Posts Tagged ‘David Foster Wallace’

The Hysterical Realism Of The Young And Iracible David Foster Wallace


24 Sep

david-foster-wallace

David Foster Wallace

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A MASTERFUL AMERICAN writer and novelist was found dead in his California home by his wife last week. His name was David Foster Wallace. His universally acclaimed magnum opus, a 1100 page tome published in 1996, called Infinite Jest was an immediate sensation. It immediately joined The Boomer Bible by RF Laird as my all-time favorite reads of the 1990s. The novel was set in a tennis academy and a nearby drug rehab centre in a parodic version of Organization of North American Nations, or ONAN, where traditional calendar years were renamed after sponsoring companies to become "The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment" and "The Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland." Some have stated that the novel circulated on a lost film cartridge called "Infinite Jest" that is so entertaining that unwary viewers lost interest in everything else in life. I found other threads more compelling, such as the Alcoholics Anonymous culture, the academy, the family dynamics of the author, and simply the whirling language of the author, the footnotes, his debilitating sense of irony, and inside-the-box dead pan humor.

Among other titles, the writer, originally from Illinois, also authored other such enviable short story collections as "Girl With The Curious Hair" and a smaller, less rambunctious novel called "The Broom Of The System." Wallace's death at 46 by hanging was ruled a suicide. He will be infinitely missed.

2005 Kenyon Commencement Address by David Foster Wallace
May 21, 2005

We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on.
IF ANYBODY FEELS like perspiring [cough], I'd advise you to go ahead, because I'm sure going to. In fact I'm gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings ["parents"?] and congratulations to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story ["thing"] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I'm supposed to talk about your liberal arts education's meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let's talk about the single most pervasive cliché© in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about quote teaching you how to think. If you're like me as a student, you've never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I'm going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché© turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we're supposed to get in a place like this isn't really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I'd ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about the value of the totally obvious.

Here's another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: "Look, it's not like I don't have actual reasons for not believing in God. It's not like I haven't ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn't see a thing, and it was fifty below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out 'Oh, God, if there is a God, I'm lost in this blizzard, and I'm gonna die if you don't help me.'" And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. "Well then you must believe now," he says, "After all, here you are, alive." The atheist just rolls his eyes. "No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp."

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If Words Had Scales

It's easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people's two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy's interpretation is true and the other guy's is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person's most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there's the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They're probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists' problem is exactly the same as the story's unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn't even know he's locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don't worry that I'm getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being "well-adjusted", which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

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Infinite Jest cover I have...

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education—least in my own case—is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché© about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché© about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many cliché©s, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let's get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what "day in day out" really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I'm talking about.

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A Quote, All He Wrote

By way of example, let's say it's an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home. You haven't had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It's the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it's pretty much the last place you want to be but you can't just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store's confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren't enough check-out lanes open even though it's the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can't take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death. It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over.
But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line's front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to "Have a nice day" in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn't yet been part of you graduates' actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it's going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I'm in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV's and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children's children will despise us for wasting all the future's fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

infinite-jest-subway

How can she not wear smiles?

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn't have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It's the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I'm operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world's priorities.

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it's not impossible that some of these people in SUV's have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he's trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he's in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket's checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.

Again, please don't think that I'm giving you moral advice, or that I'm saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it's hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won't be able to do it, or you just flat out won't want to.

But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

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DFW Can't Read

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, cliché©s, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.

They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

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Last Sentence

I know that this stuff probably doesn't sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don't just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

"This is water."

"This is water."

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché© turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

Remember When Bussius Blew Us Off, Plumb Missing Our Gesture


29 Aug

Bussius Beach

Bussius Beach

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Date: Thu, 29 Aug 2002 10:52:13
Point of Origin: Washington, DC

Sorry I haven't got back to you, didn't stop by because my wife decided to invite her friends and they followed in another car. Make a long story short, they were not to interested. Well I have spent a week at the beach. Only company really was my son, wife (after we already got to the beach) invited another friend of hers. Came back the next Sunday, Monday truck broke down, dropped 200 bucks to fix, tried to replace my serpentine belt, broke that cost 75 bucks, this Monday finally fixed truck completely, living with the in-laws has almost become truly unbearable. Looking, possibly for a new job (pays more) so I haven't been feeling too spunky about anything lately. It was good hearing from Yall!! Yeah Haw! Haven't been doing much of anything except the last month or so trying to get back in shape, getting up at 4:30 am go to work and go running for 4-5 miles, work, go home, lift a little weights, go to bed, repeat.

