspect for Glazov, as in the rest of his writings, are an entirely loathsome species. Glazov’s commitment to debasing sincerity and detailing how he is more privy to the baseness of human beings than Wallace, is a reflection of who Glazov is and what he is trying to become to prove his hypothesis correct. I suspect that if you believe Glazov’s hypothesis to be true, that both, you, and Glazov are, and me, are 100% horrible beings, then it won’t make much of a difference anyway.

    The problem lies when Glazov falls on his sword when writing this piece in the first place. As such, the whole piece is mass array of confusion and ironic bantering. If one were to ask what Glazov really means by this work, one would invariably hear a very DFW-esque reply, “how can you be so banal to ask me what I really mean?”

  • 153. Um -- K  |  November 14th, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Ow … ow … ow …

    Read 15 paragraphs. Scrolled to the comment section. Read 30 comments. Scrolled to ‘Leave a Comment’ section. And: Haha — oh, boy — it’s knee-slapping how Wallace engenders this venom (And to all you Wallace kidz, Glazov isn’t completely off), and then receives plaudit (GREATEST BOOK EVER!!) and defense from the bastion of intellectual elites. Look, either you liked IJ or you didn’t. Thought it was well written or didn’t. Think Wallace failed or succeeded. But to run the gamut over Wallace’s IJ or his Ultimate Success is ridiculous. Glazov may have offended as he took a stab at one of your great World Definers … so what? …

    I’m a huge fan of WTV, and what Glazov writes is arguably personal and dangerously colored … but it’s not an End All Be All … it’s just an opinion. Deal with it.

  • 154. X  |  December 11th, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I think the argument could be made that DFW was a bad man, that his politics were bad, that a lot of the writing he does is a little rushed. But to call him a bad writer is, I think, a stretch. Really good writers are in some way exceptional – they stand out and surprise us. I doubt many people read IJ and remained unsurprised.

  • 155.  |  December 19th, 2012 at 7:48 am

    This post David Foster Wallace: Portrait Of An Infinitely Limited Mind –
    By Ramon Glazov – The eXiled, possesses extremely wonderful info and I learned exactly what I was
    initially searching for. Thanks.

  • 156. FredR  |  January 10th, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    “He then tells us that: “given the Latin roots, it should really be ‘posterior to’… so if you’re saying ‘prior to’ and ‘subsequent to,’ you are, in fact, in a very high-level way, messing up grammatically.” This is wrong. (Prior means the same thing in Latin as it does in English.) Course, you can forgive a writer for not knowing a dead language, but you can’t forgive them for bluffing about “Latin roots” and “high-level” grammatical errors.”

    I’m disappointed that you didn’t take this opportunity to joke that Wallace couldn’t find his own ass (posterior).

  • 157. oracle  |  January 30th, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Doesn’t it hurt that DFW’s skills (nah, make that GIFTS because any hint at any mention of The Divine must feel like burning acid on your skin) and DFW’s ability to “care” (and pull off being DEEPLY LOVED by legions) just keep you tossing and turning all night? Another degenerate’s tantrum over the fact that people who are not deeply, irretrievably, damaged and stripped of their humanity (conscience and spirituality), will always resist depravity and seek meaning and purpose. IJ was genius. You’ll never come close.

  • 158. asdf  |  February 5th, 2013 at 6:24 am

    In your article about David Foster Wallace you might actually want to talk about David Foster Wallace at some point. Seriously, you could cut this article in half and lose nothing (although you could cut Infinite Jest completely and lose nothing).

  • 159. Jim Rosinkoff  |  March 4th, 2013 at 5:57 am

    This is a good review and I agree with a great deal in it, including about the quality of Infinite Jest–having liked The Broom of the System a little, and having many friends who rave about Infinite Jest, I have been truly surprised at how poor it is–among other things, your analysis of DFW’s style seems to me entirely accurate. His racism is also unbelievable–the parts written in his awful version of Black English are as bad as Amos & Andy.

