Señor Grumblecakes (jervo) wrote,
Señor Grumblecakes

I really ought to post this in my own dfw, but I'm posting it here because I feel like it: DFW's new "Consider The Lobster" is an astonishing return to form. I've already put away the first 3 essays (one about the porn industry awards show, one a review of an Updike novel and one about Kafka's sense of humor) and I'm starting the 4th ("Authority and American Usage", which (a) proves that Hal's mother's Militant Grammarians of MA. in Infinite Jest is actually sort-of based on his own family and (b) makes me even more self-aware of my mangling of the English language than I normally am, especially as DFW himself is self-aware as well) and I'm having a ball. While Infinite Jest remains my favorite book of all time and his follow-up collection of non-fic essays ("A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", which I've maintained is a perfect companion to IJ) is one of the funniest books I've ever read, I've been rather off-put by his recent output - "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men" was pretty gimmicky and restless, and while "Everything And More" made set theory about as interesting to the layman as it posssibly could, I admit that I never finished reading "Oblivion" as his gimmicky-ness started to grate on my nerves. It should be noted, though, that this new collection of essays is arranged in chronological order, and what I've read so far is from 1998-99, which is right before I started getting annoyed with him.

Edit: Here's a footnote from the aforementioned "Authority and American Usage".

...I teach college English part-time. Mostly Lit, not Composition. But I am so pathologically obsessed with usage that every semester the same thing happens: once I've had to read my students' first set of papers, we immediately abandon the regular Lit syllabus and have a three-week Emergency Remedial Usage and Grammar Unit, during which my demeanor is basically that of somebody teaching HIV prevention to intravenous-drug users. When it emerges (as it does, every term) that 95 percent of these intelligent upscale college students have never been taught, e.g., what a clause is or why a misplaced only can make a sentence confusing or why you don't just automatically stick in a comma after a long noun phrase, I all but pound my head on the blackboard; I get angry and self-righteous; I tell them they should sue their hometown school boards, and mean it. The kids end up scared, both of me and for me. Every August I vow silently to chill about usage this year, and then by Labor Day there's foam on my chin...

Edit: And also a footnote from "Big Red Son", about the porn industry awards night:

...There is something deeply surreal about standing behind a female performer in hot-pink peau de soie, a woman whose clitoris and perineum you have priorly seen, and watching her try to get a microwaved egg roll onto her plate with a cocktail fork.
Tags: books, dfw

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