Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dream, Dream, Dream

I am not generally prone to fannish devotions or obsessions, but last night I dreamt that David Foster Wallace and I were friends.* We were riding around town, having just come from his arranging for his funeral.** Though when I say "riding around town", it sounds like we were in the same vehicle, but by some sort of dream logic, we weren't: Wallace was riding an odd bicycle taxi thing—or maybe a bicycle with a sidecar? I was in another nearby vehicle, a convertible perhaps? or another pedal-taxi? But we talked as easily as if we were seated together in a quiet room. And when I say "having just come from", it sounds like there was an unambiguous solid chronology, but really, the one may have proceeded the other, or the other may have proceeded the one, or they may have occurred in parallel. We talked of various things, though I only remember the last: I was explaining how the streets of the Broadmoor neighborhood are particularly bewildering, how the near-Euclidean grid of Uptown breaks down as the major avenues, the spokes of Uptown's fan, converge towards Broadmoor's vertex (well, actually, the vertex is implied but never quite realized in the distance beyond Broadmoor), at last devolving into a wildly non-Euclidean directionless jumble of tangled, veering streets and Spanish eclectic bungalows......

And then I woke up, and it was morning, and there were no pedal-taxis to be seen, and I realized that David Foster Wallace and I weren't friends and never could be, and the whole thing was just a little bit sad.

* Being a painfully slow reader and, somehow, innately sluggish, I am perpetually a little behind the cultural Zeitgeist (my belated discovery of "Men at Work" foreshadowed an ensuing life of showing up late to the pop-party), and I knew nothing of Wallace but his name before a few months ago, nothing in particular about who he was or which of the famous precocious tomes of the nineties he had written. I'd certainly never read a single page of his work until one afternoon, a little while back, when I glanced over at a library book Sarah had set down on the bed and saw a page laden with far more footnotes than even I would have dared, and picked it up, wondering what the hell it was all about, and discovered that it was his book of essays, Consider the Lobster, and I read "Authority and American Usage" and found that, though my root sympathies have always resided with the descriptivists, and though Wallace is, in his marrow, a SNOOT, his fundamental analysis of the linguistic battlefield is exactly as I would have described, only somehow more thoroughly and precisely stated, and his ultimate balanced conclusion was again somehow was just the thing, and the obsession slowly blossomed, and I found myself watching Googled footage of him grimacing nervously at Charlie Rose, and then, after some hesitation, I dipped my toe into the uncertain waters of the big book, and then there was no turning back. (I'd feared that my turtle-like pace-of-reading combined with his torrential abundance of pages would require me to go on sabbatical for a year to finish the damn thing, except that I'm not an academic and therefore don't have sabbatical, but fortunately, a combination of staying up late more nights than I should plus a month of jury duty with plenty of downtime brought me through it earlier than expected.) And now he's laid claim to substantial swaths of my daily (and apparently, nightly) thought-space and has hunkered down on my very short list of super-fan fixations (a list whose only other occupant is
, I believe, "The Wire").

** In light of his suicide last year (an event I was largely oblivious of at the time), this is, of course, a grim and unhappy detail. But dreams will be what they will be, grim, unhappy, hilarious, pensive, in any order, or all at once, if they so choose. And
strangely, in the context of the dream-narrative, it didn't feel the least bit sad.

1 comment:

  1. I lurk your blog in what I like to consider a non-stalkerish way and hope you don't mind my commenting. I started DFW's Infinite Jest two days before he offed himself and I STILL haven't finished it. I admire your tenacity. I was a student of writing at the U of I when DFW was a teacher of writing at Illinois State. My BIL attended IS at the time and said DFW was a shadowy fixture on campus, somehow always seen but never heard. He must have saved it all up for his books.