    The only thing I take issue with is your description of the DFW’s knowledge of drugs as second-hand. To me, the book reads as obsessed with drugs, in love with them, and loving to go over details that feel as if the author has experienced them directly (as have I). Have you seen this email to wallace-l, which most people feel is by DFW and which comports with what DTMax has written recently? I’m not sure what is at stake in the difference between making up the drug details and having really experienced them, but for what it’s worth, I think they come from his experience, and I think the book is much poorer for the surprising amount of time it spends ruminating on the pleasures, enticements, seductions, and anomie of drug use.

  • 160. Dude  |  March 19th, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I’m obsessed with bourgeoise assholes: could I please stop policing “hipster” when I mean “I don’t get laid”? I sound like fucking moron. Thanks.

  • 161. Marc  |  March 19th, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Loved it!; read it several times!

  • 162. Matt  |  March 22nd, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I was about to type something, and then I realized that #71 already said it all.

  • 163. mike  |  March 30th, 2013 at 12:14 am

    I have rarely felt like anything from Infinite Jest was talking over my head; as a BA student I do not find that this book causes me any apprehension towards breaking into writing. He is one of the few authors I’ve read lately from whom I’ve learned a fair few new words, and the creativity of his content is excellent in my opinion. I would say that his prose could have been cleaned up some, but I do not see any pretentiousness or try-hard one-upping here.

  • 164. G.  |  June 2nd, 2013 at 12:13 am

    I like #157, who refutes the idea that Wallace was a crypto-conservative scold doling out cheap, lurid thrills-n’-chills out of anyone who strayed from the Shining Golden Path… by calling detractors not just ‘wrong’ or even ‘dumb’ but ‘degenerate’, while puttering on about moral absolutes and broken souls like some Christer blown in from Tornado Alley.

    It’s neat.

  • 165. William  |  August 3rd, 2013 at 5:41 am

    Good stuff. Insidious moralising is DFW’s main problem, secondary to that is his useless eloquence. This article pretty much summarises everything I feel about him.

  • 166. czach  |  August 8th, 2013 at 5:18 am

    Erm okay

    But I get less from this review than I get reading DFWs reviews and books. The point of literature is to tap into that vast subconscious of the mind to invoke cathartic reactions in order to facilitate an outburst of emotions or whatever that good feeling is when you read something good. DFW can tap into that subconscious and help invoke that feeling of bliss inside me when I read it.

    I feel you also missed the whole point of his writing style. Even though he uses multiple obtuse words, the style is still completely readable. I mean look at his essays and see the amazing way they flow together.

    You know if you actually beyond Infinite Jest and tackle DFW’s reviews you would probably learn how to write better essays and reviews. He realizes that to argue why a book is good one shouldn’t feign objectivity. The person’s experience of a book is, in the end, subjective. The only way you can argue convincingly whether something is good or bad is if you lay out every single psychological motivation for not liking the book. A review that feigns objectivity through grandiose statements and unsupported opinions just comes off as flimsy.

    Look at it this way. In the end this review presumes that a person has read the book (well I’m assuming this due to its spoileriffic nature). Your takedown only serves to aid those that actually dislike the book and does damage to those that like the book. The reason is that literature, this interesting beast, doesn’t attack through reason but intuitive emotion. If a person feels an innate connection with a IJ your takedown will not invalidate the feelings of bliss he received when he actually read the book. Your review is only there to stroke the massive egos of those people that hate the book and want a valid reason to hate on the book even more. Your review serves no purpose other than trying to increase your internet ego by proving that your intellect transcends the intellect of DFW.

    In this case the only way your negative review (and any negative review) can be justified is if it discards the facade of trying to be an objective source of information and becomes a subjective source. That way it turns into a piece of art in itself rather than a mere empty rhetoric. Then the person will know whether he may share the same subjective tastes as you and will not enjoy IJ. In fact DFW successfully convinced me how Dostoyevsky might relate to my own individual experience by laying out properly how it relates to his own individual ideals and feelings. Your piece is entirely unconvincing, throwing out random bits and pieces of a work of art and claiming how it is invalid because of some analysis you extracted from the text. Then afterwards claiming anyone who reads it is merely a poseur hack.

