Jan 312017

“Reading is first and foremost non-reading. Even in the case of the most passionate lifelong readers, the act of picking up and opening a book masks the countergesture that occurs at the same time: the involuntary act of not picking up and not opening all the other books in the universe.”

Pierre Bayard


Unread books, I thank you. You sit there on the shelf and look at me with your lonely spines . . . you push me to be a more informed, richer, emotionally intelligent person. Some of you have been with me for thirty years. That doesn’t mean I will ever read you, Gravity’s Rainbow. And though I respect you Ulysses, I’m content with Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. Though I have read pages of Ulysses, here and there. I call that “trying.” I’m satisfied with what I know about Harold Bloom. No, wait. It’s Leopold, not Harold. I know about his Irish day and his wife Molly and his perambulations. I did read all of Proust, I swear to God I did. Except maybe I didn’t finish the third volume. I can’t remember. The point is, I want to read it. And that’s what matters.

valley of the dolls. yes.
all the king’s men. no.
fathers and sons. yes.
rabbit is rich. no.
huckleberry finn. yes.
the satanic verses. no.

There’s time. And then there isn’t.


Oct 212012

vasacapsized copy

“I venture to say that most people most of the time experience the same four-o’clock-in-the-afternoon devaluation. But I have noticed an interesting thing. If such a person, a person like me feeling lapsed at four o’clock in the afternoon, should begin reading a novel about a person feeling lapsed at four o’clock in the afternoon, a strange thing happens. Things increase in value. Possibilities open. This may be the main function of art in this peculiar age: to reverse the devaluation.”

Walker Percy, Self-Interview, 1977


Probable Personal Facts about David Foster Wallace, assuming Personal Facts exist.
As gleaned and reinterpreted from a book event for Every Love Story is a Ghost Story with author D.T. Max.

— His official diagnosis was “atypical depression,” though his biographer seems skeptical. A diagnosis of “bipolar disorder” might be too garden variety for an exceptional person like DFW. He wouldn’t have wanted to be lumped into a lumpy lump like that.

–He was sober in Alcoholics Anonymous. He claimed that he had visited open meetings to research the recovery-based characters and scenes in his major work, Infinite Jest, but it turns out he was lying about that. (Lying for honorable reasons). DFW was a real, honest-to-goodness AA, and a very involved one. He had sponsees. He gave them quite a lot of love and support. Giving was a thing with him. Check this out: The Gift by Lewis Hyde.

–He tried really hard all the time. He was a try-er.

–He was a freaky genius and everyone wanted to get close to him. Naturally, he erected barriers.

–An observation: I saw that he wore a bandana on his head when he talked to Charlie Rose on TV. Maybe no one else ever did that?

So it was more than a four-o’-clock-in-the-afternoon thing for DFW. It often is.


Jan 192012



“ For one thing, the suggestion that true popular power lies in choosing between Mars Bars and Fry’s Chocolate Cream bars suggests a certain decline in the democratic ideal from the days of Thomas Jefferson, not to speak of the Athenian city-state. Freedom now lies in deciding which particular set of grubby little deceptions to resist. ”

—Emily Dickinson

— Terry Eagleton, in his madly mad review of On Brand by Wally Olins

This is a nice logo, a peaceful clean logo. Is it really evil? Am I my soap? And what is a Fry’s Chocolate Cream Bar? Terry must be British. Twix, Milky Way, Kit Kat, Snickers. That’s what I’m talking about. Hey, speaking of logos, that was wack what Snickers did with their logo. Changing up the words . . . that was like the American Revolution or something. What do you mean I am not free?

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