David Foster Wallace

Maybe what I want to hear is that this prenominate war is natural and necessary and a sign of Towering Intellect: maybe I want a pep-talk, because I have to tell you I don’t enjoy this war one bit. I think my fiction is better than it was, but writing is also less Fun than it was. I have a lot of dread and terror and inadequacy-shit, now, when I’m trying to write. I didn’t used to.

Maybe the terror is part of the necessary reverence, and maybe it’s an inescapable part of the growing-up-as-a-writer-or-whatever process; but it can’t — cannot — be the goal and terminus of that process. In other words there must be some way to turn terror into Respect and dread into a kind of stolidly productive humility.

I have a hard time understanding how Fun fits into the Dedication-Discipline-Respect schema. I know that I had less fun doing IJ than I did doing earlier stuff, even though I know in my tummy that it’s better fiction. I think I understand that part of getting older and better as a writer means putting away many of my more childish self-gratifying notions of Fun, etc. But Fun is still the whole point, somehow, no? Fun on both sides of the writer/reader exchange? A kind of pleasure — more rarified, doubtless, than M&M’s or a good wank, but nevertheless pleasure.

How do I allow myself to have Fun when writing without sacrificing Respect and Seriousness, i.e. going back to the exhibitionism and show-offery and pointless technical acrobatics? I think one reason why I ask you this (though I know you not at all as a person, of course) is that your own fiction seems to me to marry Fun and Seriousness in a profound way, somehow — a sense of Play that’s somehow even Funner because it’s not sophomoric or self-aggrandizing or childish or even childlike.

This is not coming across like I want it to; I can’t make this clear. Maybe your work is this form of profound marriage only to and for me; maybe it’s some weird subjective misprision that has to do with me and not your fiction; maybe you have no thoughts on how you’ve come to make (apparent) Respect and Dedication seem so fuck-all much (apparent) Fun.

Read the whole thing.


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