1. Today, I picked up Both Flesh and Not, a collection of David Foster Wallace essays and short pieces. I specifically ordered this book from my local bookstore (I didn’t get a review copy), and I bought it in hardback (I generally dislike hardbacks).
2. I should be reading it now—I’d like to be reading it—but I’m flicking between the five or six channels I have, usually stopping on PBS, and then scanning Twitter and other online media, because, hey, it’s Election Day in America.
3. I’ve already read several of the pieces in Both Flesh. You might have too. Here’s the table of contents:
4. But a lot of it I haven’t read. I’m eager to dig into the piece on David Markson, and the piece on Brat Pack writers, “Fictional Futures,” which was later repurposed in “E Unibus Pluram.”
5. I spent most of the afternoon riffling through it, trying not to think about the election results that would be coming in the next few years. I played outside with my kids, building a strange hut out of giant elephant leaves and then a small nest out of pine straw. I photographed the planes that daily fly over our neighborhood, slow, heavy supply planes that drift in lazy routine arcs from the nearby naval base, not loud as jets, but bulky. Elephant mothers, pregnant.
6. I remembered that Wallace killed himself in an election year, in September. I remember how I felt.
7. (Please don’t think this riff is really about anything. I’m distracted. I’ve imbibed some wine. Some Xanax might be involved).
8. Speaking of posts in 2008—
I went back just now, and riffled through the site’s archives from November of 2008. (Back when I’d post like three, maybe four times a week. Once a day at most).
A lot of vitriol there. A lot of vitriol for Palin, and a lot of vitriol for the emerging sentiment that would galvanize in what would become the Tea Party movement.
I wrote about the Election Night too. About Jesse Jackson’s tears. I even wrote about finding some respite from cynicism in Obama’s election. (Don’t worry, I’m as cynical as ever. Moreso—
I remember watching the inauguration in 2009. I was still teaching high school. I had third period planning and I watched the whole shebang in an empty lab on the school’s third floor with my friend Derek, a black Muslim who taught history in the classroom next to mine. It was cold up there and empty. I remember he asked me if the election poem was good and I asked him what he thought (I thought it was good). I remember we cried a little in spite of ourselves and clutched at each other. The world seemed so much more possible. I’m clutching to this memory now, which is deep and rich and I hope to keep forever. It presents through pinot and Xanax).
10. Is this a bait and switch? I apologize. Look, I love you reader. Really, I do. I do.
11. So, another detail from the Wallace collection:
The selections are intercut with definitions from his vocabulary list for The American Heritage Dictionary. Like so:
12. What was I doing here? I don’t know. Let me just wrap it up. I should be writing about DFW and the book but I can’t. Distracted. I’ll schedule the post. Let it stand. Let it roll at 11:11am tomorrow? (To clarify–it’s 9:55pm on 11/06/2012).
Okay, I’ll do that. Finish the rest in the comments? Sure. And some more, of course, about the book.
5 thoughts on “I Try to Riff on Both Flesh and Not, DFW’s New Essay Collection, Which I Haven’t Read, as I Drink Red Wine to Numb the Election Coverage (Book Acquired, 11.06.2012)”
I love biblioklept. It’s mid-morning post-victory Wednesday, and your DFW/election-night share just makes me grin.
Post on. [Watch that xanax, tho’… ‘kay?]
In ’09, I called in sick to my high school teaching job so my girlfriend (now wife) and I could go watch the inauguration broadcast live in Seattle’s Paramount Theater. It was over capacity (~3000 seats, plus standing room) and full of elation, tears, babies, strangers hugging, unashamed high-fiving. Remembering it warmly last night, my wife and I drank too much, stayed up for the speech, etc. Thanks for sharing your experience. These anecdotes are so vital, it seems.
As always, envious (like the many Slovene proverbs) biblioklept.
This isn’t released in February in the UK I believe.
[…] Hey, did you know David Foster Wallace wrote an essay on David Markson? The previous sentence is an extremely weak attempt to transition to Both Flesh and Not, a spotty collection from the late great writer; it showcases some brilliant moments along with undercooked material and a few throwaways probably better left uncollected. I fretted about the book on Election Night. […]