SOUNDTRACK: FLEET FOXES-Sun Giant EP (2008).
My friend Jarrett introduced me to the Fleet Foxes with their self-titled CD. I recently picked up the Sun Giant EP and it is just as good as the main CD. It opens with a beautiful a capella introduction to “Sun Giant” in multipart harmony that melds into a nice folksy song.
The remaining 4 songs all contain these harmonies, although some rock harder than others (within their style of orchestral folk). Orchestral folk implies a “bigness” that the band never really strives for. In fact, some songs sounds downright pastoral.
“English House” is great for so many reasons: the fantastic guitar lines, the breaks in the song proper, just everything. But the track “Mykonos” is probably my favorite Fleet Foxes song of all. It has such a wonderfully catchy pre-chorus and then an even more fantastic post-chorus. Simply amazing (even if I don’t know what they’re saying).
The EP is a great introduction to this fantastic band.
[READ: Mid-September 2009] uncollected essays
I don’t normally like to have a bunch of things appear in one post. But this post is going to be about those small, uncollected pieces that aren’t really long enough to warrant their own entry (letters, interviews, etc). I tracked down most of these pieces from The Howling Fantods, but I also got a few from The Joy of Sox. You’ll notice that many of these pieces are stored at http://theknowe.net/dfw and yet I can’t figure out how to access the files there directly, so Howling Fantods links are what we get.
The text in bold comes from The Howling Fantods site (I hope they don’t mind that I swiped it). The text underneath is my review/opinion/idea.
“Matters of Sense and Opacity”. New York Times; August 2, 1987. [NOTES: This is a short letter to the editor. Read it here.]
This is a letter regarding literary criticism. It’s full of big lit-crit terms.
“Quo Vadis – Introduction”. The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 1996. [NOTES: The Spring 1996 issue of The Review of Contemporary Fiction was titled "The Future of Fiction: A Forum Edited by David Foster Wallace" and featured essays by Sven Birkerts, Mary Caponegro, Jonathan Franzen, William T. Vollmann and others. This was DFW's introduction to the forum and is available here.]
This is a fascinating introduction to this magazine/periodical. Especially for this comment: “I find about three-quarters of [these pieces] interesting, finally.” And for his comment that religion is fascinating on a grand scale but “when it gets to the point of trying to communicate something specific or persuasive about religion, I find I always get frustrated and bored.”
“God Bless You, Mr. Franzen”. Harper’s Magazine, Sep. 1996; p. 9. [NOTES: This is a letter to the editor and it is available here.]
A letter in defense of Jonathan Franzen’s honesty (and a critique of Kurt Vonnegut!).
“Overlooked: Five Direly Underappreciated U.S. Novels >1960″. Salon.com; Apr. 12, 1999. [NOTES: Read it here.]
DFW recommends these 5 books. I have read none of them. Omensetter’s Luck by William H. Gass; Steps by Jerry Kosinski; Angels by Denis Johnson; Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and Wittgensteins’ Mistress by David Markson (he wrote a lengthy review of this book which I’ll look at elsewhere).
“100-word statement”. Rolling Stone No. 830/831; Dec. 30, 1999-January 6, 2000; p. 125. [NOTES: In their "Party 2000" issue, Rolling Stone asked several notable types to comment on the then-coming 'millennium'. DFW's contribution is available here and is actually 209 words long.]
The millennium as a Sophist revival. Truth over rhetoric!
“Just Asking”. The Atlantic Monthly, November 2007. [NOTES: DFW's contribution to The Atlantic Monthly's "The Future of the American Idea" issue. Read a transcript here.]
This is a very thoughtful piece in light of the terrorist attacks of 2001. He asks some hard questions and wonders why the general public hasn’t been involved in asking these very same hard questions.
These are some items I found through The Joy of Sox. You’ll notice that most of these come from the same site: Reviews, Articles, & Miscellany. This site is absolutely essential for collecting the various reviews, interviews and other small pieces about DFW. I have not and probably never will read everything on this list, but there’s a lot of fun things here, and the descriptions will entice you (or not) into reading the most interesting ones.
There is obviously a question as to whether DFW actually wrote this. Regardless, it is a strong argument for rehab centers.
This is a reprint of an interview from 1996. It is interesting and fairly personal.
Starting here, the comments in bold are from Bob Wake at http://www.smallbytes.net/~bobkat/jesterlist.html (again, I hope he doesn’t mind me swiping them).
Michael Silverblatt interviewed Wallace on KCRW-FM (5.15.97) for the radio program Bookworm. This is an outstanding interview. Silverblatt’s questions are sharp and Wallace seems more relaxed and at ease than in most of these forums. Also contains some interesting conversation pertaining to David Markson’s near-classic novel Wittgenstein’s Mistress, which is much admired by both Wallace and Silverblatt. in Santa Monica
A fun interview regarding a little of DFW’s fiction, but mostly it’s about his nonfiction works in Supposedly… and how his “narrator/reporter” persona evolved over the years. It’s the most casual interview of the bunch. They also both really like Wittgenstein’s Mistress.
Michael Feldman’s comedy-quiz radio program Whad’ya Know? (4.5.97) would seem at first a most unlikely venue for a David Foster Wallace interview. But, in fact, Feldman’s witty smartypants patter brings out the jokester and the one-upsmanship in Wallace. DFW is very sly and funny here. Biggest revelation: Wallace has finally seen Lynch’s Lost Highway, which he dismisses as “kind of a dink.”