    In the first place this poseur word presumes that the stuff the author writes does not actually sync with his feelings or thoughts. If applied to the reader it presumes that the reader is reading it without enjoying it but merely to add it to a shiny wall of literary trophies. Firstly, I think words like ‘poseur’ and ‘pretentious’ when applied to authors and creators doesn’t exactly apply since as long as a single individual creates anything at all that individual cannot be ‘posing’ in any way. It can only be pretend if maybe it was made by multiple people so the original intent of the author was undermined (e.g. advertisements where the creative vision is torn apart by profit motives). Okay maybe I can understand if you apply words like ‘poseur’ or ‘hipster’ to readers but that generalization is utterly flawed and undermines the nature and value of literature itself. In the first place reading for pleasure and reading for the showing off are NOT mutually exclusive. A person may have the intention of reading a book just to show off but what he genuinely feels while reading the book cannot MERELY be ‘posing’. A better example of ‘posing’ is a person who hates a book but reads it to the end anyway just to add it to a list rather than a person who likes a book and finishes it.

    Then, in the end by applying the word ‘hipster’ and ‘poseur’ to your review you are making massive generalizations about the people reading the book. Every human is an extremely complex creature that derives different things from every book. This is the problem with your review and actually any sort of literary criticism and also why the Death of the Author concept is so important. With the Death of the Author concept we can invalidate the facade of an objective review and once again reinforce the most important point that ART IS ENTIRELY SUBJECTIVE.

    All in all, your review fails at rhetoric (to me of course since I can’t talk for others), fails at forming an empathetic link and it also makes massive generalizations that need to be squashed.

  • 167. Sean  |  September 7th, 2013 at 5:44 am

    I think the main reason for all the random technical information/jargon in IJ was not for it to be accurate (though that would have been cool) but simply to set the tone of a future dystopia with there being way too much technical information and people being bombarded with it.

    That being said, I agree he gets carried away at times.

    I really like DFW as a writer though. I took an intro English lit class taught by him in college. The class was fun, which lead me to read some of his books. In my experience, to say the least he was nice and, I think, pretty much always truthful with us in what he felt or believed about things, and I’m very happy I was able to meet him.

  • 168. Mr. X  |  September 19th, 2013 at 10:22 am

    I enjoyed your lengthy essay. DFW was a hack writer and was not original but it’s amusing how a lot of people think he was just because of his novel IJ which is not original.

  • 169. hibuddy  |  October 7th, 2013 at 8:16 am

    strong butthurt from DFW fanboys, thank you random Australian dude

  • 170. Stian  |  October 18th, 2013 at 9:22 am

    These are some basic facts which the writer of the above criticism was seemingly unaware of at the time of writing:

    1: Infinite Jest is a work of science fiction

    2. The language of the novel, and the varying chapterettes, is not written in the
    mood of an omniscient narrator, rather the language and the ideas are the characters’ own, hence the large number of linguistic curios and deliberate mistakes for humour’s sake (think Orin Incandenza’s use of hiati, intended plural of hiatus). Hence trawling through IJ and looking for mistakes, as if these constitute individual failings of authorial intention, or authorial ignorance, is obviously a flawed approach given the obvious and deliberate fallibility of the text.

    3. On the slightly banausic question on correct naming of drugs, q.v. points 1 and 2 above. E.g., tetracylic and quadracyclic, you cite the latter as an example of Wallace’s ignorance, when from a language point of view the quadra- is the logical extension of the original naming convention. A lot of the neologisms in the work (I’m not saying this is one) come about through correct and seemingly-correct logical extensions of language rules. Naming conventions especially around corporations are another one of the big jokes in the book, think phrases like ‘Saprogenic greetings!’, the frequent used of ‘©’ after names to indicate the absurdisms that corporations wreak upon our language, and of course, most obviously, the products of subsidized time and their tongue-twisting naming rights.

