David Foster who? …
July 7, 2010 § 15 Comments
I knew the writer had three names and that the first was “David.” I told her that, about him having 3 names, and that he was a contemporary writer, a literary writer with a book that had the word “Jest” in its title. And I knew there was a rhythm to his name.
Still the librarian couldn’t help me.
“I need more than his first name to help you.” And she stood there, fingers poised on the keys and I started to sweat, thinking, drat, I was hoping she just might know, kinda like a game show for book lovers and English majors, what his name was. I mean, sometimes book lovers just know these things.
Anyway, she couldn’t help. So I walked around and around, looking at books, while the back-brain worked on what the author’s name could be….David…David Foster? Nope. David Stevens? Nope. And tried to remember some of his book titles since that was, after all, what I was looking for. One of his books. Nope. Couldn’t remember them and had only read recently about him so had nothing to latch on to. Besides, it was lunch hour and a part of me said “hurry up so you can get back to work.”
Inevitably, I left the library. That was days ago. As soon as I returned to my corporate desk, his name popped out: David Foster Wallace.
I would stop at the library again on my way home.
No, I wouldn’t.
I would go to Amazon.
NOTE: this was all before my self-imposed separation from The Library.
I’d read many references to Wallace lately and barging into his bio, discovered several surprising things, not the least of which were some of his writing peers, Mary Karr and Jonathan Franzen; his intense shyness; his love of dogs; and, his brilliance in math. What a combo. A mathematician and a writer. And due likely to depression, we lost him nearly two years ago.
I found, in my mini DFW research, that someone compared the size of his book INFINITE JEST to Pynchon’s V. I have Pynchon on my shelf but haven’t delved in yet. I was considering putting Wallace’s tome next to it, once I found it, once I made the purchase.
Or, maybe I’d make it a summer read. (Fat chance! I have skimmed through four chick lit books so far this summer with actual intellectual reading playing not even second or third but more like fifth fiddle.) Sheesh.
Finally at B&N, I skulked the shelves and came up with only one Foster Wallace selection available. EVERYTHING AND MORE, non-fiction. OK, I’d give it a whirl. Didn’t notice anything else about it ’til I got home and set myself up with some time on my hands in the wing chair where the light is really really good.
I hadn’t noticed the book’s subtitle. A COMPACT HISTORY OF INFINITY. But the word “infinity” is not spelled out; instead it uses the symbol, which I cannot find at the moment on this keyboard.
I opened to the Foreword titled “Small but Necessary Foreword.” Thought I’d better read it.
And I began. Five or six pages into it, I began wondering where the foreword would end, and the chapters, if any begin. I flipped ahead.
I kept looking, riffled all the pages back and forth. There were no breaks, no chapters, nothing. Everything apparently fell under the “foreword’s” domain.
No wonder it was called “necessary.”
I was enjoying this book already though it is from a math point of view, which is a foreign language. I am all for understanding and speaking foreign langues, but this one took off at a normal level and zoomed into the stratosphere of formulas and math philosophy. I did enjoy his discussion of algebra when it introduces letters to a young crowd that heretofore knew math as arabic numbers.
He made me laugh aloud, remembering what algebra was like, with me in the seat farthest from the teacher hoping he didn’t see my consternation at A=B and C=B so A=C. Because I know in real life, that’s not true. Just because A and C both equal B, it does not follow that A and C are equal. Nope.
Anyay, there is no Table of Contents. No excuses, no breaks. No index, though there is a wonderful “Scholarly Boilerplate” at the end of the book. In fact, the book is part of the Great Discoveries series.
I have rarely spent so much time examining a book and thoroughly enjoying the examination. I looked at everything, from copyright to fly leaves to first lines of paragraphs throughout.
The book was an introduction, a blind date, a way of learning more about the writer than the book itself.
It was a new dimension of book appreciation even though I knew I wouldn’t read it page for page, not yet. I will likely read it in the winter, when the world is quieter and wrapped up in winter’s cozy.
I know I will try his fiction for which Wallace won nearly a dozen major prizes.
EVERYTHING AND MORE is a fine book, alone in its bookright. And full not only of said “foreign language” to be translated (you don’t have to be a math expert) but also an engaging and pervasive sense of the author’s humor.
It’s a find.