Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wallace on IJ structure

Michael Silverblatt: 'The book seems to be written in fractals?

DFW: 'Expand on that.

MS: 'It occurred to me that the way in which the material is presented allows for a subject to be announced in a small form, then there's a fan of subject matter, other subjects, and then it comes back in a second form, containing the other subjects in small, and then comes back again as if what were being described...

DFW: 'That's one of the things, structurally, that's going on. It's actually structured as something called a Sierpinski Gasket... probably now a lopsided Sierpinski Gasket...

MS: 'What is a Sierpinski Gasket?

DFW: 'I would almost have to show you... it's basically a pyramid on acid, with certain interconnections that are visually kind of astonishing, and then the mathematical explanations are interesting...

MS: 'Do you mean the structure to be discovered?

DFW: 'When I was young, played structural games, mostly for myself. IJ trying to do a whole bunch of things at once, doesn’t make much difference to me whether people get the fractal structure.

‘It seems to me that a lot of pre-millennial life in America consists in enormous amounts of what seem like discrete bits of information and the real kind of intellectual adventure is finding ways to relate them to each other; to find larger patterns and meanings. Which of course is essentially narrative…

'For doing something this long, a fair amount of the structural stuff is for me. It’s kind of like pitons in the mountainside. It’s ways for me to stay oriented and engaged.

[Long question from MS re the significance of structuring the book this way, as necessary to capture something serious about contemporary existence.]

DFW: 'There’s this weird Monday-morning quarterbacking thing about it. I know for me, I don’t sit down and thing, ‘Hrmm, how can I find a new kind of structural synecdoche for experience right now. It’s more a matter of whether it tastes true or not. A certain structural representation of how the world operated on my nerve endings, which was as, a bunch of discrete, random bits, containing within them, not always all that blatantly, a whole lot of interesting connections. And it wasn’t always clear whether they were intentional, or my imagination, or very important. A lot of the structure is kind of seat of the pants, what felt right or didn’t. 

'I think writing is a big blend... there's a lot of sophistication, but also a lot of idiocy about it. So much of it is gut... It's only about halfway through that any kind of structure starts to emerge, and then of course the great nightmare is that you alone see the structure, and it's going to be a mess for everyone else.

Full interview here.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Reading for first meeting.

We'll try to read in 100-page chunks, including end notes. I'm thinking people will have different editions, though, which means the pagination may be inconsistent, at times. Hence the following description of the first week's chunk of text:

From the beginning, thru the end of the section headed '30 April - Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.' The last line of the section is: 'Steeply had found his triceps' scratch and twisted the flesh of his arm to examine it, his rouged lips rounded with concern.' This section ends just past note 42.

A note about the notes: this week's chunk includes note 39, part (b) of which refers to note 304. We should read note 304 as part of this week's reading. Note 304's cited a number of times, so we'll get it out of the way early. The stuff described therein's relevant for most of the book.

Questions or comments, let me know: davidfosterwallace.to@gmail.com.