April 15, 2011

DON'T WORRY, NO ONE ELSE HAS EITHER:

My literary allergy: The work of David Foster Wallace brings me out in hives (Geoff Dyer, 23rd March 2011 , Prospect)

It’s taken years of unscientific tests, but I now accept that there is such a thing as literary allergy. This should not be confused with a negative value judgment; it is simply a reaction. With food it’s possible to be allergic to things one actually enjoys eating, like strawberries. In the realm of literature, that combination of liking and allergy would seem almost inconceivable, but the kind of reaction I have in mind here is not simply an intense dislike. Nor is it the same thing as developing an intense antipathy to a writer solely on the basis of the persona that emerges in and through his or her writing. As a reader, this is what happened to me with Bruce Chatwin. As a writer, I seem to have occasionally generated this feeling myself—how else to interpret the blogger’s declaration that he wanted to headbutt me?

I have always felt well disposed towards the widely acclaimed David Foster Wallace, whose latest novel, The Pale King, is published on 15th April, two and a half years after his suicide. But I am allergic to his writing. I liked the idea of someone swimming in big modernist and postmodern theory and still making room for human feeling, but a page—sometimes even a sentence, or an essay title—brings me out in hives. This is not a literary judgement; I have not been able to read enough of him to form one.


One of those authors--including all of the modernists--who when you find his novels at a book sale there will be not so much as a crack in the spine nor a dog-eared paged.

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Posted by at April 15, 2011 5:25 AM
  

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