Nearby, in the long-depopulated villages, you can see stirrings of life:
Commence Part 2… Credit: Buy it in print, canvas or shirt form here. So, I may have misspoke. On one hand, it can be said that the novel is about many things: Choose your favorite combination and go with it.
The book is about a lot of things. As we have notedthere is no clear resolution.
We never see the characters learn lessons, come of age, fall in love or be at peace in any way that warrants a Happily Ever After type of closure. Rather than walking away from IJ in one of these two unsatisfying directions, it is possible to follow a third and potentially satisfying way.
But also note that IJ is just as enjoyable, in my opinion, with or without the ideas below. The theory is this: He was trying to create an entertainment that would get us talking again.
And when our lives are filled with passive entertainment rather than active engagement with other humans, we are lonely. Eleanor Rigby was darning her socks well before we got all these channels.
Watching TV in excess leads to isolation and loneliness, but is also something very lonely people can do to feel less alone.
The way television deals with this apparent contradiction is to become a purveyor of a sardonic, detached, irony, and a self-referential, chummy knowingness. To keep us from feeling so lonely as constant watchers, TV had to convince us that it was our only friend, and the only place where we could get away from the slack-jawed pack of other humans and enjoy passively the company of clever, good-looking and like-minded people.
The ultimate result was that shared sentiment was out; individual smugness and disapproval were in. TV watchers were convinced, through commercials etc, that they are not lonely because they spend so much time alone, but because they are unique, special, rebellious, misunderstood snowflakes, and are repeatedly comforted that they have transcended the herd mentality of their sheepish peers while they spend six hours a day as part of the largest group behavior in human history.
As a fiction writer, Wallace was deeply concerned that fiction was unequipped to respond effectively to these trends. Another reason is that fiction could no longer parody the TV situation through irony. So they fell back on old forms, or said next to nothing, and stuck to a cool and distant irony.
Carried over time, it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.
Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page.
Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law.
One of the most pervasive and frustrating misconceptions about David Foster Wallace is that he is the voice of Generation X, we true geniuses of irony. People seem to think that Wallace wrote one thousand pages of careening sentences and fragmented narratives and endnotes with no true conclusion as some kind of ironic prank on readers, to make an epic novel that would punish you for reading.
My impression is that Wallace made IJ difficult not only because he likes experimental, difficult fiction, but also because he wanted to force readers to engage. To do something that was harder and more active than just watching.
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