This is an interview with Micahel Feldman from the great NPR show Whad’ya Know which, sadly, we don’t seem to get here on WNYC. I’m a big fan of the show, and this interview shows a natural and very funny side of DFW. I’ll bet it would be great to listen to rather than just to read it.
Interview and profile from Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail (4.29.97), by journalist Doug Saunders. This piece is very well crafted, with a priceless and hilarious description of Wallace chewing tobacco during the interview and hawking into a teacup at the Founder’s Club in Toronto’s SkyDome stadium. (Thanks to Saunders for posting a copy of the article online at Wallaceemail@example.com.)
This is interesting as it comes from Canada (and the interview is done in the SkyDome (IJ readers will smile at that)). DFW talks about trying to write a book that is not in the “self conscious irony” trend. And it includes a more personal look at DFW’s experience with A.A. (There’s also copious Hal-with-NASA-cup-like Kodiak spitting (ew)).
Sven Birkerts’s review from the February 1996 issue of the Atlantic Monthly was one of the earliest appraisals of Infinite Jest and it created quite a bit of excitement for the novel. Birkerts slings around alot of faux postmodern academic lingo, and the review has an overheated and breathless quality about it, but it is essential reading.
A review of IJ which offers the fascinating insight that DFW had a rivalrous friendship on the tennis court with Gil Antitoi, the son of a professor of Quebecois history. Awesome! It’s also a thoughtful review, but it won’t reveal anything besides that cool Antitoi insight.
Michiko Kakutani’s review from the New York Times (2.13.96). Reserved in its praise, but also more than a little awe-struck. The attempt at a plot-summary is hilarious in its own right. (See the Salon interview below for Wallace’s remarks regarding the “very charming Japanese lady from the New York Times….”)
I mentioned in a McSweeney’s review that I didn’t know that Michiko Kakutani was a real person. But here is proof (I guess) that I have actually read her work (I guess ). Her review is largely positive although she is clearly displeased by the length and (unedited) nature of the book. One indication that she didn’t understand everything that was going on is her observation that “we are introduced to a gallery of upsetting characters, some of whom have little to do with anyone or anything else…. A woman whose face has been disfigured with acid and whose own mother killed herself by putting her arm down a garbage disposal.” Now to say that some of the characters are extraneous is valid, but to include Madame Psychosis on that list? Nope. That dog don’t hunt.
Rather ecstatic Newsweek review (2.12.96 ) by David Gates. Includes a brief interview with Wallace. (Gates is himself an accomplished novelist. Jernigan (1991), a dark comic take on male mid-life dissolution, is well worth a look.)
This is a very fun review that shockingly, in my opinion, tells you that (yes, I can spoil here because I already talked about IJ elsewhere, but just in case) SPOILER:
We never learn how Hal and Gately meet! He also reveals (he thinks) how Hal was dosed with DMZ. He also summarizes the plot in a way that makes it far less confusing to try and figure out what’s going on. In short, this is nothing you want to read before going into the book for the first time! But it is a really good review and rather insightful too.
Very early on, I had said that I had saved two print articlers from The Boston Phoenx in my copy of Infinite Jest. And now I have online access to both:
Enthusiastic review in The Boston Phoenix (Mar. 21-28 issue) by Anne Marie Donahue. Contains yet another tongue-tied attempt at a plot summary.
Boston Phoenix interview with Wallace, also by Anne Marie Donahue, and from the same Mar 21-28 issue as her review of Infinite Jest. Wallace is eloquent on the topics of mainstream vs. avant-garde fiction, and reader expectations vis-à-vis narrative “resolution.” Helps point up the literary intolerance of reviewers like Jacob Levich.
The review is pretty standard at this point, with yet another person stating matter-of-factly that Joelle was burned by acid (even though many readers have their doubts). But the interview is great. Especially for these two quotes:
I wanted to write something that would make somebody say, “Holy, shit, I’ve got to read this,” and then seduce them into doing a certain amount of work. And that — if I can be pretentious for a second — is what art ought to do.
and even better:
Plot-wise, the book doesn’t come to a resolution. But if the readers perceive it as me giving them the finger, then I haven’t done my job. On the surface, it might seem like it just stops. But it’s supposed to stop and then kind of hum and project. Musically and emotionally, it’s a pitch that seemed right.
Finally, here’s this fascinating series of articles which I found from Infinite Tasks. It concerns a “fake” review of DFW’s Oblivion and caused a minor stir in lit-crit-land
An Undeniably Controverisal and Perhaps Even Repulsive Talent by Jay Murray Siskind. Modernism| Modernity Volume Eleven Number 4. 2004.
So the joke is that Jay Murray Siskind is a fictional character from Don DeLillo’s White Noise reviewing DFW’s book Obvlivion. I haven’t read White Noise (yet) so I didn’t recognize the joke of that, but the first footnote is attributed to Hal Incandenza, which should be a clue, no? Especially if you went to look it up?
The follow up here, is from professor Mark Sample, whose student cited the paper and which led him to investigate its truth. The whole thing is kind of fun, if you enjoy poking holes in literary critcism (and who doesn’t?)
The final piece tries to make more of it than I suspect it deserves, but hey what else is there to write about in The Chronicle of Higher Education?
I enjoyed reading these pieces. It’s fun to sort of relive the 1990s and see what kind of hype went into the book back then.
Oh, and there are some wonderful audio clips of interviews and readings at this site. If you’re really interested in DFW the man, the interview with his sister Amy Wallace Havens is really fascinating and very moving. It offers intimate insights into the man himself.