no step on snek

I embrace NO STEP ON SNEK as my personal mantra, motto and battle cry!

Before America’s revolution, the snake was a popular symbol, and sometimes appeared with a Latin inscription that meant “None will provoke me with impunity.” They were too proper to spell it out, but in 1776, “Don’t tread on me” meant “Don’t fuck with me.”

I’m as entitled as anyone else, to express that sentiment. I have as much right as anybody to appropriate the meme of a rattlesnake poised to strike. I care not who else thinks they have a valid claim. I say — Take back the Snek!

Gadsden flag
Ben Franklin was a big fan of the Gadsden flag. Originally, “Don’t tread on me” represented the threat of revolution. Almost 200 years after the flag’s creation, libertarians adopted it. In the pop culture realm, the design is said to denote bold defiance and an anti-government stance.

gadsden 1

But never mind that. What I love is the historic banner’s newer iteration, No Step On Snek. The image is captivating; the motto carries layers of meaning. In one sense, I am Snek. In another sense, we are all Snek.

The hidden secret is: I too must avoid stepping on Snek.

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James Baldwin: His Life and Work


This portrait of James Baldwin is the work of the incredible Molly Crabapple.

NOTE: Written in December 1965 for a 12th grade honors English class. Miss McCabe gave it “94 – Well done.” I have resisted the temptation to edit for political correctness or sentence structure. 

James Baldwin: His Life and Work

James Baldwin is one of the most well-known and controversial literary figures on the American scene today. One writer has said of him, “No Negro writer or spokesman has had so great in impact on the entire white liberal world…And rarely, in fact, has any American writer had so much public renown.”1

James Baldwin was born in Harlem on August 2, 1924. His father was David Baldwin, a preacher; his mother, Berdis Emma Baldwin. At the age of 14 young Baldwin, seeking escape and salvation from the bleak realities of murder, drunkenness, prostitution, and the “numbers” all around him, and his fathers domination, ran to religion and became a preacher. 2 This phase ended when he was 17. Immediately after graduation in 1942 from the DeWitt Clinton High School, he left home for Belle Mead, New Jersey. 3 While employed at a defense plant there he was many times refused service in the cheap lunchroom where the workers ate. One day he threw a pitcher of water at a waitress’s head, was surrounded and beaten by whites, and “kicked his way to freedom and ran.” 4

By the time Baldwin was 21, he had finished enough of a novel to qualify for a Eugene Saxton Fellowship. The novel turned out to be unsalable. 5

For next few years, he washed dishes, waited on tables, and wrote book reviews, “mostly, as it turned out, about the Negro Problem, concerning which the color of my skin made me automatically an expert.” 6 (Of all the magazines available for study at the Niagara Falls Public Library, only one, the Saturday Review of February 8, 1964, contains an article written by James Baldwin as a writer rather than as a Negro writer.)

With Theodore Pelatowski, Baldwin wrote a book about store-front churches of Harlem, which was also a failure but which resulted in a Rosenwald Fellowship in 1948. He then left for Paris, where Go Tell It on the Mountain was written and published by 1953. On the merit of this novel, he was elected a Guggenheim Fellow in 1954 and immediately produced Notes of a Native Son. Giovanni’s Room was finished in 1956 after Baldwin was awarded a Partisan Review Fellowship. In 1956, he was also the recipient of the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Another Country was completed at the McDowell Colony in Petersboro, New Hampshire. 7

During his years in Paris, James Baldwin befriended James Jones and Norman Mailer. He is a member of the PEN Club, the Dramatists’ Guild and the Actors’ Studio. In December of 1963, he visited Africa as guest of honor at the Kenyan independence celebration. He is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Congress of Racial Equality and belongs to the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy. James Baldwin has conferred with Robert Kennedy, appeared often in radio and television panel discussions, and was active in the Americans Abroad for Johnson campaign while in Paris. During the 1963 he delivered 15 lectures for CORE in Harlem and on the west coast. 8

Mr. Baldwin has been featured by Time magazine in a cover story (May 17, 1963).

From the time he was old enough to observe his surroundings, there was no doubt as to his vocation in Baldwin’s mind. He has written, “I was going to be a writer, God, Satan and Mississippi notwithstanding,” 9 and again, “I was icily determined never to make my peace with the ghetto but to die and go to Hell before I would let any white man spit on me.” 10 He has accomplished his objectives, clawing his way out of Harlem, becoming a widely-known author, and earning the sincere respect of many white men for doing so.

