Wallace on humor, irony, advertising, entertainment and Infinite Jest
Frye in Anatomy: “The novelist sees evil and folly as social diseases, but the Menippean satirist sees them as diseases of the intellect, as a kind of maddened pedantry” (CW 22, 290)
This seems to be evolving into the go-to excerpt from David Foster Wallace‘s last unfinished novel, The Pale King, but let’s slip it in before it becomes overly familiar. Here’s Wallace’s rendering of the spiritual awakening of college student Chris Fogel:
I was by myself, wearing nylon warm-up pants and a black Pink Floyd tee shirt, trying to spin a soccer ball on my finger and watching the CBS soap opera “As The World Turns” on the room’s little black-and-white Zenith. . . . There was certainly always reading and studying for finals I could do, but I was being a wastoid. . . . Anyhow, I was sitting there trying to spin the ball on my finger and watching the soap opera . . . and at the end of every commercial break, the show’s trademark shot of planet earth as seen from space, turning, would appear, and the CBS daytime network announcer’s voice would say, “You’re watching ‘As the World Turns,’ ” which he seemed, on this particular day, to say more and more pointedly each time—“You’re watching ‘As the World Turns’ ” until the tone began to seem almost incredulous—“You’re watching ‘As the World Turns’ ”—until I was suddenly struck by the bare reality of the statement. . . . It was as if the CBS announcer were speaking directly to me, shaking my shoulder or leg as though trying to arouse someone from sleep—“You’re watching ‘As the World Turns.’ ” . . . I didn’t stand for anything. If I wanted to matter—even just to myself—I would have to be less free, by deciding to choose in some kind of definite way.