Tag Archives: David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace – The Last Interview and Other Conversations

David Foster WallaceI read Brief Interviews with Hideous Men some time ago. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea and I had my own struggles through sections of the book which are detailed here. But it’s one of those collections that I am so thankful to have read, parts of which are still with me.  For students of language and lovers of modern literature I’d say he is a must read. There is only one David Foster Wallace. I haven’t read enough literature or know enough to be able to say this with any kind of authority but when I was reading him the words ‘ground breaking’ came to mind and I saw for the first time how it was possible to treat language differently and I felt this kind of thrill.  I was inspired and excited like I had just discovered something I had never seen before.

So when I had the pleasure of being in Seattle recently I went to the amazing Elliott Bay Bookstore.  An entire blog post will be devoted at a later date on the importance of real books, independent book stores, bookstores in general  and the importance of the ‘traditional’ publishing process – but for today let’s just say, that one of the treats of meandering through the large collections of books  for hours on end is that you see things you might not otherwise notice. And along with a few other books I found David Foster Wallace – The Last Interview and Other Conversations. 

There is something poignant about this collection of interviews, particularly the last one which took place shortly before DFW took his own life. You see a cockiness in some of his answers  and you also catch glimpses  of a man for whom linguistic precision is his way of life and thinking. Most interestingly he talks about the importance of fiction in a pervasive digital entertainment landscape. How do writers stay relevant and how do they get readers to connect with their work in a meaningful way? Now more than ever he believes, it’s important for writers to tell their stories in ways that people can connect to. Obviously DFW treads a fine line between this himself. He could easily disappear into linguistic gymnastics because he can but he doesn’t. He keeps the reader engaged and makes our world, as he sees it, available to us.

Of course, he also offers personal tidbits that every fan enjoys. For me, it’s devotion to his two dogs. He had become convinced that they couldn’t be left alone for long periods of time (or any time) because they would become lonely and he didn’t want them to suffer any more after having endured  sad puppy lives. But his dogs were exacerbating his agoraphobia. And yet you knew that those dogs would always come first.  I felt touched by his sweetness and his obvious frailty and that’s hard to see in anybody but particularly a man with such towering intellect and talents and with such difficult and ultimately overwhelming life struggles. I’m sad that he lost his struggle.

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My 2012 List of Great Things

My 2012 year which I loosely like to call “A Glass Half Full” was exactly that. One of my greatest discoveries is that I like a glass to be poured more than half full. What took me so long?  The truth is I think I have always liked everything half full and I’d say it’s pretty much the lens through which I experience life. But in real hard truthful life – I really do like the glass to be full. Like this one! This one was taken in California but my love of this one compelled me to drag 7 people to the Portuguese Club almost for the sole reason that they poured wine equally as full and only charged $4.99. These are the things that impress me.20121229-122111.jpg
So I’m going to kick off my list of 2012’s greatnesses with my discovery of :
1. a glass half full is a remarkable thing and even better when it’s cheap and can be found around the world in multiple places.
2. That Joe’s Cafe on Commercial Drive still serves the best ever espresso and now also serves Porto also for $4.99 for a very full glass. It happens to be right next to the Portuguese Club so you can really fill your boots on a glass half full at $4.99 prices.
3. That I don’t need to make pots of boiling vegetable stock anymore – that ‘Better Than Bouillon‘ is one of this year’s greatest culinary discoveries.

4. In my search to broaden my vegetable consumption beyond tomatoes and whatever one puts in salad – I have discovered some fantastic vegetables like Kale. Wow – do I ever love Kale (so much so that I’m capitalizing it ). Not only do I love Kale in general but I especially love this recipe that I got from my friend Bonnie at Shiny Tomato. A new soup also features my two new favourite vegetables – Butternut Squash and Kale.

5. That my love of animals has led me (via Janet) to discover the Moose Jaw Humane Society who happen to be amazingly great marketers in the best sense of the word – they’ve created a sense of place, personality, purpose and fun around the more sober idea of saving animals lives. Kudos. Everyday I look forward to seeing what #fatboy is up to or any of the other animals.

6. That my interest in sustainability has led me to meet some extraordinary women and men who challenge me to learn something completely outside of my usual comfort zone and inspire me to change my life ever so slowly.

7. That learning about sustainability has allowed me to see life through an entirely different lens – that I understand that even for those who don’t believe in climate change there is still the as yet unresolved equation of resources (natural capital) versus population and consumption.