    Finally – and this is a sort of general point about human desires and beliefs – it seems a little strange to devote a significant amount of time reading a 1000 page complexly written novel and come away from it with ’99 things that are seriously wrong with it’. IJ features some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read in a book – it also features some of the densest language. I struggle to understand the mentality of a person who approaches a work of literature with the mindset of discovering a single reading of it. The point/idea of art is the ambiguity, the multiple readings and the shifting meanings that history and other interpretations can reveal. To try to limit a novel into a very narrow reading – to try to see less, and circumscribe other people’s enjoyment of something – I mean, who does that? It’s just a little fucking weird, and little fucking sad. It’s like you’re the kind of guy who will go out with a girl on a first date, have a good time, and then later complain to his mates that her breasts aren’t the right shape.

  • 171. nope  |  November 15th, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Wow – I smell rank jealously. I also hear the whoooooosh of something going straight over your head, which doesn’t quite mask the sound of your hamfisted attempts to copy his writing style falling flat like miss-struck notes.

  • 172. Brandon  |  November 25th, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    This article itself seems to be much more guilty of the crimes for which the author wants to indict DFW. Freud had a word for this: projection.

  • 173. Paul R. Gauthierq  |  January 14th, 2014 at 4:13 am

    Moat of this article isn’t even ABOUT David Foster Wallace… I noticed someone else commented:




    I’ve just started Infinite Jest. And I can already see that you’ve completely missed the point of the book and are, in reality, pretty much identical with everything you’re railing against.


    That first chapter is OH SO OBVIOUSLY a nod to Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Do you really think you’re THAT fucking clever for figuring this out? Fuck off.

    And, from what I’ve seen so far, Hal isn’t supposed to be a moral equivalent to Gregor Samsa: those very flaws you described (quite accurately) are there on purpose. ON PURPOSE. I’ll let you ruminate as to WHY they’re there. Since you consider yourself such a genius, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Actually, I doubt you will…. You’re too busy NOT EDITING your articles.

    On the other hand, I actually agree with a lot of what you wrote. Especially about Requiem For A Dream. Well, what I read of that. TfuckingL;DNR again.

    Learn to fucking edit, already.


    For what it’s worth, I didn’t actually consider Requiem, the film at least, a “cautionary tale” at all. I felt it actually //romanticises// drugs, far more than a film like Trainspotting which is anything BUT a romanticisation of heroin use. Then again, Chick publications and propaganda like Reefer Madness had the effect of romanticising their subject matter…

    Anyway, what are you some mad, bad, dangerous to know libertarian? Yeah… I’m so bored with that shit…

    Actually, you’re probably just a guy who flunked out of librarian school. How quaint.

  • 174. Michael  |  January 23rd, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I couldn’t agree more with most of your analysis.Though I don’t read a lot of contemperary fiction–so dreary. I did dip into some of DFW’s essays before I thought I would tackle IJ, but they, the essays, were so navel gazzing and squalid I could not bear up to 1000 pp of the same drivel fictionalized! I mean- what is all the fuss about? He isn’t even especially literate-at time. And that greasy long hair and a dew-rag (douchie!)–what a pose. I have met, and amired people who are more profound and radical thinkers and writers (than DFW and his ilk) who do not require a special uniform to prove it. I’m sorry for what ever torments drove him to his death, but that fact, the fact of his suicide should not shine any special light onto his prose, as I’m afraid it does for some.

  • 175. Adam  |  February 4th, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    This essay is the gift that keeps on giving. Years later, and DFuckingW fandyevs are still screaming from the butthurt.

  • 176. Matt  |  February 20th, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Such vitriol and general condemnation (and simplistic characterization) of people who enjoy something you don’t. Wise strategy; in that people *LOVE* hearing that something they don’t “get” is sucky.
    I’m not saying for sure that there is anything to “get”. Way too early for hyperbole in either direction, I reckon.

    You remind me of that dude who *cannot let it go* that somebody likes a band who *SHOULD NOT BE LIKED*, dadgummit! To keep it Aussie, I get this from Metallica fans who can’t stand that I grew up on, and love, AC/DC.

    You’ve struck a chord, clearly! I suspect you don’t intend merely sour grapes … catch you when you excoriate House of Leaves …

    I feel hatred for the Eagles, me: but like ’em if you like.

    I like DFW, generally. His essays in particular, and Infinite Jest ss well. Ain’t everybody’s cup of tea, but what the hell–I preferred Stephen King to Shakespeare ’til I was 25.

