28 October 2010

The Broom of the System, concluded

A final few words, if I may, about Wallace's first novel, as I described it last week.

I'm attracted to the sensibility behind it, as regular readers of this blog will probably suspect. The rapid moves from high-brow to low, from Wittgensteinian philosophy to Gilligan references, make for a hybrid of challenge and comfort.

Another strength is dialogue. He has a fine ear for the way people really talk to each other. I'm reminded of the Woody Allen move "Bullets over Broadway," because that is the criticism that the artistically gifted mob soldier directs at the not-so-gifted playwrite, "Nobody in real life talks like your characters. You gotta real problem wid dat."

Anyway, people in real life do talk like Wallace's characters. Or, at least, the stylization of necessity in fictional dialog never draws attention to itself. Here is one character, whose job entails reading a lot of manuscripts submitted to a journal, talking to his lover.

"Do you know where all the really sad stories I'm getting are coming from? They're coming, it turns out, from kids. Kids in college. I'm starting to think something is just deeply wrong with the youth of America."

That's the way people old enough to worry about "kids in college" do talk -- and the sentiment advances the story, while introducing one of the book's stories-within-the-story, because of course this editor proceeds to describe an example of one of these sad submissions.

I was a little disappointed in the ending. I won't describe it, out of deference to any of you who may wish to read it yourself. But a plot this intricate needs a neat tie-up at the end, or the intricacy can feel like a cheat. As, alas, it does.

Still: there was a lot to admire, and finally reading Wallace allows me retrospectively to mourn his passing.

Have I mentioned my recent discovery that Wallace was the target of satire by The Onion?

No comments:

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.