8. That my phone phobia does not extend to my brother who I enjoy talking to almost every day.

9. That I’ve missed reading fiction – my first true love and that every book I’ve enjoyed this year confirms it. 1Q84, 11/22/63 and very much looking forward to reading the biography of David Foster Wallace (okay – that’s non-fiction)

10. That I miss my dog Reuben like crazy. That I had no idea that an animal could give me a kind of love that I thought people reserved for each other -but that it’s so much more complicated with people and in so many ways so pure with animals. That I learned from Dave to give everything I’ve got. And watching him give everything he had to Reub was pure sweetness.

11. That no matter how much time passes I still miss my mom and I always hope that she’ll show up in my dreams.

12. That I’m in debt to all the generous people who’s paths I crossed this year because they make me a better person.

13. That I love my sisters no matter what.

14. That my niece makes me laugh like a hyena especially when she tells me that she drops boyfriends for slamming the Dutch and expressing an interest in reading 50 Shades of Gray.

15. That I met the best veterinarian and his name is Dr. R. Galloway. He is that amazing and rare combination of someone who has technical expertise combined with empathy and a real love of animals. He has no idea how rare he is.

16. That the world never comes to an end no matter how much you think it will.

17. That I will never overcome my shallow love for buying clothes.

18. That I love to laugh and dance and I plan on doing much more in the coming year – the year I have tentatively named “The Year of Doing it Differently” and making sure I do it.

19. That I’m going to figure out a way to bike to work in my heels without breaking a sweat.

20. That a hair straightener is my greatest discovery in life so far.

21. That I’m madly in love with the moisturizer I found that is so pure  (and inexpensive I might add) it could also serve as salad dressing in  pinch.

22. That my almost daily pictures of Sloan fill me with joy.

23. Camping with Reuben and Dave.

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My Great Reads 2010

I started 2010 out with the ambition of reading 100 books this year. Like all great plans mine was waylaid by the exigencies of life. I did, however, still manage to read some great books.

My top reads this year are:
1. My absolute favourite read this year is Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann – a great literary read that uses an interesting cultural device to tell an expansive and wonderful story.

2. Brief Interviews with Hideous MenDavid Foster Wallace – Wow, I found this book to be a breath of fresh air. It’s very literary but it breaks free from the usual storytelling devices and then on top of that it contains some really amazing stories. It’s changed the way I believe people can write about things.

3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery – This is just a wonderful read. Written by a French writer it explores unlikely friendships within the quagmire of the French class system. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to read it again.

4. infidel Ayaan Hirsi Ali – I don’t read very much non-fiction but I thought this offered a glimpse into a world I know very little about. It makes me want to know more about women and Islam.

5. Freedom Jonathan Franzen – Because he tells a great story that speaks to our times. And he gets bonus points for making me laugh.

6. Loving Frank – Nancy Horan – A great story about Frank Lloyd Wright‘s lover Martha Borthwick. It’s one of those books you can’t put down.

7. Room – Emma Donaghue – Well there’s no question that this is a creepy story about a woman who gives birth to a little boy while she is enslaved in a small room for seven years, but wow does Emma Donoghue ever create a singularly believable voice for young Jack.

8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer – I’m a sucker for any books on war and this one is a great read. I’m now eager to travel to Guernsey now that I know it exists.

9. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen – I completely immersed myself in Ms. Austen’s world when I was reading this. What a testament to the durability of great literature.

10. Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Album – Because this book helped me understand dying better and that’s something I needed to learn about this year.

I’m starting next year’s list which includes:
Irshad Manji – The Trouble with Islam Today
Sea Sick – The Global Ocean in Crisis
Malcolm Gladwell – Blink and What the Dog Saw

I would love to hear from others any recommendations you might have for fiction or non-fiction that I can put on my ‘must read’ list.

Thanks,

Tess

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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: David Foster Wallace Book Review

I’ve been wanting to read David Foster Wallace for a long time and finally read Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. I’m not going to lie. This isn’t an easy read and there were times when I wanted to throw the book across the room. This is no ordinary collection of stories and reviewing David Foster Wallace is intimidating in itself. He has an impressive intellect and a virtuoso command of language. And truthfully, that’s what keeps you going. Just when you think you’ve had enough of his linguistic experimentations or his penchant for pursuing the darkest corners of human nature with mathematical precision, you find yourself picking up the book (from wherever you’ve thrown it) and reading on. Continue reading

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