WALLACE: Well, it's more complicated than that because usually, if you're writing fiction, you're dealing with characters who, themselves, will have heartfelt sentiments but who, themselves, live in this culture right now and thus face all the impediments to sort of dealing with those parts of their lives that, you know, that we did. So it would be not only silly but unrealistic to have a character saying that kind of stuff. I don't know, I mean, other writers with whom I talk about this stuff, it's more just this - a lot of writers tired of doing kind of hip, slick, funny, dark, exploding hypocrisy, underlining once again the point that life is a farce and we're all in it for ourselves and that the point of life is to amass as much money/fame/sexual gratification, you know, whatever your personal thing is, and that everything else is just glitter or PR image - that we're tired of sort of doing that stuff over and over again. Yet to do stuff that flies in the face of that is to risk becoming the "Bridges Of Madison County" guy. I mean, a lot of the stuff that would seem on the surface of it to counteract that is gooey, hideous, horrible, retrograde, cynical stuff, if that makes any sense.
Like the tennis champs who fascinate him, novelist Wallace (Infinite Jest; The Broom of the System) makes what he does look effortless and yet inspired. His instinct for the colloquial puts his masters Pynchon and DeLillo to shame, and the humane sobriety that he brings to his subjects-fictional or factual-should serve as a model to anyone writing cultural comment, whether it takes the form of stories or of essays like these. Readers of Wallace's fiction will take special interest in this collection: critics have already mined "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" (Wallace's memoir of his tennis-playing days) for the biographical sources of Infinite Jest. The witty, insightful essays on David Lynch and TV are a reminder of how thoroughly Wallace has internalized the writing-and thinking-habits of Stanley Cavell, the plain-language philosopher at Harvard, Wallace's alma mater. The reportage (on the Illinois State Fair, the Canadian Open and a Caribbean Cruise) is perhaps best described as post-gonzo: funny, slight and self-conscious without Norman Mailer's or Hunter Thompson's braggadocio. Only in the more academic essays, on Dostoyevski and the scholar . Hix, does Wallace's gee-whiz modesty get in the way of his arguments. Still, even these have their moments: at the end of the Dostoyevski essay, Wallace blurts out that he wants "passionately serious ideological contemporary fiction [that is] also ingenious and radiantly transcendent fiction." From most writers, that would be hot air; from one as honest, subtle and ambitious as Wallace, it has the sound of a promise.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.