However, James Baldwin has found that renown and success can also have drawbacks. He has said, “Fame can lead to just ask many disasters as poverty. Since I got to my grits – I mean, since I’ve had enough to eat – around two years ago, I’ve been as lonely as I ever was in my life.” 11


James Baldwin is one of the “Negro Revolution’s” most militant and articulate spokesmen. His style of writing was influenced by Henry James and Richard Wright, whose books he read as a child. While working on Go Tell it on the Mountain, Baldwin met Wright, who helped him get a Eugene F. Saxton Memorial Trust Award in 1945. 12

At times, Baldwin speaks with almost humorous irony. An example of this characteristic is his comment on the slowness of civil rights progress: “At the rate things are going, all of Africa will be free before we can get a lousy cup of coffee.” 13 However, Baldwin’s usual style is bitter. He has written, “The civil rights issue is not a Negro problem but a white man’s illness… What white people have to do is try and find out in their own hearts why it is necessary to have a nigger in the first place. I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, that means you need it.” 14 Langston Hughes has called him “one of the most racial of our writers, in spite of his analysis of himself as otherwise on occasion.” 15

lyndon-johnson-quoteIn fact, Baldwin’s caustic style seems to have begun a whole new trend among young Negro writers. Irving Kristol reported, “At the moment it is the fashion to ‘Baldwinize’ the Negro experience in America, presenting it is something irretrievably degrading… But Baldwin himself has not always thought this way – his earlier writings are markedly different from his more recent ones in this respect.” 16

Another critic made excuses for Baldwin’s apparently unforgiving attitude when he wrote, “One cannot help but be aware of the agony of the Negro artist and intellectual. Clearly, the world puts upon that man more than any world should put upon any man.” 17

Baldwin’s major works include essays, novels and plays. The essays tend to be well-informed, the novels sensational, and the plays radical. Notes of a Native Son is a collection of essays that first appeared in such periodicals as Commentary, Harper’s, Partisan Review, and The New Leader. It begins with a few pages of autobiographical notes in which Baldwin compares himself to Caliban who, addressing Prospero, said, “You taught me the language and my profit on’t is I know how to curse.” 18 Baldwin praises Ralph Ellison as the first Negro novelist able to “utilize in language, and brilliantly, some of the ambiguity and irony of Negro life,” 19 and concludes with the words, “I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” 20

A second book of essays is Nobody Knows My Name, in which Baldwin explores his own problems in adjusting to the situation of a Negro writer, and various aspects of the racial conflict in America and the world.

Baldwin’s other book of opinion, The Fire Next Time, contains two long essays, “My Dungeon Shook” and “Down at the Cross,” in which he “tried to directly show the community what Negroes are thinking and feeling.” 21

Penelope Gilliatt wrote of the effect of this book, “James Baldwin is very seriously regarded in England. The polemic rhythms of The Fire Next Time have rung through the country like a leper’s bell.” 22

Baldwin has three novels to his credit. One is Go Tell It on the Mountain, the largely autobiographical story of a boy’s religious conversion.

Giovanni’s Room is the history of a homosexual love affair that could almost have been an early outline for the Yves – and – Eric saga in Another Country. It is regarded by most critics to be insignificant.

The novel that has attracted most attention is Another Country. It concerns itself with drug addiction, homosexuality, suicide, insanity, miscegenation, and ordinary pre- and extra-marital sex, depicting the ugliness and futility of life in Harlem and Greenwich Village.

The inhabitants of the strange Country include Ida Scott and her brother Rufus. He hurls himself from a bridge at the beginning of the book, but is, nevertheless, the main character. The novel has been widely criticized on the grounds that it is unrealistic. John Ciardi wrote, “I was reading James Baldwin’s Another Country a while ago and finding myself appalled as I usually am by the world and people of Baldwin’s imagination.” 23

However, the author reported in an interview with another writer that Rufus, at least, was drawn from life. “When Baldwin was twenty-two a friend, Eugene Worth, who had been disastrously involved with a white girl, jumped from the George Washington Bridge; eventually Worth became the model for Rufus.” 24

The play The Amen Corner was first produced at Howard University during the 1954-55 season. In 1964 it was staged at the Robertson Playhouse in Beverly Hills, directed by Frank Silvers. The Amen Corner was the United States entry in the 1965 Festival of Vienna. 25

