July 29, 2009

Things found behind the radiator.

I tend to put magazines on the radiator when I'm clearing away the clutter that accumulates on the dining table, so it didn't surprise me that an old magazine had slipped into the rarely inspected space between the radiator and the wall. But if, at the point when the magazine had been spotted, you had asked me what old magazine I'd hoped had hidden out back there and escaped my routine recycling, I'd have said the issue of The Atlantic with the David Foster Wallace essay "Host."

I have the essay in the book "Consider the Lobster," but the book had taken the magazine's big pages that had little colored boxes around text and wide margins with corresponding colored boxes of additional text and reduced it to small black-and-white clutter, and I'd been avoiding reading it for years.

I exult when the magazine is the issue of The Atlantic with "Host." I display the layout, note the colors, and bitch about the book.

Response: "It's like hypertext."

I look on line and immediately find the essay with all the boxes moved out of sight and words and phrases neatly hyperlinked. How deflating! Is the magazine discovery nothing at all — or nothing more than a prompt to Google the old essay, which now all of you have too?

I scan the magazine version. There's something nice about the way they found to graphically depict hyperlinking, I suppose, but more than anything, I think about how much I love reading on line, fully at ease with clicking through things I'm in the middle of and flowing all over everywhere for hours, completely enthralled, perhaps never to return to the place where I started. There's nothing at all like the copy of "Consider the Lobster," sitting on my bedside table for years, reminding me of the unread essay it contains.

8 comments:

Roost on the Moon said...

One last footnote: Ziegler wrote a this in the wake of DFW's death.

It makes him seem sillier, smaller, and more pathetic than "Host" ever did.

Jason (the commenter) said...

That was a lovely book. Every chapter was on a completely different topic and the author managed to make each one interesting. Even dictionaries!

traditionalguy said...

Put it back where it came from.

Lem said...

Haven’t finished Infinite Jest, mostly because I often go back and re-read the fun parts. (not to mention it’s hard to read)

I’ve resorted to tagging them (the fun parts) with post notes because it’s not easy to navigate to find them again.
You really have to pay attention or you get lost easily.

$9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

I remember reading that article when it came out, but until know didn't realize it was DFW who wrote it. My memory is that it was a nice little effort to update footnoting convention, but ultimately unsuccessful and terribly readable.

And Roost, you're right, DFW hanging himself is sillier, smaller, and more pathetic than writing the juvenile hatchet jobs for the Atlantic.

Roost on the Moon said...

Oh, geez, ambiguous pronoun.

Wallace was giant; brilliant, honest, and kind. Ziegler is a foolish little cretin.

Toby said...

I seem to recall that somewhere in the opening pages of Consider the Lobster--probably the page noting where the articles first appeared--DFW indicates he was unhappy with the final version of the story as printed in The Atlantic. If I'm right, it's probably worth checking out the book version--akin to watching the director's cut of a movie.

Penny said...

"but more than anything, I think about how much I love reading on line, fully at ease with clicking through things I'm in the middle of and flowing all over everywhere for hours, completely enthralled, perhaps never to return to the place where I started. There's nothing at all like the copy of "Consider the Lobster," sitting on my bedside table for years, reminding me of the unread essay it contains."

This so clearly states exactly how I feel about reading on line. The joy is in the journey, and where it might take you.

Course it might also say something about how we explore the world in general. Some people like going DEEP into one subject, and some of us prefer to cast a much wider net.