Monday, February 16, 2015

the last book I ever read (David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, excerpt four)

from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace:

Pynchon and DeLillo were ahead of their time. Today, the belief that pop images are basically just mimetic devices is one of the attitudes that separates most U.S. fiction writers under c. 40 from the writerly generation that precedes us, reviews us, and designs our grad-school curricula. This generation gap in conceptions of realism is, again, TV-dependent. The U.S. generation born after 1950 is the first for whom television was something to be lived with instead of just looked at. Our elders tend to regard the set rather as the flapper did the automobile: a curiosity turned treat turned seduction. For younger writers, TV’s as much a part of reality as Toyotas and gridlock. We literally cannot imagine life without it. We’re not different from our fathers in that television presents and defines our contemporary world. Where we are different is that we have no memory of a world without such electric definition. This is why the derision so many older fictionists heap on a “Brat Pack” generation they see as insufficiently critical of mass culture is at once understandable and midguided. It’s true that there’s something sad about the fact that David Leavitt’s short stories’ sole description of some characters is that their T-shirts have certain brand names on them. But the fact is that, for most of Leavitt’s educated young readership, members of a generation raised and nourished on messages equating what one consumes with who one is, Leavitt’s descriptions really do the job. In our post-1950s, inseparable-from-TV association pool, brand loyalty really is synecdochic of character; this is simply a fact.

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