Surely, You Jest

An admiring reminiscence of novelist David Foster Wallace by one of his students, Mac Barnett, led me to an even fuller profile of the late author, written in 2009 by D.T. Max for The New Yorker.  In the latter piece, Max quotes Wallace’s observation that good writing should help readers “become less alone inside.”

One disagrees with Foster’s formidable intelligence at one’s peril, but it isn’t possible for good writing to make us become less alone inside.  Loneliness, and its concomitant synonyms “individuality” and “singularity,” is part and parcel of being human.  It is inescapable and unavoidable.

What good writing can do is make us feel less afraid.  Less afraid of feeling as if we are not doing the right things in living.  Less afraid that the thoughts we think are the meanderings of a crazed mind.  Less afraid that useful sense cannot be made out of our experience of the world.


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