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Monday, September 15, 2008

David Foster Wallace

apparently killed himself a few days ago. I've only sporadically read some of his stuff, but what I have read, I have really liked, and what I haven't read, I've always sort of felt like I would really like. Poking around some obituaries tonight, I've found a couple really nice pieces of his. One comes from an essay on Kafka:

"That the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home. It’s hard to put into words, up at the blackboard, believe me. You can tell [students] that maybe it’s good they don’t “get” Kafka. You can ask them to imagine his stories as all about a kind of door. To envision us approaching and pounding on this door, increasingly hard, pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it; we don’t know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and ramming and kicking. That, finally, the door opens . . . and it opens outward–we’ve been inside what we wanted all along. Das ist komish."

Apparently the German at the end means "that is amusing."

I had never thought about Kafka in quite those terms, and since Kafka is so difficult to grasp and evaluate, it's a really useful analysis, as well as striking me as fairly accurate and beautiful in and of itself.

He also did a pretty nice commencement speech at Kenyon College in '05. I don't even remember the speech or speaker from WU, but I don't think I would have forgotten this one so quickly. Does anyone else happen to remember who it was, or what he talked about? No researching!

6 comments:

Mom said...

Dad thinks his name was Ford and he was a former assistant secretary of state. Dad did not peek, just remembered this. from Mom

jefe said...

'twas Sir John Major, right?

Mike said...

sounds right. still have no idea who he was or what he said...

i know you cheated.

Jeff Stepp said...

i didn't cheat, actually. it took me a while to remember though.

Jamal said...

I remember Sir John Major. I don't remember the purpose of his speech, but I do remember that he referred to Vladamir Putin as Vladdy, or something like that.

I really liked that section on Kafka, too. It does help me get a grasp on Kafka, whom I never really liked until I read The Trial. Perhaps after reading that I will chance reading "The Metamorphosis" again. Maybe...

Jamal said...

Oh yeah, the other speaker I remember was some woman who completely stole Tom Hanks's speech on the power of 4, which was about how just four cars on the interstate cause a traffic jam, and so a few can impact the many.