Critical opinion ranged from scornful to enthusiastic. Ivan Morris in Vogue called it plodding, banal and shamelessly maudlin. 26 Newsweek reported “several affecting moments in The Amen Corner.” 27 When the play appeared at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York, critic John McCarten wrote of Baldwin, “He proves that he can put the Negro vernacular to eloquent purposes and that he can create cleverly assorted sad and funny vignettes.” 28

The same critic voiced a different opinion when confronted with Baldwin’s second play. “Mr. Baldwin,” he wrote, “is an unquestionably eloquent man, but the plot he has contrived for Blues for Mr. Charlie is fairly familiar… Mr. Baldwin’s whites are all paste-board creatures.” 29 Regardless of critical disapproval the play shared with Arthur Miller’s After the Fall the Foreign Press Association’s dramatic award for 1963-64. 30

Henry Hewes’s review of Blues for Mr. Charlie summed up not only that play but the spirit behind all Mr. Baldwin’s works in these words: “…one cannot help but respect its attempts to paint the country’s current racial strife with contemporaneity and with new departures from the well-worn formulas…” and “…perhaps more important than the play’s imperfections are the glimpses it gives us of the spirit that moves militant young Negroes to assert their individual rights and let Mr. Charlie – the white man – sing the blues for a change.” 31



1 Marvin Elkoff, “Everybody Knows His Name,” Esquire, August 1964, p. 59

2 James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son, New York: Bantam Books, 1959, p.1

3 Current Biography, 1964, New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1964, p.22

4 Richard Bardolph, The Negro Vanguard, New York: Rinehart and Company Inc., 1959, p. 281

5 Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son, p.2

6 Ibid.

7 Current Biography, 1964, p. 22

8 Ibid.

9 Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son, p. 12

10 James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time, New York: Dell Publishing Company Inc., 1962, p. 37

11 Jane Howard, “The Doom and Glory of Knowing Who You Are,” Life, May 24, 1963, p. 16

12 Current Biography, 1964, p. 22

13 Louis Lomax, The Negro Revolt, New York: The New American Library, 1962, p. 88

14 James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, New York: Dell Publishing Company Inc, 1963, p.61

15 The New Negro, ed. By Mathew H. Ahmann, Notre Dame, Indiana: Fides Publishers, 1961, p.113

16 Irving Kristol, “A Few Kind Words for Uncle Tom,” Harper’s, February, 1965, p. 52

17 John Ciardi, “Choose Something Like a Star,” Saturday Review, January 11, 1964, p. 16

18 James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son, p. 3

19 Ibid., p. 5

20 Ibid., p. 6

21 Granville Hicks, “A Gun in the Hand of a Hater,” Saturday Review, May 2, 1964, p. 27

22 Penelope Gilliatt, “The Actors’ Studio in London,” Harper’s, September, 1965, p. 34

23 John Ciardi, “Choose Something Like a Star”

24 Gloria Steinham, James Baldwin, an Original,” Vogue, July, 1964, p. 78

25 Current Biography, p. 22

26 Ivan Norris, Vogue Notebook: Theatre,” Vogue, June, 1965, p. 68

27 “Amen,” Newsweek, April 26, 1965, p. 90

28 John McCarten, “Tabernacle Blues,” New Yorker, April 24, 1965, p.85

29 “Grim Stuff,” New Yorker, May 9, 1`964, p.143

30 Current Biography, p. 22

31 Henry Hewes, “A Change of Tune,” Saturday Review, May 9, 1964, p. 36

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Positive Beautiful Activism

Nurse Theresa Bowick

In Rochester, New York, Theresa Bowick founded a neighborhood all-ages health and fitness group, the Conkey Cruisers. When the majority of the group’s bicycles were stolen, an appeal to the community resulted in the donation of three times as many bikes.

But that isn’t the best part. Here is what Nurse Bowick gave ABC News to broadcast:

I just want to ensure that the people that did this know I love them and that our program is open to them. We’re just extremely sorry that life’s circumstances led them to a place in which they had to make a decision like this to rob a free neighborhood program of bicycles.

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Baltasar Gracian, Droppin’ Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

Baltasar Gracian (1601-1658) was a Jesuit priest with a reputation as a preacher although, as his Wikipedia page states, “some of his oratorical displays, such as reading a letter sent from Hell from the pulpit, were frowned upon by his superiors.”

