Thursday, April 6, 2017

Blogging DFW 5

Seriously, this blogging project is for me. As mentioned in the first post, I'm blogging to keep myself accountable. You may want to read if you're a hardcore DFW fan or if you like dipping into splendorous moments . . .


Oh, but addiction . . .

When I tried this book the first time, I didn’t get it. I had no clue that I would spend a chunk of my forties writing about addiction. So, that first time, I got it. A little. Now, I’m enthralled.

He nailed it.

Today, just the descriptions, the exposition: the Bostonian setting, the multi-unit rehab facility dissected. DFW dissects.

“Unit #1, right by the lot in the hospital’s shadow, is leased by some agency that seems to employ only guys in turtlenecks; the place counsels wild-eyed Vietnam vets for certain very-delayed stress disorders, and dispenses various pacifying medications.”

“Unit #2, right next door is a methadone clinic . . . Customers for the services of Units #1 and #2 arrive around sunup and form long lines. The customers for Unit #1 tend to congregate in like-minded groups of three or four and gesture a lot and look wild-eyed and generally pissed-off in some broad geopolitical way . . . [T]he customers of #2 leave the building deeply changed, their eyes not only back in their heads but peaceful . . . while #1’s wild-eyed patrons tend to exit #1 looking even more stressed and historically aggrieved than when they went in.”

Unit #3 is empty.

“Unit #4 . . . is a repository for Alzheimer’s patients with VA pensions. #4’s residents wear jammies 24/7, the diapers underneath giving them a lumpy and toddlerish aspect. The patients are frequently visible at #4’s windows, in jammies, splayed and open-mouthed, sometimes shrieking, sometimes just mutely open-mouthed . . .”

“Unit #5 . . . is for catatonics and various vegetablish, fetal-positioned mental patients subcontracted to a Commonwealth outreach agency . . .”

“Unit #6 . . . is Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House . . .”

Unit #7, boarded up, is where Ennet House residents sneak in to relapse.

And then, we learn more from the world of Unit #6:

“That there’s a certain type of person who carries a picture of their therapist in their wallet . . . That no matter how smart you thought you were, you are actually way less smart than that . . .That loneliness is not a function of solitude . . . That it is statistically easier for low IQ people to kick an addiction than it is for high-IQ people. . .That most Substance-addicted people are also addicted to thinking, meaning the have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking . . .That some people’s moms never taught them to cover up or turn away when they sneeze . . .That ‘acceptance’ is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else. . . That everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everybody else. . . “

I think, honestly, what’ll happen is that I finish this book thinking that the parts were amazing but the whole failed. But I will walk away with a tremendous affection for the man. I feel it now.


  1. Cool! I want to be the kind of person for whom David Foster Wallace's descriptions are great and we could discuss his good literary techniques in his long books, but every one of his sentences gives me nothing but a portrait of the author and a strong urge to run him over. They're an opaque white plastic bag turned inside out and cinched tightly around my head as a muffled voice exhorts me to admire the beauty and variety of nature.

    And I'm just sitting here like "Yeah, this is why you committed suicide, fucker. Also please take this bag off before I suffocate." And what's worse is that, although you might not believe it from this paragraph, I'm not naturally that intensely irritated of a person that I would make fun of someone's suicide! I feel bad about writing and posting that sentence, in fact.

    So why does his writing piss me off so much that I go out of character? For me it's not just that DFW fails to be a good writer, it's that he has clearly put a great deal of care and effort into making his works the exact opposite of my idea of good writing. Say you met someone who refuses to stand anywhere but exactly behind you, and refuses to speak except to interrupt you at the instant you start a sentence. That would take talent to do that! Undeniable talent. Even, dare I say, genius. But you wouldn't like them a whole lot.

  2. Ha! Yeah, I see your point. I won't emerge from this singing his praises, BUT yes to undeniable talent. I don't know. I'm now about 450 pages in, and it's like watching A BEAUTIFUL MIND. . .