Ramblings & ephemera

David Foster Wallace on what’s wrong with memoirs, celebrity profiles, & academic writing

From Dwight Garner’s “We Are In a State of Three-Alarm Emergency” (The New York Times Paper Cuts Blog: 11 September 2007):

In his brooding and kaleidoscopic introduction to the new “Best American Essays 2007” – a 5,000-word chunk of it is online – David Foster Wallace doesn’t write so much as shred (in the Jerry Garcian manner) about the idea of compiling collections like this one.

He explains, for example, why he tended to exclude:

A) Memoirs: “The sense I get from a lot of contemporary memoirs is that they have an unconscious and unacknowledged project, which is to make the memoirists seem as endlessly fascinating and important to the reader as they are to themselves.”

B) Celebrity profiles: “Some sort of personal quota was exceeded at around age 35. I now actually want to know less than I know about most celebrities.”

C) Academic writing: “As someone who has a lot of felt trouble being clear, concise, and/or cogent, I tend to be allergic to academic writing, most of which seems to me willfully opaque and pretentious.”

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