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Some weekend reading from David Foster Wallace

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2015

The Atlantic has republished and reformatted Host by David Foster Wallace on their website. Originally published in 2005, Host was a profile of talk radio host John Ziegler and contained several layers of footnotes, which are beautifully handled in this new online version.

The Nick Berg beheading and its Internet video compose what is known around KFI as a “Monster,” meaning a story that has both high news value and tremendous emotional voltage. As is SOP in political talk radio, the emotions most readily accessed are anger, outrage, indignation, fear, despair, disgust, contempt, and a certain kind of apocalyptic glee, all of which the Nick Berg thing’s got in spades. Mr. Ziegler, whose program is in only its fourth month at KFI, has been fortunate in that 2004 has already been chock-full of Monsters — Saddam’s detention, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the Scott Peterson murder trial, the Greg Haidl gang-rape trial, and preliminary hearings in the rape trial of Kobe Bryant. But tonight is the most angry, indignant, disgusted, and impassioned that Mr. Z.’s gotten on-air so far, and the consensus in Airmix is that it’s resulting in some absolutely first-rate talk radio.

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary1 of Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon College, among the finest ever given IMO.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

That speech is also available as a short book, This Is Water. If you read both of those things and hunger for more, luckily there is so much much more.

  1. I’ve got nothing to say here…I just really couldn’t do a post about DFW without footnoting something. Still miss you, big guy.