He wrote a lot of advice for people, to help smooth their way in the world. You’d think he was some kind of oily polished courtier, but apparently Gracian wasn’t that great at taking his own advice on how to climb the ladder of success. Sure, he wrote a highly praised novel, and was famous within his lifetime, and later on, Schopenhauer thought he was cool. But he seems to have let principles stand in the way of his own career. As Wikipedia puts it,

In 1651, he published the first part of the Criticón (Faultfinder) without the permission of his superiors, whom he disobeyed repeatedly. This attracted the Society’s displeasure. Ignoring the reprimands, he published the second part of Criticón in 1657, as a result was sanctioned and exiled to Graus at the beginning of 1658.

He tried to get out of the Jesuits and join another religious order instead, but they wouldn’t let him. Anyway, Baltasar Gracian said a lot of smart and interesting things, and here are some of them.

“The tongue is a wild animal, and once it breaks loose, it is hard to return it to its cage.”

“Some people know everything for others and nothing for themselves.”

“How will others understand what they are hearing if we ourselves have no clear idea what we are saying?”

“Bravery and courtesy have this advantage: They are saved through being spent. Give in abundance of either and it still remains with you.”

“It is worse to busy yourself with the trivial than to do nothing.”

“Know how to choose. Most things in life depend on it… Knowing how to choose is one of heaven’s greatest gifts.”

“The wise person finds enemies more useful than the fool does friends.”

“Plan for bad fortune while your fortune is good.”

“Don’t waste the favors people owe you. Keep important friends for great occasions.”

“The person who receives a favor would rather lose sight of the person who did it.”

“Incur the fewest obligations by seeking the fewest favors. Being beholden for everything or to everyone is to become the property of another, both controlled and influenced. Independence is more precious than any gift you may give up for it. A favor of personal gratification often leads to indebtedness beyond your desire.”

“Know how to take things…If you grab the blade, the best thing will do you harm; the most harmful will defend you if you seize it by the hilt.”

“We have nothing to call our own but time.”

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Splendid Audiobooks, and Why

Motherless BrooklynToyer by Gardner McKay

Perfect match of narrator and book:

The Aubry/Maturin series, narrated by Patrick Tull (written by Patrick O’Brien)
A sea captain and a doctor are friends. It’s easy to see why these stories are massively popular, plus, you painlessly learn some history and stuff.

The Screwtape Letters, narrated by John Cleese (written by C. S. Lewis.)
Did you know, this was one of David Foster Wallace‘s favorite books? I wonder if he ever heard the John Cleese rendering? Somebody gave me this on a cassette tape, years ago. It was one of the best presents ever. It’s brilliant, amusing, psychologically right on target, and you don’t have to be a Christian to dig it. The ecology of Hell – “Bring food or be food.”

Peter Matthiessen’s novels, narrated by George Guidall
Rough times in Florida’s pioneer wilderness days. A trilogy that turned out to be four books. Killing Mr. Watson, and all the ones related to it. The same events through different eyes. What a feast. It might not matter in what order they are read. Each one stands alone. But there are certain things the listener would enjoy being held in suspense about. And actually, there are a bunch of narrators involved in at least one of the novels. They’re all great.

Motherless Brooklyn narrated by Frank Muller (written by Jonathan Lethem)
It has dark, it has funny, it has sex. It has characters you won’t find anywhere else and a story characterized by the participants as “wheels within wheels.” It could make you nostalgic for old funky New York even if you were never there. The narrator is half the beauty of this one, and how could it be otherwise, given such great dialog to work with?

Lionel Essrog has Tourette’s syndrome, and hangs out with three other former orphans under the tutelage of the same mentor, Frank Minna. Their name for Lionel is “Freakshow,” but they put up with him. They also know some really bad people and when Minna gets killed, the young men want revenge. This interferes with Lionel’s other quest, to find his bio family. Some literary experts say a novel should never be written in the first person. That’s ridiculous.

Dave Robicheaux series narrated by Mark Hammer and others – written by James Lee Burke
Robicheaux is a recovering alcoholic and on-again, off-again lawman in Louisiana who gets into all kind of situations. Very dark and haunting. The books narrated by Mark Hammer are particularly outstanding. In fact, when I finally read a paperback copy of one of the series, I realized that at least 50% of my enjoyment of those particular books had come from the audiobook narrator.

Read by author, and nobody else could have done it so well:

Consider the Lobster – David Foster Wallace
Who else could have handed in to Gourmet magazine a piece about the agony of the boiled lobster, and gotten away with it? Also he goes to the AVN Awards, the so-called Oscars of porn, and hangs out with Max Hardcore. Another piece is about being in Middle America on 9/11. Then, Wallace looks at achievement, fame, the genius of athletes, knowing when you are done; in general a boatload of deep issues, all inspired by a not very well written book about tennis star Tracy Austin.

