11.12.14

How's the Water?


I am very glad to see this has resurfaced (pun sort of intended) after having been removed for copyright infringement since the creators of the video didn't get explicit permission to use David Foster Wallace's speech. It's an excellent exposition on a quote I first heard via Marshall McLuhan.
Though the observation that those so immersed in something cease to be capable of percieving it,(if they were ever able to) - has been around for awhile.

Unfortunately DFW didn't make it, he lost the battle with depression, and I expect the cynical among us might say he didn't do so well taking his own advice. Some of his peers have had the gall to hurl insults at his ghost, calling him pretentious, and a fraud for his vulnerable style - that he was trying to appeal to the soft, self-help generation.

Wallace also provided his take on the American Psycho author's writing choices.

Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are simply lists of brand-name consumer products. Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what’s always distinguished bad writing—flat characters, a narrative world that’s cliched and not recognizably human, etc.—is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world.
 
If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it. You can defend “[American] Psycho” as being a sort of performative digest of late-eighties social problems, but it’s no more than that.
 
If anything - This is Water, is another example of Wallace's lack of pollyanna attitude or pretension towards the brutal realities or dullness of everyday existence and nihilistic worldviews around him. I don't believe his suicide invalidates any of his insights, it only demonstrates the destructive force of depression.
 
We frequently find people who have the most brilliant mind, the sharpest intellect, bursting with creativity cannot overcome the counterintuitive emotional states that crush their lucid thought patterns. To quote another excellent writer in a different genre: I don't agree with suicide, but I understand it. There comes a time when you want to leave this planet.  People who do it don't fail to appreciate the horrible impact it will have on their friends and families. For the most part they are not selfish, they simply cannot endure any more and often fear they will cause more suffering to their families or serve no purpose by staying. They are tired of being the depressed person that everyone worries about, the pressure to 'cure' themselves, live up to their own high standards, and simply conceal and paint over how they are truly feeling.
 
Not unlike Eyedea (whose death was accidental), we can mourn that a tremendously talented voice was lost, but embrace everything he left behind.  This is Water is an engaging and well done interpretation of his speech. There's an appetite for it because he fundamentally empathized, understood and articulated the grinding feelings we all cope with. They may seem like distinctly first world problems, but patience and consideration translate across all cultures. Whether you're in line at a supermarket or waiting for someone to get their goat herd off of your mountain path. Not unlike Kurt Vonnegut, he gets the message out while reminding us that we always have a choice.
 
Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'
 

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