I wish I could still subscribe to the Death of the Author theories I glommed onto so readily in college. In part, it’s easy to look at the text through such a narrow lens, and in my experience, that ease was really laziness. Who wants to trudge through the author’s biography, her critical responses, posthumously published correspondences… It’s a lot of work.
Which I’ve known for a few years can’t be avoided. Case in point: When I finish David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, I will be moved to deep sadness for all the obvious reasons extrinsic to the novel-reading experience. John Jeremiah Sullivan captures it well: “I myself was surprised, on finishing the review copy, to have the wind sucked out of me by the thought—long delayed—that there would be no more Wallace books.” Sullivan also masterfully writes out a long magazine piece in exactly the method he professes envy toward DFW for pulling off consistently, which is to say, sans direct journalistic access to the piece’s subject. A must-read.
Others have been far more eloquent than I regarding Wallace’s contribution to literature and the sadness at the heart of his early passing. So instead, I’d like to shift a little bit to “the odd how of reading,” or my observations about the changing conversations about books. Continue reading