The click of a well made box

Uh Oh.  I have neglected you.  It’s been ten days and that’s too long.  Gotta throw something down here.

I know before I even really start in on this that this post is going to be different from anything else I’ve been posting here recently.  This is going to ramble.  This is gonna get personal.

I’ve been down.  Dunno exactly why.  Use to be that Katie and I would pose the “one thing” inquiry to the other when one of us hit some sort of ambiguous malaise like this.  “If you could change just one thing about your life right now…?”  I don’t have an answer to that of late.

Not sure if it’s necessarily the source of my unease, but I kind of want to bitch about my courses this semester.  That’s unfair though.  While I want to put blame elsewhere my coursework is largely what I make of it, and I have all but stopped reading for classes.  That’s not to say that I’ve stopped reading though.  I am devouring David Foster Wallace of late.  Devouring.  I am reading his stuff, but I’m mostly reading about him.  Here’s my source: http://thebrowser.com/reports/david-foster-wallace

One particular essay linked on that page focuses on Wallace’s experiences with his philosophy coursework as an undergraduate at Amherst.  Wallace talked about the appeal of philosophy for him, that he felt as though he was always chasing a “special sort of buzz,” an epiphany, essentially.  Of course, being David Foster Wallace, he described it in terms far more eloquent and verbose than the word “epiphany.”  He employs an obscure quote from Yeats: “the click of a well-made box.”  And Jesus.  Who doesn’t want that?

So my thoughts have been far from my course work and more on David Foster Wallace of late.  Then in a conversation with a friend the other day I arrived at a “click” of my own.

Let’s start here: Literature.  I don’t read it.  Guilt!  I feel such guilt about that, but fiction so often just leaves me cold.  What is very likely is that I’m just failing to pick up the right books, but even in moments where I can feel that I am entertained I can also feel that there is something in me that is not engaged.  This has caused problems for me in the past, and more than once the accusation of elitism has been leveled at me.  Maybe.  But I also know that even if I read trade-fiction, or even just watch a popular television show, I can enjoy it, and enjoy it more with company, but that when I walk away from that stimulus I do not feel the desire to return to it.

My friend was discussing the paper she was writing over Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.  (btw, If you’re one of those that discount the entire young adult genre as having literary value then you actually are pretentious.)  I devoured those books.  Much in the way that I am currently devouring David Foster Wallace.  *Click*  The His Dark Materials trilogy has some pretty weighty concepts at its core.  It concerns itself with largely with the origins of evil in our world and original sin.  Damn.  I ate those up.  David Foster Wallace’s nonfiction has more of that type of intellectual weight in every sentence than any other author’s prose I have ever read.  Ever.

Perhaps this click isn’t as much of a click as I would like to think.  Perhaps you’re reading this thinking, “Your epiphany is that you like prose that has weighty concepts and ideas behind it?  Deep.”  Well… yeah… that is my epiphany.  Truthfully, I’m reading more right now than I ever have in my adult life.  As a teenager I read insatiably, and then, that stopped.  I am pleased and encouraged to notice of late though that my ability to stay in dense prose passages has been steadily increasing this year.  Perhaps those weighty idea novels, and I know there are many of them, were just inaccessible to me a year or two back.  I have a reading list now that is prohibitively long.  If I’ve struck a chord then feel free to comment and throw some more titles on it.

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One Response to “The click of a well made box”

  1. Brittany Says:

    Don’t know how I missed this! You probably already know this, but what it seems like you’re talking about is actually a literary sub-genre called philosophical fiction or, more frequently, the “novel of ideas.” Very few of the classic examples of this sub-genre are contemporary, but one of the most recent is–not coincidentally, I don’t think–INFINITE JEST. If you haven’t read it, Kundera’s THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING is also an excellent book, and anything of Borges’s, though he’s a little too much for me, might be right up your alley. DFW actually wrote a review of a biography of Borges back in 2004, in which he cites having read LABYRINTHS when he was 12. That guy.

    You can read his review, “Borges on the Couch,” here: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9a03e3d6123df934a35752c1a9629c8b63&pagewanted=all

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