This ancient website is in stasis and is being replaced! Please go check out the new hotness at

That new site will move here once this old site's content has been completely migrated to the new system. St. Tim taught us in 1998 that Cool URIs Don't Change, and he is still right.

mahna mahna .net
Monday, 02 March 2009
I learned many-many things from “The Unfinished,” a piece by D.T. Max about the late David Foster Wallace in this week’s New Yorker, but I want to focus on one. I learned that Wallace in fact knew something about true happiness. He was writing about it. It was the subject of his incomplete novel. Quoting:
A typed note that Wallace left in his papers laid out the novel’s idea: “Bliss — a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious — lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.”
(Wanna know why Buddhists meditate? There’s something about it in that paragraph.)

Kurt Cobain’s autodemapping haunted me at a young and tender age. David Foster Wallace’s haunts me now at an age some people are still insisting is young and feels no less tender. The haunting starts here: I want to know why. Max’s article reveals that Wallace experienced firsthand the crushing truth that knowing the happiness gameplan even backwards and forwards is no guarantee you can put said gameplan into play — a different thing entirely, and very difficult besides; and moreover, that knowing the gameplan even backwards and forwards is no guarantee you can successfully write about said gameplan — another different thing entirely, again very difficult besides, and perhaps impossible, we have to imagine, if you set your own bar as high as DFW.

And (but?) so Max has brought me some closure, and I am grateful, but it is only page 700 or so in Infinite Jest I’m creeping up on now. The haunting continues.
posted to /wisdom at 10:02am :: 3 responses

Makenna had this to say (03/03/2009 11:46:26):
I came across this last night while reading a book on poetry therapy...then I read your post. For me, this quote; although incomplete and out of context, brings forth understanding and acceptance that life, is not a struggle but it is simply what it is -- living. "I sought a theme and sought for it in vain, I sought it daily for six weeks or so. Maybe at last, being but a broken man, I must be satisfied with my heart..." William Butler Yeats
felish had this to say (03/09/2009 12:25:25):
Two things. (1) how are you doing with the book? (2) You say you want to know *why* -- why what?, I'm wondering... Why he was depressed?
/\/\/\/ had this to say (03/09/2009 12:28:16):
(1) Just passed page 875 last night. (2) No, I want to know why he wiped out his own map.

Your thoughts?

url / email: (optional)
remember me next time
/blog (467)
/art (36)
/books (6)
/cinema (13)
/music (13)
/life (97)
/bayarea (25)
/misc (120)
/items (21)
/news (82)
/site (21)
/tech (42)
/wisdom (9)
Creative Commons
2010 (6)
2009 (10)
2008 (11)
2007 (30)
2006 (64)
2005 (58)
2004 (95)
2003 (193)
my Amazon wish list

© 2016 Matthew Newton, published under a Creative Commons License.