To test my fairness, I began reading a David Foster Wallace book at a chain bookstore, "Interviews with Hideous Men" or such. The writing was hideous. I made it as far as the third piece.
The first "essay" was a cutely written brief piece of nonsense. The second was extended description of a famous poet in a swimming pool. It went nowhere. By the third piece (whose theme, setting, or plot I can't recall) I realized that DFW was the ultimate graphomaniac, producing verbiage in endless sentences that would make Thomas Wolfe cringe in embarrassment.
It reminded me of a man I saw once in a diner in Detroit, a crazy man in a booth talking to himself without pause. The man suffered from some kind of mental disease that caused every thought he had to be verbalized-- and the thoughts never stopped. At first it was striking-- "Look at that crazy man"-- and for a few minutes it was entertaining, but soon enough it became irritating and then maddening, so that I was happy to get away from it. There was a sparkle of words to the thoughts at times but mostly it was disordered nonsense.
I had a vision afterward of the man in a room somewhere on a chair, pontificating to the walls, for hours, forever, without stop.
Unfortunate David Foster Wallace likewise had a mind which couldn't be turned off. (The malady to a greater or lesser extent afflicts many of us who write.) Was there any peace for the man in his waking hours? With such colliding madness in his head, how could he rest? He eventually turned off the spout the only way he knew how.
DFW's writing passed for intellectualism but there was little intelligence to it. His satire consisted of superficial toyings with superficialities. Everything was surface.
We see in today's literary world a ton of intellectualism, but the thrust in fact is anti-intellectual, AGAINST meaning and truth. The posings are an avoidance of logic.
An example of the anti-intellectual trend of the current lit world is the journal N+1, which I've tried very hard to like, and failed at the effort.
Issue #6 for instance was an outpouring of stupidity. There's no other way to put it. The issue showed an ignorance of basic economics. The editors predicted "the end of oil," seeming not to realize (could they be that stupid?) that the supply of oil is a function of the amount of effort and money people are willing to spend to retrieve it. Or, the supply at $100 a barrel is more than at $20 a barrel. If it means uncapping wells, drilling deeper, or in places currently closed off, using new technology, or retrieving shale oil-- at the right price the possibilities are endless. There's an enormous amount of oil left on this planet. If the editors had a sense of history-- remember the 70's?-- they'd realize it. Much of the oil price spike was due not to a lack of supply so much as the devaluation of the dollar (oil is priced in dollars) which occurred to fund an expensive war.
Global warming? A minor, temporary increase in global temperature sends the N+1 gang into hysterics. They become like the out-of-control passenger in the 1969 movie "Airport": "We're all going to die. We're all going to die!" There's a certain narcissism or extreme egoism involved in believing the end days are here now-- that everything will finish in your brief lifetime. Because you're special.
Not only illogic, but contradictions throughout. The most environmentally hysterical of their group, Chad Harbach, was their web editor. It's curious to me that the YouTube generation is so mad about global warming. Do they realize the amount of juice used by the Internet; especially streaming video? Google and Yahoo are moving closer to greater electricity sources. How many power plants will have to be built to accommodate YouTube? Yet these are environmentalists! (Meanwhile the gang jets regularly to Europe.)
As for N+1 fiction, it's beyond stupidity. Try to find a trace of an idea in it. In some cases, intellectualism-- but without exception even when posing as intellectuals the characters are narcissists obsessed with their own glib wonderfulness, with narrow focus, and about as much understanding of how the civilization operates as a hamster-- or as much as the N+1 editors themselves.