34 thoughts on “Bret Easton Ellis on David Foster Wallace: “The Most Tedious, Overrated, Tortured, Pretentious Writer of My Generation”

  1. couldn’t give a rat’s ass for BEE, but he hit the bull’s eye with this string of jeremiads —->>>>>>>>> it’s time someone popped that sanctimonious ballon.

    1. I don’t think he hit any bull’s eye (although to be fair it’s Twitter, and this is a guy who spends half his time Tweeting about Fifty Shades of Grey)–he aims at Wallace’s fans, the cult that’s grown around him since his death, his image, his aura, his perceived neediness—but not the writing itself.

      1. And I agree w/ that. I like Wallace & Ellis. But, yes, it was quick: all of a sudden this cultish fanfare crops up (literally) once Wallace is dead. Where were they when he lived?

        1. I don’t know, I mean, he was recognized in his life time for sure. I’ve been a fan of DFW since ’97, and that was via friends who were also into his stuff. He was popular when I was an undergrad back in the late nineties. He was widely recognized too for IJ in the popular media, as well as A Supposedly Fun Thing. I remember being excited when Oblivion came out.
          But yeah, I think the internet (i.e., not necessarily the Real World) was quick to canonize him—I understand BEE picking on this, and I also think DFW’s rep has been diminished in some ways by all the extrapolations about his life (and death) and by people who don’t actually read the work, or by people who feel forced to read the work.

      2. His tweets seem to be as much about what he takes to be the quality of DFW’s writing as the sainthood that’s developed around his “legacy”. Pretentiousness, pursuit of greatness, talent that wasn’t, etc.

        1. Hey, Brad (weird to be talking about this with you on the blog and not twitter) — I don’t know, I mean, I know twitter doesn’t leave much room for an actual elaboration of evidence, but don’t you think he’s really just pointing toward a perception of pretentiousness? It’s such an easy criticism too—I mean, IJ is huge, stylized, all over the place, diction is all over the place, etc. I’m not even sure BEE has really read DFW.

          1. Yeah, that seems fair. Though BEE is among the last I’d go to for critique of even something he’s read closely. I just don’t know that he’s leveling his thoughts squarely at DFW’s readers.

  2. BEE is a top heavy drama quean. All these young pussy cats with no mental testicular fluid to give them fiber. Life’s just one b*tt f**k after another to hear them tell it.

  3. I can’t believe how thin-skinned Ellis is. DFW bitch-slapped him in print, what, like 20-25 years ago? But then again, Ellis is just living up to his reputation as a necrophiliac. American Pyscho was an autobiography. I don’t care what Ellis says. Thank god Ellis learned how to type, because if he didn’t, there would probably be scores of dead male hustlers lying in the hidden ravines of the Angeles National Forest. And Ellis calling out another writer for being a fame whore is pretty rich. Just keep pumping out those low-budget erotic thrillers you seem so enamored of right now, Bret. Don’t worry about the rest of us.

  4. If you – not you, but “you” – are one of those people who thinks that DFW had no talent, no literary talent, then I dare you, I double-dog dare you, to try and write like him, even in the parodic sense. To even try and parody his style would tax most people’s brainpower. That’s like saying Michael Jordan was a mediocre basketball player, or that J. Mascis can’t really play the guitar. All available evidence points in the opposite direction. What bothers Ellis the most, of course (and what bothers most writers under the age of 55 [maybe with exception of Vollman, who I am convinced will win the Nobel Prize before it's all said and done]) is that the title of Best Writer of His Generation has been settled. It’s over. David Foster Wallace is/was/and will be for the foreseeable future the King Big Shit Writer. I’m not saying that I agree (even though I do), and I’m not saying that history might judge someone else more worthy of the title (it won’t), but that’s what I’m saying. And it’s not just the writers younger than DFW who have lionized him, it’s the writers older than DFW who have lionized him also. You think DeLillo is an easy writer to impress? You think David Markson would befriend and confide in a hack? You think George Saunders would concede Genius of the System to some other guy if he didn’t have to? You think Franzen would have been driven to such paroxysms of passive-agressive rage if he hadn’t realized that the crown he thought was being made to his specifications was snatched away just before the appointment for his fitting? Just read the fucking work, man.

    1. I think you’re right. Literature is ultimately a big contest and BEE is a minor talent. It’s got to sting. He’s pop fiction; doesn’t even register with Franzen, Chabon, Eugenides, Lethem, Z.Smith (the writers who I think will always be second fiddle to Wallace). I suppose time will be the real arbiter of it all.

  5. Bret Ellis, such a silly tweeter. Well at least he is not still blathering on twitter about 50 Shades of Grey ….nominating himself as the screenwriter, pick me pick me ad nauseum. Wallace as a writer had peaks and valleys. Ellis had a few peaks with his first few books,, but from Glamarama on, nothing but valleys.

    1. He seems delusional to me. Not familiar with BEE’s work as of late but did read his “American Psycho”. I just hope he hasn’t bitten off more than he can chew.

    1. Sure it is. Harold Bloom describes it as the anxiety of influence, but I think it registers in all sorts of ways. Any writer who is aiming beyond mere entertainment is entering into a contest with not only other writers, but also with readers and the spirit of the age itself. The writer might not even realize it’s a contest (although likely he or she does), but it is. Bolano does a good job of describing the contest in 2666:

      Now even bookish pharmacists are afraid to take on the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown. They choose the perfect exercises of the great masters. Or what amounts to the same thing: they want to watch the great masters spar, but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.

  6. Thank you, people, I now have a list of authors and works to look for to add to my reading list to try bring me up into 21st Century fiction. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get into BEE as objectively, because he comes across as such a self-involved boor. I’ll try to keep in mind that it’s not the artist but the work that matters. He seems to hold the promise of being a good dime novel, shoot-em-up, who-dun-it when you don’t want to read anything with depth provider. Nothing wrong with that. Not having read either one of them, I can only form an opinion from what’s in BEE’s twitter album. It sounds like a jealous bitch fight with a dead man to me. ‘No body’s paying any attention to me, they’re all looking at the dead man’. BEE’s superlatives, again and again. He should write propaganda for the far right wingnut party. Reminds me of Norman Mailer’s ‘I’m THE only ego quean in this bar’ attitude. And it showed in Norm’s writing. He couldn’t even do a loving work on a dead artist, Marilyn Monroe, without inserting himself into her corpse. BEE comes at writing with a disadvantage, being from the Whatever Generation, and having been raised in the Morphine + Cocaine atmosphere of High Bourgeoise Lalaland. Sounds like good material, but all that has been done by Hollywood over and over. Most Mercedes look alike after awhile. Spoiled brats know how to get attention, when all else fails, and that is to behave so atrociously that they get a spanking. In his defense, I can understand the sanctification of DFW. They always say that if only we knew. Can’t you tell it from the works? it was kind of lewd, or pornographic, I can’t decide which, the way all those ‘wounded’ women and feminist men sanctified Sylvia Plath’s self-immolated sufferings by creating an ogre in the form of what’s-his-name, her husband. What she really needed was some one to sit and talk with her about her delusions in an understanding way. Her works might have been less involuted.

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