Posts Tagged ‘David Foster Wallace’

2d (an existential cheese sandwich and a reference getting less obscure)

26 Oct




it’d be nice if I could rest
inside your head for just a while
volatility immaterial, I just need a change of quarter
it’s like the need one might find
walking down the street
and somewhere right before the dead end strip churns the promenade
and you feel still and stuck inside the humid vagaries of choicelessness
you see the dilapidated vacation cave you need
rain damaged gruff exterior to match your shave
and you buy it on the spot
bearish merchant of real estate, scratch under the chin, money quickly in escrow
you’ve got to buy it on the spot
because no one else will
because no one else will appreciate the elbowroom
space for at least three dozen book stacks
to be alphabetized on our own time
space where we both discovered as we were meant to
exactly then, when it needed to happen
that neither of us want to be me
and one of us
only want the dead writer we admired
to send us a package in the mail
a left leather shoe we left on their floor
a crawl of empty sound
moving, it never aged, the floor; the dead do though
you see them all the time, I hear
at least that’s what you told me
asleep, eyes closed, we could both peer in something new
you, my envy – me, your soonest disappointment
brilliant, so brilliant, both of us
running backwards from accomplishment

or, was that the point to make?


take the world on your shoulders like Atlas…

27 Nov



After Eeyore finally hung himself with his own detachable tail, so that he could finally rest his melancholy and sip purgatorial tea with David Foster Wallace, I finally woke up and realized that I was writing the same poem over and over with different tongues (sometimes wagging simultaneously like the heads of a hydra).


Well, this one is for Henry.










“Can I be as I believe myself or as others believe me to be? Here is where these lines become a confession in the presence of my unknown and unknowable me, unknown and unknowable for myself. Here is where I create the legend wherein I must bury myself.” 

– Miguel de Unamuno




In our hotel room

she stood  


adjacent to the body

reborn from the corpse of literary endeavor.

The writer

not the one you thought

lay dying in the bed.

I picked up his pen

from the bloodied floor;

the crimson sweat

covered the ambition,

while he struggled to speak.

“Just write the lines,

“Those are the only memorable artifacts we leave.  

“Have a great ending to all your work,

“And make sure the heroine has gusto.”

Some sweetness, maybe, is unnecessary.

“But above all –

“Make sure you don’t end up in this room.”

In our hotel room

she stood barefoot

as a brief seduction

while I remained silent

until the last words of the writer were delivered

like a new childhood.

When she walked over to me

across the unsentimental vastness

to see if I understood with a gesture of the lips,

I resisted because she wasn’t the one I wrote;

I wrote about empty rooms,

and dying writers that I wanted to remain alive in them.

Suddenly I felt mercurial,

lively under Aries;

I walked away that night,

to a bar to write,

where music played

and people danced.   

I was worried there that it would all come free,



held by the last

the only lines

that I would write

that would matter

in this interminable con

that makes art out of deception.

I took a breath

and resolved to let it be

as it must,

because choice was surrendered

long ago

by those better than I.



sometimes when you love something enough it’s hard to get out alive

14 Jun



From a 3/8/96 interview with


What’s it like to be a young fiction writer today, in terms of getting started, building a career and so on?

Personally, I think it’s a really neat time. I’ve got friends who disagree. Literary fiction and poetry are real marginalized right now. There’s a fallacy that some of my friends sometimes fall into, the ol’ “The audience is stupid. The audience only wants to go this deep. Poor us, we’re marginalized because of TV, the great hypnotic blah, blah.” You can sit around and have these pity parties for yourself. Of course this is bullshit. If an art form is marginalized it’s because it’s not speaking to people. One possible reason is that the people it’s speaking to have become too stupid to appreciate it. That seems a little easy to me.

If you, the writer, succumb to the idea that the audience is too stupid, then there are two pitfalls. Number one is the avant-garde pitfall, where you have the idea that you’re writing for other writers, so you don’t worry about making yourself accessible or relevant. You worry about making it structurally and technically cutting edge: involuted in the right ways, making the appropriate intertextual references, making it look smart. Not really caring about whether you’re communicating with a reader who cares something about that feeling in the stomach which is why we read. Then, the other end of it is very crass, cynical, commercial pieces of fiction that are done in a formulaic way — essentially television on the page — that manipulate the reader, that set out grotesquely simplified stuff in a childishly riveting way.

What’s weird is that I see these two sides fight with each other and really they both come out of the same thing, which is a contempt for the reader, an idea that literature’s current marginalization is the reader’s fault. The project that’s worth trying is to do stuff that has some of the richness and challenge and emotional and intellectual difficulty of avant-garde literary stuff, stuff that makes the reader confront things rather than ignore them, but to do that in such a way that it’s also pleasurable to read. The reader feels like someone is talking to him rather than striking a number of poses.

Part of it has to do with living in an era when there’s so much entertainment available, genuine entertainment, and figuring out how fiction is going to stake out its territory in that sort of era. You can try to confront what it is that makes fiction magical in a way that other kinds of art and entertainment aren’t. And to figure out how fiction can engage a reader, much of whose sensibility has been formed by pop culture, without simply becoming more shit in the pop culture machine. It’s unbelievably difficult and confusing and scary, but it’s neat. There’s so much mass commercial entertainment that’s so good and so slick, this is something that I don’t think any other generation has confronted. That’s what it’s like to be a writer now. I think it’s the best time to be alive ever and it’s probably the best time to be a writer. I’m not sure it’s the easiest time.


What do you think is uniquely magical about fiction?

Oh, Lordy, that could take a whole day! Well, the first line of attack for that question is that there is this existential loneliness in the real world. I don’t know what you’re thinking or what it’s like inside you and you don’t know what it’s like inside me. In fiction I think we can leap over that wall itself in a certain way. But that’s just the first level, because the idea of mental or emotional intimacy with a character is a delusion or a contrivance that’s set up through art by the writer. There’s another level that a piece of fiction is a conversation. There’s a relationship set up between the reader and the writer that’s very strange and very complicated and hard to talk about. A really great piece of fiction for me may or may not take me away and make me forget that I’m sitting in a chair. There’s real commercial stuff can do that, and a riveting plot can do that, but it doesn’t make me feel less lonely.

There’s a kind of Ah-ha! Somebody at least for a moment feels about something or sees something the way that I do. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s these brief flashes or flames, but I get that sometimes. I feel unalone — intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. I feel human and unalone and that I’m in a deep, significant conversation with another consciousness in fiction and poetry in a way that I don’t with other art.




Jack Tsoy Tumult

Morose Pontifications and Other Poetic Ramblings

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