  • 177. Joey  |  March 21st, 2014 at 6:42 am

    I’ve always thought that DFW’s real problem was a lack of familiarity and/or appreciation for literature, and it shows in his work. It’s clear that being a writer was “Plan B” for him after his math/philosophy career didn’t pan out.

  • 178. Joelo Martin  |  May 21st, 2014 at 1:22 am

    I Haven’t read the book, but I heard a lot of good reactions and caught my attention, is it still being sold in any stores? please let me know thank you.

  • 179. Dan  |  May 27th, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Better than Infinite Jest!

  • 180. Another Graham  |  June 10th, 2014 at 12:00 am

    Re: 111

    As I have sometimes commented on this site under the name “Graham,” I would hereby like to inform posterity that I have nothing to do with that idiot.

    (Now to see if these comment sections actually still update. If somebody is still on duty on the other end, bless your redoubtable heart.)

  • 181. Hans Wurst  |  June 20th, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Some good thoughts, comrade. For me IJ is still a funny book and DWF a mixture of Sheldon Cooper and some light version of John “N.R.” Wayne. The sophisticated sportsman. I like dat. All the other guys are just lame asses (besides Goethe. If there’s any reason to learn german,…) I’ll go ahead and read the Pale King.

  • 182. Ferris  |  September 4th, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Glazov might just be a troll on steriods. Perhaps he has discerned genuine flaws in the books he discusses here, but he seems to miss their overarching messages and value. I get the impression that he is intimidated by these authors, so he wants to cut them down to size.

    Wallace’s intentions seem to be (1) to self-heal by embracing humility and by devoting himself to his work, (2) to aid in the healing process of others through his empathy and humor, and (3) to expand our knowledge and awareness of the particulars of society and nature. Eggers seems to have similar intentions. Maybe Vollman is less altruistic and more voyeuristic–though each of these authors, and perhaps all authors, share this quality to some extent and would probably admit it.

    Discussing flaws is fine. Writing off an author’s contributions because of minor flaws* is foolish.

    *Or the flaws of family members?? What does Eggers’ brother have to do with Eggers’ work?

  • 183. Txomin  |  September 6th, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    What an absolutely half-baked attempt at an analogy. DFW and Selby Jr.? Infinite Jest and Evangelical Calvinism?? Sounds like a Hal Incandenza essay.

    But the biggest irony here is that you’ve completely missed the point of IJ. If Wallace were alive and could see the passages you quoted he would probably die laughing, before even taking in the straw grasping and utter moronism of your arguments.

    I completely agree with you that Ellis, Franzen, Eggers, Selby, Vollmann (especially fucking Vollmann) et al are all awful, awful, horrible writers. Horrible people too, from most aspects. In terms of DFW, I have to say from what I’ve read in interviews he certainly doesn’t come off as insightful as I would have thought, and his often strange, conservative take belies his image. But I boil this down to social anxiety, depression, alienation, confusion, etc. All things I personally know are extremely strange and hard to deal with especially while trying to talk to people, let alone strangers with cameras and microphones…. I’m not saying he might not have had some idiotic ideas, I’m just saying there is a lot more to the limp, myopic picture you’ve painted.

    Not to mention, the personal ideas or habits of a writer or artist, and that of his fans – you used “hipster” no less than five times in one paragraph, clever writing is not so much your thing, I think – should have nothing to do with the art itself. I know this is a whole different argument, and sometimes it’s hard to justify art made by Nazi’s, but if you’re going to write a “takedown” of a book, and not be laughed out of the room, it may work better to not mention how much you hate “hipsters”/DFW fans/Both. It kind of makes your entire argument fall over.

    There’s so many other things I could nit-pick over but I’ve already spent too long on this BS and I’m making a giant ass of myself. Nevertheless, I can’t stop myself because I’m trying to pretend that this post didn’t hurt me, and I’m not convinced yet. So let me continue. And before someone jumps down my throat, I’m not a huge DFW fan, I really like some of his writing. There is no emotional attachment here. I think IJ is a hilarious book, it just needed to be seriously edited A LOT. And btw, all that medical stuff, well, IJ is basically set in an alternate world, so again, all your arguments completely fall apart. Wooo good one, you rumbled DFW to not be the great genius polymath everyone thought he was! The book is filled with errata, so much so that…. No, I’m not even going to explain it because you’ll just yell “Hipster Irony! Hipster Irony!”
    ugh what’s the point.

