I’VE WRITTEN a post about DIY writing but I’m reluctant to put it up, because in it I trash a bit the epitome of contemporary postmodern literature, David Foster Wallace. I’ve discovered that to criticize DFW in any way hurts feelings. DFW is treated by well-schooled writers as akin to a god. (See the HTML Giant crowd, for instance.) He’s worshipped.
Before I criticize DFW, then—the way he wrote and what our crazed society did to him—I’ll first make two points which all writers should know. The premise for the two points is that literature is in competition with all the many other aspects of American culture which blare loudly at us from all corners of the world at every moment. You have to literally retreat to a cave to get away from this bombardment of images and noise. The first task of a story, poem, or novel is to be read. This is more difficult than ever.
The two points are taken from sales. They’re maxims. They’re musts. They’re two sides of the same coin.
1.) Keep It Simple, Stupid.
2.) Avoid T.M.I.—Too Much Information.
If the writer doesn’t follow these two points he’ll not hook the reader. (Brainwashed HTML Giant readers excepted.) One can debate whether or not I’m a writer, but I’ve been a reader for many years; was a reader before I imagined writing. I started writing out of frustration as a reader at what I was expected to accept as literature. As a reader, I have a good sense of what fiction needs to do to stay competitive and relevant. The success of pop writers like J.A. Konrath bolsters this sense.
David Foster Wallace didn’t just break the two rules of reaching the public. He obliterated them. If literary writers use him as a model, they’re crafting their own failure, their own demise as a genre, as an art, as writers.