Made the History Channel, summer of 2000 going through Ranger school, they had a t.v. crew out there filming. Finally got a copy last month (2 frickin years) come to find out, all the video they took you only see me close to the very end! Sux!! Oh well. Let me get back to pretending I'm working and not playing on the Internet. Later Gator,

—Sergeant Buss

Hey Sarge, we gotta see that video, man. Came across some pics just the other day you'd sent me from Hawaii of yourself snuggled up to God & Country & sweet teat familia gob-smacked in face mud and camouflage. Spunky goo, maaan, spunky...

Speaking of changes, I just took a part-time job myself down at the neighborhood Moto Photo. Plan to join Gold's Gym which is three blocks away, soon after I get my first paycheck. I begin right after Labor Day. Should be a halfway decent job, 20-24 hours a week, cop a few skills, and spot check the pushy Chevy Chase photo-processing public before the whole stinking industry goes flat out digital. And this weight problem I've been hiding under an enormous appetite for has GOT TO VANISH INTO THIN AIR.

Meanwhile, I dolly around the house working up my websites long in ill-repair after three highly decorated years of preparing to move, moving, and reorganizing into the new place, a MUCH smaller place. But I can't complain, despite a mess of health issues. I've just got to straighten myself out, Sarge, one day at a time (he laughs with a big-assed ho ho ho, as if he were some buck naked private singing in the desert rain for pennies on the dollar and a new identity from which to launch a David Foster Wallace attack on all those sinking souls he knew by the sound of their tongues crying out from the purest unalloyed Turkish copper, rich in history, freshly poured off process from the long queue of smelting pots containing only the perfected element.) Truth unalloyed.

GT

Time: 29 Aug 2002 16:20:11

Yeah it's gonna cost your whole paycheck to go to Gold's Gym. They ain't cheap.Yeah I packed on 20-30 lbs since I've been out and now I've been running just about 4-5 times a week 3-5 miles and the only thing I noticed is I'm getting better at running again and I think my body is just adjusting to keep the fat and be able to run. What a bitch!! Have to come up with some more strategies besides just running, need to lift more weights or more exercises like push ups and pull ups, sit ups (definitely). Well, I'll keep trotting around the trail every morning until this shit falls off. What are you up to this weekend? Maybe I can wiggle myself away from the looney bin and the Master-Where's-Your-Paycheck.

Mrs. Beaversnatch

Mrs. Beaversnatch

Any Hooo let me know and I'll probably have to email or go somewhere and call since the in-laws don't have long distance calling after my sister-in-law raised the bill to over 500 bucks with her homey friends. What a wasted human she is, worthless as cancerous tits! Well I'll get back to ya.

—Roberto the Boogaloo Dance Technician

Come on down, Corona Pooch...since we cancelled our plans to go visit my mother in Chicago, we have zero inertia. Might go looking at affordable outboards this weekend just for kicks, but that might be even more fun if you were along. Paycheck? Uh, I don't START working until after Labor Day, but I don't really need the check to sign up at Gold's. Just thought it would be nice to see money coming in instead of always going out. Moving out of the ghetto put us bug-eyed in debt, again.

But let's get together for real. I'm hardly drinking anymore these days, weight and blood pressure issues. I'm a fat old man fer sure. Though I look younger than my age (47 in September), I look fatter than I feel, but then again I surely feel like the 300 pound ghostbuster I am, so who am I kidding? Saturday? Sunday? You name it. Wassup dude?

Anyway speaking of automobile troubles, I've got to get outa here and head out to Wheaton on the Metro to pick up our car that's currently in the body shop. While visiting down in Charlotte, NC earlier this month, Sue's childhood friend's husband backed into the rear door panel with his SUV. $1200 worth of crush and paint. The body shop has had it since Monday. No problem though. Sue takes Metro to work, and I don't leave the house, so the car rarely goes anywhere these days except on weekends occasionally.

Later,

GT

All So Lovely And Fine


25 Oct

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HEY LIV. BROADCASTING FROM WASHINGTON, DC. Cute, colorful, and as complex as a single flower in the sun, Olivia Pantelidis is the name I immediately loved, and loving with the prattling passion of history, I presumed it to be Greek in nature. Perhaps I am wrong. Yes, Olivia Pantelidis, I just had to write it again, the other names are all so lovely and fine, Liv and Okimikko (Japanese-flavor I note), but it was your whole given name which drew first blood. Thanks for writing back. Despite those terse beginnings, we have materialized much fun playing among the words.

