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September 13, 2008

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In Memoriam: DFW

I’ve read these two or three sentences from Infinite Jest over and over since I first encountered them. Scenes from what may be a junkie’s last hit, in a bathroom during a party:

‘I say is someone in there?’ The voice is the young post-New Formalist from Pittsburgh who affects Continental and wears an ascot that won’t stay tight, with that hesitant knocking of when you know perfectly well someone’s in there, the bathroom door composed of thirty-six that’s three times a lengthwise twelve recessed two-bevelled squares in a warped rectangle of steam-softened wood, not quite white, the bottom outside corner right here raw wood and mangled from hitting the cabinets’ bottom drawer’s wicked metal knob, through the door and offset ‘Red’ and glowering actors and calendar and very crowded scene and pubic spiral of pale blue smoke from the elephant-colored rubble of ash and little blackened chunks in the foil funnel’s cone, the smoke’s baby-blanket blue that’s sent her sliding down along the wall past knotted washcloth, towel rack, blood-flower wallpaper and intricately grimed electrical outlet, the light sharp bitter tint of a heated sky’s blue that’s left her uprightly fetal with chin on knees in yet another North American bathroom, deveiled, too pretty for words, maybe the Prettiest Girl Of All Time (Prettiest G.O.A.T.), knees to chest, slew-footed by the radiant chill of the claw-footed tub’s porcelain, Molly’s had somebody lacquer the tub in blue, lacquer, she’s holding the bottle, recalling vividly its slogan for the last generation was The Choice of a Nude Generation, when she was of back-pocket height and prettier by far than any of the peach colored titans they’d gazed up at, his hand in her lap her hand in the box and rooting down past candy for the Prize, more fun way too much fun inside her veil on the counter above her, the stuff in the funnel exhausted though it’s still smoking thinly, its graph reaching its highest spiked prick, peak, the arrow’s best descent, so good she can’t stand it and reaches out for the cold tub’s rim’s cold edge to pull herself up as the white- party-noise reaches, for her, the sort of stereophonic precipice of volume to teeter on just before the speakers blow, people barely twitching and conversations strettoing against a ghastly old pre-Carter thing saying ‘We’ve Only Just Begun,’ Joelle’s limbs have been removed to a distance where their acknowledgment of her commands seems like magic, both clogs simply gone, nowhere in sight, and socks oddly wet, pulls her face up to face the unclean medicine-cabinet mirror, twin roses of flame still hanging in the glass’s corner, hair of the flame she’s eaten now trailing like the legs of wasps through the air of the glass she uses to locate the de-faced veil and what’s inside it, loading up the cone again, the ashes from the last load make the world’s best filter: this is a fact. Breathes in and out like a savvy diver –

‘Look here then who’s that in there? Is someone in there? Do open up, I’m on one foot then the other out here. I say Notkin someone’s been in here locked in and well, sounding unwell, amid rather a queer scent.’

– and is knelt vomiting over the lip of the cool blue tub, gouges on the tub’s lip revealing sandy white gritty stuff below the lacquer and porcelain, vomiting muddy juice and blue smoke and dots of mercuric red into the claw-footed trough, and can hear again and seems to see, against the fire of her closed lids’ blood, bladed vessels aloft in the night to monitor flow, searchlit helicopters, fat fingers of blue light from one sky, searching.

Posted September 13, 2008 at 7:07 | Comments (4) | Permasnark
File under: Books, Writing & Such


I haven't read Infinite Jest, but feel as if it's still affected my life & brain, via you and others. As if it's a work of such brilliance that even (especially?) filtered through other minds it can still scorch you a little.

I feel that way about DFW in general.

His Kenyon commencement speech stands as one of the clearest, truest pieces of writing I've ever read.

I still remember reading those disorienting few sentences and falling under the spell of Infinite Jest. All these years later, they almost make a lot more sense.

I found out about David Foster Wallace's death here. Then I clicked through my RSS reader to see the New York Times headline, "Postmodern Writer Is Found Dead In Home."

Something about that sentence -- the weight given each word, their priority, the deranging impersonality of each of them, especially "home"? -- made me want to vomit.

I thought it most appropriate to post my real eulogy over on MetaFilter.

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