I like to check my past reading self often, as a way to gauge who I was then and who I am now.
We all change as we get older, right? For example, when I was four years old, I told you my favorite books were Richard Scarry’s “What Do People Do All Day?” I would say it’s a book. and “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, and today…
In fact, those books still reign, maybe I haven’t changed that much.
After reading a typical article, I had a special opportunity to rethink a bit. interesting and insightful post on the work of the late David Foster Wallace, recently published in the London Review of Books by author/critic Patricia Lockwood. The more than 8,000-word pieces contain both Lockwood’s personal reaction to and relationship to Wallace’s work, and how Wallace’s texts are of great importance and enchanted wisdom for a particular class of young men.
Guilty as guilty. I read Wallace’s collection of “The Girl with the Curious Hair” story collection as a college freshman and it was like connecting with someone who was interested in the same things as me: television, how books work, girls.
In grad school, I became obsessed with Wallace’s nonfiction (“Something Fun I’ll Never Do Again”), his essays on his cruise on a cruise ship, or a close observation and deconstruction of my personal favorite, the Illinois State Fair.
At the end of graduate school, as I counted the days when I would have to move into my parents’ basement, I devoted all I had to a bedspread, a duvet, a lamp, and a copy of “Infinite Jest,” a long novel about a high society. the broad existential crisis that sustains me as I go through my own personal existential crisis.
Wallace’s knowledge, sense of humor, and willingness to mix the low and the intellectual felt like the kind of attitude I would want to project into the world, even if I understood my more limited intellectual firepower. Without a doubt, I would call him my favorite author.
Lockwood discusses both aspects of the author, Wallace, and perhaps the person to deal with when we consider the work of Wallace and his work 15 years after his death in 2008. We know you’re stalking and intimidating a romantic partner. We know it can be rude and mean. He never claimed to be a saint, but sometimes in death we decide that these things don’t matter and maybe we shouldn’t.
Lockwood suggests that years later, when Wallace’s work seems as fresh and new as it seemed at the time, perhaps he was not as innovative as once believed, and turning Wallace into a guru was a dead end.
Interestingly, I find that I agree more with Lockwood than I agree with Lockwood’s views on Wallace and his work, especially the idea that he would be a lousy guru, considering it’s something I’ve been trying for a few years.
It is important that we continue to evolve as we experience the world. How hard would it be to keep reading the same books over and over again. Expanding one’s worldview is a great pleasure to read.
More than 30 years after I first read Wallace’s work and felt truly fascinated by it, literally feeling a jolt of energy, this is no longer the case.
But at the same time, I feel the echo of that feeling. I am no longer that young man, but at the same time, I will always remain that young man, if it makes sense. That’s not a bad thing either.
Even though it’s still something that needs (and should) grow (perhaps especially because of this), I’m able to look at that old self with some love and understanding.
John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities.”
Book recommendations from Biblioracle
John Warner tells you what to read, based on the last five books you’ve read.
1. “Pale Fire” By Vladimir Nabokov
2. “Boatman” By Justin Cronin
3. “Klara and the Sun” By Kazuo Ishiguro
4. “Passenger” By Cormac McCarthy
5. “Doctor Hoffman’s Evil Desire Machines” By Angela Carter
—Daniel K., Los Angeles
I think Daniel would like a novel from 10 years ago that explores some of the same existential questions that are at the heart of recent books. Book: “She Doesn’t Want To” by Jonathan Miles.
1. “Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow” By Gabrielle Zevin
2. “The Story of AJ Fikry” By Gabrielle Zevin
3. “Rising Early In The Morning” By Katherine Heiny
4. “Hamnet” By Maggie O’Farrell
5. “Wolf Hall” By Hilary Mantel
— Wendy T., Chicago
AS Byatt’s classic blend of literary mystery and romance must be fitting for Wendy. The title of the book is “Owning”.
1. “Bel Canto” By Ann Patchett
2. “Writers and Lovers” by Lily King
3. “Tribune” by Stephen King
4. “Ordinary People” by Sally Rooney
5. “Franny and Zoey” by JD Salinger
— Katie M., Grayslake
I hope Katie hasn’t previously linked to Rebecca Makkai’s “The Great Believers” because it’s a great match for this recent read list.
Get a reading from the biblioracle
Submit a list of the last five books you’ve read and your hometown firstname.lastname@example.org