This could be a road book. You pick up a hitchhiker who wears a bandana to keep his head from exploding, and he entertains you the whole time with wonderfully smart and funny stories, and you’re sorry to see him go.

Toyer – Gardner McKay
Homeboy was a drop-dead handsome TV star AND a terrific novelist. Gardner McKay wrote and narrated this psycho thriller.

Tortilla Flats – T. Coraghessan Boyle.
Heartbreaking and deeply compassionate, it could change minds and/or hearts about immigration and related issues.

Craig Ferguson, American on Purpose
I love this guy.


Please enjoy “Audio Book  Narrators, Oh, Puh-leeeeeze

and “The Podcast – Audiobook Connection

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Destiny Disrupted

Destiny Disrupted

You remember Tamim Ansary. He wrote that email about Afghanistan, just after 9/11, that viraled its way around the world.

His Destiny Disrupted is the most enlightening and exciting political book I’ve read since Jonathan Kwitny’s Endless Enemies, the one I measure political books by.

Besides, on page 130 Ansary debunks the nonsensical story about the word “hashish” deriving from “assassin.” About time somebody did.

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On Missing David Foster Wallace

Normally, it seems a bit cheesy to mourn a person whose path you never crossed. I didn’t send a flower bouquet when Princess Diana died. But when David Foster Wallace took his own life, I felt personally bereaved. (And yes, I made it all the way through Infinite Jest. I wouldn’t want to take an exam on it, but I’m glad for the experience.) Damn, he was good! How could he stop? There were so many subjects I wanted to hear his take on. I wanted a sequel to “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”

Don’t groan. There’s a novel in it. For some reason, DFW reneges on his vow, and does it again. Stay with me here, okay? Maybe kidnappers hold someone dear to him, and threaten harm if the author does not undertake to go on another pleasure cruise and write about it. Or maybe a therapist suggests that he identify the activity he would maximally loathe, and plunge into it. The title would be, You Laugh at My Horse, You Buy My Horse, an old saying with deep metaphysical significance.

The people who most interest me now are the people — are people who are older and who have sort of been through a mid-life crisis. They tend to get weird because the normal incentives for getting out of bed don’t tend to apply anymore. I have not found any satisfactory new ones, but I’m also not getting ready to, you know, jump off a building or anything.

DFW said that to interviewer Charlie Rose, but a little over ten years later, in September of 2008, things had obviously changed and he hanged himself. It’s impossible to imagine the depth of despair he must have experienced, when even a MacArthur Fellowship couldn’t provide reason enough to live. Short of a Nobel prize, is there any more significant earthly reward for a writer and thinker? It’s an amazing acknowledgment of brilliance and effort. And not enough to keep a terminally depressed person going, apparently.

Jonathan Franzen suggests that DFW died of boredom, and goes into it thoroughly. I’m tempted to disagree, because of a deeply held belief that the well-furnished and well-equipped mind can never be bored. On the other hand, boredom is not giving a shit, and not giving a shit is the opposite of caring, and the worst thing about depression is the inability to care about anything. It’s possible that the most severe depression I ever had was not even as bad as DFW’s lightest bouts of it, but I do know the symptoms, and that is one of them. You have a vague notion, perhaps even a conviction, that it would be a real good idea to care about something. But it’s just not there.

D.T. Max says about The Pale King , which wasn’t finished, “The novel continues Wallace’s preoccupation with mindfulness. It is about being in the moment and paying attention to the things that matter….” Which comes back to boredom. Maybe he was trying to prove that with sufficient mindfulness, boredom can’t exist.

I wonder if DFW ever encountered this quotation –Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with assholes. William Gibson

But that wasn’t the case. He surrounded himself with extraordinary people. I’ve watched with interest the transmogrification of DFW into a character appearing in the novels written by various of his friends. (In the straight memoirs, there is no doubt also a certain amount of metamorphosis.) In Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, he is Richard Katz:

And the eternally tormenting question for Walter … was whether Richard was the little brother or the big brother, the fuckup or the hero, the beloved damaged friend or the dangerous rival.