    PS, I hear something in my head, it’s readers going:

    fuck you, voices in my head. I love David Foster 3-Names! I want to be him!

  • 184. Persephone  |  September 15th, 2014 at 8:58 am

    I don’t believe that DFW ever had a real addiction problem. He was in that facility to get info for a book, or the addiction story was cover for what he was really there for — treatment for mental illness.

    He claims he was an “end stage addict”, yet his drug of choice was pot and alcohol? Really? Where are all the stories of destruction he wrought while drunk? He was able to quit quite easily, unlike most true addicts.

  • 185. 1 less lib  |  September 27th, 2014 at 10:40 am

    bwahahahaha, the liberal douchebag druggie hung himself!

  • 186. stanislas Regos  |  December 12th, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    don’t have the faintest idea why Jest fans mistake crusty Evangelical values like these for some cutting-edge piece of quantum mechanics, but they do.

    This pretty much says it all about your diatribe. “not the faintest idea.”

  • 187. Paul  |  December 14th, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Comment #140 owns your puny, phony, bitter soul.

  • 188. okey  |  January 7th, 2015 at 2:59 am

    so your primary fault with dfw is that he’s too verbose and then you write a huge screed that basically amounts to saying that you dont like the book while using some hilariously pedantic fact-checking to lend yourself authority.

    at least after reading one of dfw’s long-ass pieces you have something to brag about to “hipsters”, this long-ass piece just made my ass hurt

  • 189. William  |  January 16th, 2015 at 2:21 am

    JeeZus, this reads like a conservapedia entry on Liberals. So much straw man nonsense and ad hominem venom.

    Are the commenters breathlessly exalting the writer of the article really doing so unironically? If so, it’s quite a tactic: launch an attack against this furiously contrived cult by forming a replacement cult.

    “Only literary critic worth reading” Everyone needs their very own rhetorical genius to tell them what to think.

  • 190. hank  |  February 22nd, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Those who are middlebrow cult-worshippers go into comments and whinge about criticism of their cult hero. Fuck you. Infinite Jest is a great book for sad fucks like me.

  • 191. OKAWA SHUMEI  |  March 17th, 2015 at 1:49 am

    Please scroll up and read comment #152 before adding a new comment. It’s a good one, you won’t regret it. Thanks

  • 192. Jim Rickson  |  July 3rd, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    I’m sure I can’t really claim to be able to argue with most of what is discussed in this article of in the comments. I got to this page after googling “infinite jest misogyny ” … In any case, while I find that latter part of this article interesting – that is, the creepy and corrosive, and strange, conservatism of “hipster” circles … the bit at the top about Infinite Jest being like Reefer Madness is ridiculous. I haven’t seen Requiem for a Dream, and don’t plan to, and don’t think it is in the same category as Jest, but it also almost certainly has nothing to do with Calvinism. Let’s just leave it at a matter of subjectivity and, understandable, failure of imagination. Addiction, even without hell or even just plain secular fatality, is actually THAT BAD. If you can’t feel the “quailia” of that by reading Infinite Jest or watching Spun or any of the other drug books/movies, you’re not going to. And yes, thank God for that.

  • 193. Jeff Scott  |  August 8th, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Hard to know where to begin in responding to this. Perhaps the most strikingly backwards pervasive theme here is the thought that fiction writers are concerned foremost with advancing religious or political agendas, all the while trying to obscure this objective. If you really cynically assume that is the purpose of fiction you should probably just stop reading books. The message is not anti drug, there is no evangelical conspiracy. There’s only one real individual person struggling to understand his world, his experiences, through the creative process. Wallace had MAJOR addiction issues and is drawing heavily from his own experiences. Any addict can relate to what he has written here. Your contempt for his work, for one thing among many, demonstrates you do not understand addiction and its true nature. He’s not being pious, he’s trying to stay alive. I guarentee you political, religious, or social activism was far from his mind while writing about AA.

