David Foster Wallace was the most important author of my generation.
That’s a rather sweeping statement, however having just finished re-reading Infinite Jest after a decade of it collecting dust since my first read of it, that’s the only conclusion I can arrive at. The man was a genius. His evocative use of language and fearless pushing of the post-modern sensibility was awe inspiring. Many use Thomas Pynchon in the same sentence, however that doesn’t do DFW justice, IMO.
Is he easy to read? No. There are sentences that run half a densely-packed page, and endnotes that run four or five pages. Is the story coherent? Depends on what you mean by “story” and “coherent.”
But is it an incredible, one-of-a-kind read that can and should redefine what fiction can be? Does it make one feel ashamed and unworthy to set words to paper? Does it make one sad that a talent this immense, this outsized, took his own life, robbing the world of a virtuoso the scale of a Mozart or a Nijinsky?
Yup. All that and more.
It’s also the literary equivalent of a nine-course gourmet French meal prepared by three-star Michelin chefs. My suggestion is that if you’re a writer and are unfamiliar with David Foster Wallace’s work, you should pick up Infinite Jest and take a month to read it – not to demoralize or bewilder you, but rather to give you a sense of the possible.
I know this is all off-topic, however between finishing up The Geronimo Breach and editing the final revision before publishing it, and doing my final polish of Zero Sum, I gravitated to the bookcase and became re-acquainted with DFW, which is somewhat akin to going to church, at least in my lexicon.
On a different note, I’ve gotten several e-mails asking me what’s next now that Fatal Exchange is available on Kindle and beginning its sales ramp with a few positive reader reviews (gracias for the kind words). Well, I’m about 20K words into The Delphi Chronicle, and that should be done by August 15, on the outside. Then I’m going to switch gears, and move from the smushed-together amalgam of Ludlum/DeMille (Nelson, not Cecil) that I tend to favor for my stories, to a stylistic departure, wherein I serialize the protagonist from Zero Sum (which should be on Kindle beginning of August, with any sort of tail wind whatsoever), but in a completely unexpected way. Think Da Vinci Code crossed with Raiders of the Lost Ark, and liberally sprinkle some Foucault’s Pendulum.
I’ve always wanted to write something like this, but lacked the desire to do the mountain of research a good effort requires. We’ll see how that goes – I can say that so far, at least at the outline stage, it’s by far the most Byzantine and complicated story line I’ve done, but it also gives me goose bumps when fleshing it out, which is a good thing. After getting through with Geronimo, where the protagonist is a deeply, chronically flawed character with every imaginable vice and shortcoming (which is easily the most fun character I’ve ever created, at least to write) who survives in spite of anything he does rather than because of it, moving to a research-intensive novel with heavy historical elements is as much of a departure for me as shooting for writing Harry Potter Meets The Android King. But that’s what keeps it fun, no?
I’ll try to blog more often over the summer, although I’m keenly aware that my opinions are seldom in as brisk a demand as I’d like to imagine (apologies to Strunk & White), however for better or worse, they’ll be online with at least some regularity.
Oh, and a final thought. At the risk of being Dr. Obvioso, this Christmas will be the year of the e-reader. I heard a voice in my head, and it never lies. Hardly.