Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The David Foster Wallace story

I never did tell the DFW story I wanted to on that forum I was in. We were going to get the original letter about it, from the person who was there, up on our site, but he was reluctant, and we've been having difficulties with our Letters page-- one reason I started this blog!

Anyway:

In NYC a couple months ago was one of those cheezy literary affairs, in this case George Saunders "interviewing" David Foster Wallace. A total joke, of course-- the kind of snoozy presentation that has killed lit's reputation.

After an hour or two of this kind of crap, they opened the floor to questions from all the Demi-Puppets in the audience. A person there-- who happens to know some ULAers-- asked the two authors about the shrinking world of literary fiction.

DFW turned the question back on our correspondent-- so he in turn mentioned the ULA and some of our arguments.

In response, George Saunders wondered if there could ever be another Dickens, in impact and popularity, implying it was impossible.

DFW referred to the ULA's "contretemps" with Tom Bissell, then said that lit fiction was going the way of poetry; the ratio of audience to artists was shrinking; there was more competition for resources, and so we see increasingly arcane and destructive ways of distinguishing oneself-- participants will fight among each other, and sees the ULA as an example of this. End of tale.

I find it interesting that the great mind would choose the most simplistic way possible of explaining the problem. One of our great writers, supposedly, and he just doesn't get it. Doesn't have a clue, in fact.

The necessity for we as writers-- for all of us-- is to expand the audience for our products! This is a must, and should come first.

The kind of controversy/conflict the ULA has generated is one way of doing this.

DFW isn't a chess player. He's able to see only one step ahead.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

About literary fiction and literary fiction authors: I'm not sure we can really tell if anything written today will be considered "literary" in another 50 or 100 years, or even 20. Dickens is a particularly good example of this. Wasn't he derided in his day for allowing his works to be serialized? But today we worship Dickens at the high altar of literary fiction. How "literary" would it look for a contemporary author to have his or her newest book serialized in the Baltimore Sun or the Boston Tribune? It would look pretty cheesy, although I understand that the NYT has plans to do just that.

You can come up with any number of what we today consider literary authors who were browbeaten and denigrated by their peers and critics, to the point where few perhaps appreciated their work in the same way we might today. I expect much the same for each generation of writers.

King said...

The writers today being denigrated by their peers are those in the ULA.

Adam Hardin said...

What David Foster Wallace does not see is that we are at the end of the Postmodern period in American Literature, and Postmodernism has run its course, and burned itself out.

The Fighting he is talking about is the next wave of artists shouting "Disco Sucks! Disco Sucks!"

The ULA is at the forefront of the next movement, and it is just a matter of time before the public, who have already moved away from Postmodernism along now with some critics, and some of the publishing industry itself, begin shouting "Disco Sucks" as well and look elsewhere for new and better writing.