  • 194. JCDC  |  August 18th, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Holy schnikies! This critique is EPIC man. Totally. Seriously, I have felt this way about these writers for so long and didn’t have the audience or the inclination to write it all down. I appreciate this so very much. Overrated doesn’t begin to describe this post-new-wave post-self-obsessed post-affected post-desperately undersexed group of guys with computers.

  • 195. Roderick  |  August 27th, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Nice article, I enjoyed it a lot

  • 196. watch movies online  |  August 31st, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    His co-stars are Daniel Cudmore and Roger Cross.

  • 197. Sam  |  September 28th, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    You’re wrong about Vollmann. I never understood the praise that Wallace got over Vollmann at the time. IJ resonated with certain people, but it is not better than any book Vollmann made at the time, and certainly not now.

    100 years from now, people might agree with you on Wallace, but not about Vollmann.

  • 198. Hidden  |  November 16th, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Comment 59 sums up my thoughts; in particular the following: “In the 60′s the trope was that the novel was dead. We’re now subjected to necrophagic cloistered pseudo-intellectuals feasting on its zombie remains, telling us it’s tasty and nutritious. Eat with us! You don’t want to come off like one of them booshwah middlebrows, do ya?”

  • 199. Seth  |  February 18th, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    A sad, crackpot attempt to dethrone worthy authors whose style and sincerity go leagues beyond what this poor fool could ever put out.
    Regarding Selby, I’m sorry, am I mistaken that Heroin abuse ruins lives? Should he avoid any aspiration to depict this addiction as terrible? Should he not invoke traditions aimed at human redemption to counter the vicious allure of hard drugs?
    The critique of these writers and their prose is pathetic. One should at least acquire some sound sense of style before an attack is launched at those who push boundaries of taste and composition

  • 200. Nikhil Cheerla  |  May 7th, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Honestly, I thought that Infinite Jest was a reasonably good book – some good ideas there — that could be condensed into maybe one page. (His editor dropped the ball here, big time). “This is Water” is that page. When you read it, you’ll see the ideas he’s trying to push, when he’s not dressing it up in pretentious prose, actually are pretty interesting.

    I don’t understand why you think crypto-Calvinism is a bad thing? Just because ideas are old, doesn’t mean they’re not worth hearing – and I think its clear that modern culture leaves at least some people empty and depressed.

  • 201. MrXander  |  July 15th, 2016 at 8:26 am

    They already said it (quoting other comments):

    After the third paragraph, I could tell that the writer of this article has no clue about what it is like to live. If the writer of the article had a mirror, perhaps he could laugh at himself and get closer to understanding DFW, but the writer’s ego is surely too large for that.

    So you picked out a few passages you didn’t like in a 1,000 page book, consistently confused the narrator for the author and nitpicked semantics, and this is a “takedown”? This is almost as embarrassing as some of the comments.

    So please. No more Lit Grad petty bitch fight stuff.

    . . . whacking away at Wallace the way you did sounds like it was written by a jealous man. . .

    A sad, crackpot attempt to dethrone worthy authors whose style and sincerity go leagues beyond what this poor fool could ever put out.
    Regarding Selby, I’m sorry, am I mistaken that Heroin abuse ruins lives? Should he avoid any aspiration to depict this addiction as terrible? Should he not invoke traditions aimed at human redemption to counter the vicious allure of hard drugs?
    The critique of these writers and their prose is pathetic. One should at least acquire some sound sense of style before an attack is launched at those who push boundaries of taste and composition.


  • 202. agitatedinxenon  |  September 26th, 2016 at 11:11 am

    DFW had one good idea in his entire life. How lucky for us all he succeeded in carrying it out.

  • 203. Nietzsche  |  September 28th, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    “I do not like him.” — Why? — “I am not a match for him.” — Has anyone ever answered like that?

  • 204. DWF-esque  |  June 7th, 2017 at 8:33 am

    Probably the best review I have read. DFW fans will never recover. Seriously good stuff.

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