Until recently I did not know Wallace, I was not aware he even existed.(*)
I started with the first interviews of obnoxious people and felt that unique focal sharpness for details, right away. I said to myself: this guy is something. Let's keep this good stuff for later and let's read the silly things first. Like when I read the paper I start from the back pages so that when I arrive at the important news my interest has not been saturated yet.
The Lobster thing. It starts with a rendition of a porno event in Las Vegas. A town that I know because of business, a business that I do not know and do not want to. He neither. Then there is a piece about the fine art of writing dramatical tension and its release in a funniness contest (of Kafka of all the subjects, whom I read when I was a kid and after reading Wallace I might go back to). He talks of Kafka's funniness like the Master Kitano talks of his films, the pendulum. A third piece on John Updike's "Toward the End of Time" and we both think he is a backward anatomical singularity. Not much juice either. And then the gift! Ha, the marvel!
An 127 pages account of an obscure episode of the war between two schools of lexicographers, the last frontier of self-abusing academic philosophers. Technical, highly technical. Abstract - in the sense of being remote from real life. Very abstract.
But studded with gems of Clarity, Honesty, Wisdom, Moral Rectitude and Educational Usefulness. A triumph. When he wrote this essay he was less than 40.
It has taken me time to read through it. It is dense and profound and useful. I will call my friend and tell him to forget the black and blue underpants.
A writer that reminds me closely of Wallace and of his (loose? but wonderfully worded) style made of micro detailed exposition of high concepts, footnotes embedded with meaningful trivia is the Italian Carlo Emilio Gadda, who is very little known outside Italy, his language being so hard to translate. As I imagine it would be for Wallace.
(*) A friend told me to start with the Lobster and promised that if I did not like it, he would wear underpants with the colors of Inter F.C. A team that we both adverse and despise. He is my last resort for funky computer operations and I wanted to be able to read on my Sony the more than 500 bucks I spent with e-reader for my palm. With the e-reader people telling me that it was not their problem and that if I wanted to read books on the Sony I could buy them from Fictionwise which doesn't sell them to me because I am not in USA or Canada. My friend the debugger did not know right away how to revenge me but wanted a book to try and I sent him The short stories of Hemingway and he wrote back urging me to refresh a little my tastes with something new and enough with this old and dusty stuff. And he mentioned a bunch of writers, that either I had read already, or that I commented as being mental self-abusers and he said not Wallace and so on. He did not succeed in liberating my books. I did eventually, and for him not to feel bad, after a brief glance to Wikipedia, I got a bunch of books by Wallace. Yes a bunch because as I was able to trick the distributor with an American address, I thought that maybe they will be forced to close that door and so let's get the books and run.
P.S. I paid hard earned money to buy the Lobster. Then in the Wikipedia page of the Lobster I found a link
to the "Tense Present, Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage" where one can read it for free.