(A Conversation with David Foster Wallace
By Larry McCaffery)
LM: How is this insistence on meditation different from the kind of meta strategies you yourself have attacked as preventing authors from being anything other than narcissistic or overly abstract or intellectual?
DFW: I guess I’d judge what I do by the same criterion I apply to the self conscious elements you find in Vollmann’s fiction: do they serve a purpose beyond themselves? Whether I can provide a payoff and communicate a function rather than just seem jumbled and prolix is the issue that’ll decide whether the thing I’m working on now succeeds or not. But I think right now it’s important for art-fiction to antagonize the reader’s sense that what she’s experiencing as she reads is meditated through a human consciousness, now with an agenda not necessarily coincident with her own. For some reason I probably couldn’t even explain, I’ve been convinced of this for years, that one distinctive thing about truly "low" or commercial art is this apparent suppression of a mediating consciousness and agenda. The example I think of first is the novella "Little Expressionless Animals" in "Girl With Curious Hair." Readers I know sometimes remark on all the flash-cuts and the distortion of linearity in it and usually want to see it as mimicking TV’s own pace and phosphenic flutter. But what it’s really trying to do is just the "opposite" of TV—it’s trying to prohibit the reader from forgetting that she’s receiving heavily mediated data, that this process is a relationship between the writer’s consciousness and her own, and that in order for it to be anything like a full human relationship, she’s going to have to put in her share of the linguistic work.
Dalkey Archive Press,University of Illinois(www.dalkeyarchive.com/interviews/show/21 - 74k -)
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