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April 27, 2003

INFINITE SETS....It turns out that one of my favorite authors, David Foster Wallace, has been in Southern California for the past year, teaching at nearby Pomona College. The LA Times has an interview with him today.

Apparently his current project is nonfiction, a book about the "founder of set theory." I can't tell who this is supposed to refer to (Boole? Cantor?) but it certainly sounds like an interesting departure.

Posted by Kevin Drum at April 27, 2003 11:33 AM | TrackBack


Comments

the title of the book is 'everything & more;' it's a biography/survey of cantor & his work that's supposed to come out right before his latest collection of short stories, 'oblivion.' your guess is as good as mine on the actual dates.

Posted by: harm at April 27, 2003 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

He's a much better non-fiction writer than fiction. I find his fiction tedious. "a supposedly fun thing..." is a really good book. But his short stories and Infinite Jest blah. I've not read the whole catalog, but his fiction really puts me off.

Posted by: Ian D at April 27, 2003 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I tried reading "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" and had to give up. I'm not some sort of literary wimp, either: I earnt my spurs wading through turgid, postwar French quasi-philosophical literature. Is his other stuff better?

Posted by: Ben at April 27, 2003 01:10 PM | PERMALINK

His Infinite Jest gave me a damn hernia. I'll never forgive him for that.

Posted by: Niraj at April 27, 2003 01:51 PM | PERMALINK

Ben,

I really do think that "a supposedly fun thing i'll never do again" is definitely worth reading. The essay on contemporary fiction/culture is really good: E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction. His writing about tennis actually made me go watch tennis in a new way and a first way; I am not a sports fan. The first essay is interesting w/r/t* his own early experience as tennis player. The David Lynch essay is interesting even if you're only luke warm to Lynch

"Funn things" still has the nervous/tedious tic of footnotes but it is worth reading.


* with regard to ;^}

Posted by: Ian D at April 27, 2003 02:41 PM | PERMALINK

I confess that I don't like his short stories much either, but Infinite Jest was great, Broom of the System wasn't bad, and some of his nonfiction essays are terrific too. (Not all of them, though.)

I'll be curious to see what he comes up with regarding Cantor.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at April 27, 2003 02:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'm interested in history of set theory too. My understanding is that he comes at this as someone who understands the math/logic. When he was on Charlie Rose, when IJ came out, he shied away from it, but Rose made him acknowledge that he did Def Eq problems as fun

Posted by: Ian D at April 27, 2003 03:30 PM | PERMALINK

it takes a peculiar kind of mindset (& perhaps an unhealthy awareness of not only literary theory but postmodern, post-postmodern & comteporary authors--nabokov, barth, pynchon, delillo are the biggies) to enjoy much of DFW's short stories. that's not to say he's incapable of writing anything that isn't masturbatory & self conscious, just that he's a VERY good writer & is extremely self-conscious of it & therefore attempts the kind of convoluted literary acrobatics that just whoosh over the head of most readers.

that being said, 'brief interviews w/ hideous men' is, imo, the definitive short story compilation of the 90s--unbearably sad & viciously funny all at the same time. it's rare to witness the kind of genuine moral outrage DFW is so good @ infusing his material with, especially in these troubled times.

he's certainly one of the wider-read contemporary authors & much speculation is afoot about what he'll come up with on cantor. i personally look forward to 'oblivion' more, but 'everything & more' ought to prove a good read nonetheless.

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