quotes from a wallace acolyte

“When they were introduced, he made a witticism, hoping to be liked. She laughed extremely hard, hoping to be liked. Then each drove home alone, staring straight ahead, with the very same twist to their faces. The man who’d introduced them didn’t much like either of them, though he acted as if he did – anxious as he was to preserve good relations at all times. One never knew, after all, now did one?”

I’d really rather have had no pageviews at all, rather than to see this downward-and-further-downward decline. But, since my output is victim to neglect, here’s some more Wallace. Nice days, all of you.

N.B. New quotes will be appearing here semi-regularly. Keep in touch.

“It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end. Could dedicate their entire lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately -the object seemed incidental to this will to give oneself away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging into.”

Well, love, but you know the idiom ‘not yourself’ – ‘He’s not himself today,’ for example,” crooking and uncrooking fingers to form quotes on either side of what she says, which Mario adores. “There are, apparently, persons who are deeply afraid of their own emotions, particularly the painful ones. Grief, regret, sadness. Sadness especially, perhaps. Dolores describes these persons as afraid of obliteration, emotional engulfment. As if something truly and thoroughly felt would have no end or bottom. Would become infinite and engulf them.” (p. 765)

They have shifted into a sexual mode. Her lids flutter; his close. There’s a concentrated tactile languor. She is left-handed. It is not about consolation. They start the thing with each other’s buttons. It is not about conquest or forced capture. It is not about glands or instincts of the split-second shiver and clench of leaving yourself; nor about love or about whose love you deep-down desire, by whom you feel betrayed. Not and never love, which kills what needs it… rather about hope, an immense, wide-as-the-sky hope of finding… a something the same that will propitiate hope…that there is now inside her a vividness vacuumed of all but his name.” (P.566)


“Mario likes the place: it’s crowded and noisy and none of the furniture has protective plastic wrap, but nobody notices anybody else or comments on a disability and the Headmistress is kind to the people and the people cry in front of each other. The inside of it smells like an ashtray, but Mario’s felt good both times in Ennet’s House because it’s very real; people are crying and making noise and getting less unhappy, and once he heard somebody say God with a straight face and nobody looked at them or looked down or smiled in any sort of way where you could tell they were worried inside.” (p.591)


“Certain things not only can’t be taught but can be retarded by other stuff that can be taught. The whole Tavis/Schtitt program here is supposedly a progression toward self-forgetting; some find the whole girl-issue thing brings them face to face with something in themselves they need to believe they’ve left far behind in order to hang in and develop… E.T.A. is mostly a comparatively unsexual place, maybe almost surprisingly so, considering the constant roar and gurgle here of adolescent glands, the emphasis on physicality, the fears of mediocrity, the back-and-forth struggles with ego, the loneliness and close proximity. (p. 635-636)

“Aboard the Nadir, as is ringingly foretold in the brochure, you will get to do “something you haven’t done in a long, long time: Absolutely Nothing.” How long has it been since you did Absolutely Nothing? I know exactly how long it’s been for me. I know how long it’s been since I had every need met choicelessly from someplace outside me, without my having to ask. And that time I was floating, too, and the fluid was warm and salty, and if I was in any way conscious I’m sure I was dreadless, and was having a really good time, and would have sent postcards to everyone wishing they were here.” (A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again)



“If some American writers have a carefully hedged relation with actuality, or prefer an evasive irony over passionate engagement, this has at least something to do with their membership, in these days of generous publishing advances, fellowships and grants, in their country’s most privileged classes. Wallace is clearly an exception. Certainly, few of his young peers have spoken as eloquently and feelingly as he has about the hard tasks of the moral imagination that contemporary American life imposes on them. Yet he often appears to belong too much to his own times — the endless postmodern present — to persuasively explain his quarrel with them.”~Review of “Consider the Lobster”, Pankaj Mishra (NYTimes2006)

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