Meanwhile, to answer your question, I live in Washington, DC, a block away from the stadium where the REDSKINS footballers used to play until moving to a new expensive facility in the suburbs last year. Good riddance I say, but I'd really love to see a baseball team play there for many reasons which I will spare you for now.

...like a whisper among the rapids. I write many words on many pages and build my websites one page at a time. Desperation is the poet's business. And my poems rot because I haven't put very many online yet, but the space is allotted, and some poems are planted there.
There's also a public hospital, a large highschool, a single small Ma & Pa grocery store, and the National Guard facility in my immediate neigborhood. Nothing else but old rowhouses, many in slum condition, offer my life much urban immediacy. Litter and glass plague these neighborhood streets and alleys. Gunshots are not so rare. Graffitti slang, not EVEN artistic, is sprayed wildcat upon this wall or that building. Wearing my social engineering cap, I lust for new business sections to open up down here, in well-designed heavy commerce worthy of a vibrant city just bursting to emerge from this neighborhood. My property is about half a mile from the River Anacostia flowing just the other side of the stadium. We are prime commercial, but alas, the city suffers and rages and dies, arguing poorly for residential nothingness. There are few wise men here. A city of imposters and ugly metaphors. Fakes and spastic manipulators. Tyrants and suit salad liars. The city is withering on the vine of potential growth. Down here they call it a race issue. It's really an ego issue. Meanwhile, we wither no differently than the ivy on the pole.

mothergrad

Peggy Nix, Gabriel Thy, Sue Hedrick

It's no secret I too curl up among my words and the books that publish them. My own few favorites are scattered around my website. You can visit the Scenewash Project 20003 and click to THE LITERARY CHIP. Still not a whole lot there yet, but I aim to establish a little here, a little there, and take heed that I am slowly bringing it all together. This is practically all I do in my miserable life among the mobs of malcontention, but that might be exaggerating ever slightly, like a whisper among the rapids. I write many words on many pages and build my websites one page at a time. Desperation is the poet's business. And my poems rot because I haven't put very many online yet, but the space is allotted, and some poems are planted there. Check around. Be my Australian friend. I don't have one yet.

It seems like we've damned near established some sort of literary correspondence, and while I get really busy sometimes, I do appreciate an interesting correspondence. I freelance, and work several current clients on a sporadic basis. I work and take great peace and ponderance in my garden, and am enlisted in the minds that matter to fight back all the garbage entropy and grime have a way of bringing to my attention . . .

She's a 63 year old junior at Oglethorpre University in Atlanta, down in the state of Georgia, so go figure. She loves school, and has never been happier in her life! She studied Nietzsche this past quarter and now feels driven to discuss a poem with me...
I do all this from home, and in fact, rarely leave the Dollhouse & Grill [our pet names for the house & yard], and am somewhat agoraphobic in that way. I live here with two others. Peter and Sue. You can read about them on the website as well. I'm currently trying to finish Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. You really should read this book, without question. It is a rare instant classic, much better than (Gunter) Grass's The Rat, which I only mildly found amusing or interesting. In fact I was disappointed, I must say. Perhaps the title was not indicative of Gunter's other work, but it reminded me of Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, and although I love Pynchon's earlier work, Vineland and this latest book, Mason and Dixon (a much difficult read, and I have read very little of it frankly.) leave a lot to be desired. Vineland kicked its own ashes down the road as far as I am concerned, a pale shimmer of past literary glory, this book. Mason and Dixon is something altogether different. Written in Olde Englische, I don't know if it's worth the read or not. But for now it remains on my shelf, a gift from Sue, barely opened.

Don't use Netscape, eh? Which browser DO you use? Tell me about your computer, if you've a mind to go there. I work from a Power Macintosh, of course, an 8500/120, but I hope to upgrade to a G-3 soon. Anywaze, it's been fun chatting widja . . . keep it cool, and we'll just play this mystery, word by word. As some unknown poet wrote some time ago, twig by twig we build a language. That reminds me, my mother wants to discuss a poem I just had published, but one I had written a while ago. She's a 63 year old junior at Oglethorpre University in Atlanta, down in the state of Georgia, so go figure. She loves school, and has never been happier in her life! She studied Nietzsche this past quarter and now feels driven to discuss a poem with me, so I suppose I must oblige her. I've got to write her now, so tiddly widdly, until the next time we meet, Olivia, just call me...

[1998, Washington DC ]

S A M P L E X

"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""


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