Hubristic as it might be, I made a list of similarities between me and DFW, mostly gleaned from the biography of him by D. T. Max, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story. It says he grew up watching “All in the Family” and “MASH,” which were my favorite and practically only TV shows. And he never liked using the phone. Me either. In the school cafeteria he inhabited the table of “refuseniks” where “the conversation among the group bounced between social and sexual frustration, intellectual enthusiasm, and nerdy inquiry.” Me too! One of the quotes from Max is,

He liked to get high at home before he studied. His parents tolerated the behavior. All the same, Wallace preferred to smoke standing on a chair in an upstairs bathroom blowing the smoke out with an exhaust fan…

How weird! I used to stand on a chair and blow smoke out the transom over the kitchen door, though not at my parents’ house. I used to live in the student ghetto, in a old house subdivided into three apartments. The “neighbitch” who lived on the other side of the wall was mean enough to call the cops if she smelled reefer. So – the transom, the chair.

At one point, “He thought about… going to Los Angeles to write television shows.” I went there wanting to be a screenwriter. DFW had a poster of Klimt’s “The Kiss,” which I also used to have. Maria Bustillos says,
Among David Foster Wallace’s papers at the Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin are three hundred-odd books from this personal library, most of them annotated, some heavily as if he were scribbling a dialogue with the author page by page.

I do that. An article by Max in The New Yorker says, in 2004, DFW wrote to Jonathan Franzen that to get the current book done he would have to write “a 5,000 page manuscript and then winnow it by 90%…” which is how I approach it – start out with about 10 times as much as I’m going to need and then distill it down.

He heaps scorn upon those who speak of “begging the question” when they don’t have a clue what it means. And he’s with me on who versus that. That is for things, and who is for people. So there.

And The Screwtape Letters was one of DFW’s favorite books! I wonder if he ever got to hear the audio version of the C. S. Lewis classic as read by John Cleese. A genius sandwich. (Somebody gave that to me once, and it’s just about the best present ever.) Speaking of which, an audiobook not to miss is Wallace reading his own collection of essays, Consider the Lobster. The piece about the AVN Awards (the “Oscars of porn) is in there. And consider “Consider the Lobster.” The guy accepts a commission from a cookery magazine to expound on the glory of lobster-eating, does the exact opposite, and is nevertheless paid and published. Could any other writer pull that off?

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story

Of course my admiration for DFW is not all-encompassing. I was disappointed to learn that he and Mary Karr liked to watch the kind of movies where shit blows up. But I like what he said about irony.

And he was funny. All three of these upcoming quotations are from Every Love Story is a Ghost Story.

They joked about the unthinkable. Green warned him that if he killed himself she’d be “the Yoko Ono of the literary world, the woman with all the hair who domesticated you and look what happened.”

Sedaris was surprised at how funny and gentle Wallace was, how full of praise for his students.

Wallace stood up on the stage, very slowly poured himself a glass of water, took a sip, put it down, and, smacking his lips, said, “Aaaah… You know,” he told the audience, “I always wanted to do that.”

More Favorite Quotations About DFW

From Glenn Kenny, who worked with him very closely as an editor:

I think the idea was if you go to him asking him to do something, he’s going to do it his way.

I think the reason he had such an aversion to severely urban areas was the sensory overload of having to perceive that much.

I don’t think Dave was adverse to happiness but I think he was incredibly suspicious because of all of the false things in the culture that are proposed to simulate happiness. He looked at the concept askance because of that. Part of his personal struggle was to find a form of happiness that was not ersatz.

D. T. Max:

The teacher was under constant pressure to entertain if he wanted to be liked – and no one wanted to be liked more than Wallace did. The bind was not just that he did not think he could do it, but that if he did do it, was he actually doing something he would admire himself for having done?”

Maria Bustillos says,

Wallace seemed always to be trying to erase the distance between himself and others in order to understand them better, and trying visibly to make himself understood – always asking questions, demanding to know more details.

Favorite quotations by DFW

I don’t even pretend to be a journalist and have no idea how to interview somebody.

…you hire a fiction writer to do nonfiction, there’s going to be the occasional bit of embellishment.

I mean it would be very hard not to imagine that you’re different and better than other people if everybody’s treating you like you’re different and better than them.

From the Charlie Rose interview, in reference to I forget what:

….if that was going on, it was going on on a level of awareness I do not want to have access to.

In a letter to Don DeLillo :

I believe I want adult sanity, which seems to me the only unalloyed form of heroism available today.

When he quit summer university classes:

I rose one day and said ‘No’. That’s what I said.

David Foster Wallace

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