"Wallace ". . . I had four hundred thousand pages of continental philosophy and lit theory in my head. And by God, I was going to use it to prove to him that I was smarter than he was. And so, as a result, for the rest of my life, I will walk around. . . You know, I will see that book occasionally at signings [Broom of the System]. And I will realize I was arrogant, and missed a chance to make that book better. And hopefully I won't do it again. It's why I will not run lit-crit [literary criticism] on my own stuff. And don't even want to talk about it.
My tastes in reading lately have been way more realistic, because most experimental stuff is hellaciously unfun to read.
David Lipsky says "Because ideas are primary? And then the writing goes bad?"
Wallace "I'm not sure if it's poorly written: It requires an amount of work on the part of the reader that grotesquely disproportionate to its payoff. And it seems-when I am a reader of that kind of stuff, and I'm talking like heavy-duty experimental stuff, some of which I have to read just because I do various stuff with experimental press. I feel like I am as a reader like a small child, and adults are having a conversation over my head; that this is really a book being written for other writers, theorists, and critics. And that any of that kind of stomach magic of, "God damn, it's fun to read. I'd rather read right now than eat," has been totally lost.
So this was really one of the reasons I'm thrilled about the fuss about the book. Is: in this I wanted to do something that is real experimental and very strange, but it's also fun. And that was also of course really scary. Because I thought maybe that couldn't be done-or that it would come off just as a hellacious flop. But I'm sort of proud of it, because I think it was kind of a right-headed and brave thing to do. And I think, I think there's a reason why a lot of avant-garde stuff gets neglected: I think that a lot of it deserves to be. Same with a lot of poetry. That's written for other people that write poetry, and not for people that read. I don't know. That's kind of a whole rant.
David Lipsky "I agree. Lorrie Moore works for readers, not just writers. Martin Amis. . ."
Wallace "But there's also, there's ways that experimental and avant-garde stuff can capture and talk about the way the world feels on our nerve endings, in a way that conventional realistic stuff can't."
David L. "I disagree. I'm a realism fan. You agree?"
Wallace "It imposes an order and sense and ease of interpretation on experience that's never there in real life. I am talking about the stuff, you know, what's hard or looks structurally strange-or formally weird-I mean some of that stuff can be very cool."
David L. "But Tolstoy's books come closer to the way life feels than anybody, and those books couldn't be more conventional."
Wallace "Yeah, but life now is completely different than the way it was then. Does your life approach anything like a linear narrative? I'm talking about the way it feels, how our nervous system feels"
At this point I am going to skip down to these remarks of Wallace-". . . I don't know about you: My life and my self doesn't feel like anything like a unified developed character in a linear narrative to me. I may be mentally ill, maybe you're not. But my guess is, looking at things like MTV videos or new fashions in ads, with more and more flash cuts, or the use of computer metaphors which would only be useful metaphors if the ability to do triage and tree-diagrams resonated with people's own existence in life. That I think a lot of people feel-not overwhelmed by the amount of stuff they have to do. But overwhelmed by the number of choices they have, and by the number of discrete, different things that come at them. And the number of small. . . that since they're part of numerous systems, the number of small insistant tugs on them, from a number of different systems and directions. Whether that's qualitatively different than the way of life was for let's say our parents or our grandparents, I'm not sure. But I sorta think so. At least in some-in terms of the way it feels on your nerve endings.
David Lipsky ""Information sickness," as in Ted Mooney's book"
Wallace "Now we're into DeLillo-ville, right? Where the bigger the system gets, the more interference, there is, and all that. I'm not talking about the system, I'm talking about what it feels like to be alive. And how formal and structural stuff in avant-garde things I think can vibrate, can represent on a page, what it feels like to be alive right now. But that's only one of things fiction's doing. I'm not saying it's the only thing. I'm working hard here to try to make sense of what it is I'm saying to you. If your life makes linear sense to you, then you're either very strange, or you might be just a neurologically healthy person-who's automatically able to decoct, organize, do triage on the amount of stuff that's coming at you all the time" pg.38-40