David Foster Wallace Kills My Darlings

“You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

–C.S. Lewis

To be an artist is to be constantly dissatisfied. Many acclaimed artists have said this, and though not acclaimed, I identify. I have habit of sitting on projects for too long, afraid to let go until they’re absolutely perfect, a habit that usually doesn’t lead to perfection but preciousness, an inability to let go.

In an attempt to be more at ease with doing as Faulkner commanded and “kill my darlings,” I’m doing a similar thing when I read, looking out for the precious progeny of the author.

David Foster Wallace, whose many detractors feel he should have killed a few hundred more darlings in his loose, baggy fiction, speaks to this double vision in his 1988 essay “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young,” collected for the first time in his posthumous book of essays Both Flesh and Not. [Read more...]

The Moveable Feast of Memory

There are moments when you take stock of everyone and everything around you because you want to remember them for the rest of your life.

However impossible that actually is, you do it anyway. I think of it as civil disobedience against entropy, against whatever physical and chemical principles dictate the half-life of sense and memory.

I had a moment several nights ago, March 27, the debut of my friend Tearrance Chisolm’s play “In Sweet Remembrance.” It also happened to be a full moon. [Read more...]

Becoming Uncool in the Pursuit of Truth

This morning, prepping for a class I’m teaching called Writing about Film and Music, I stumbled across a YouTube clip of the legendary Brian Eno, producer of U2’s 1987 The Joshua Tree, talking about his role in the making of that iconic album:

I got the sense that [U2] was capable of making a real marriage between the two things I was talking about, between something that was self-consciously spiritual to the point of being uncool—and uncool was a very important idea then, because people were being very, very cool, and coolness is a certain kind of detachment from yourself, with a certain defensiveness, actually, not exposing something, because it’s too easy to be shot down if you’re exposed…

Later, Eno says that U2 was never a critical darling, because they were perceived as wearing their “hearts on their sleeve.”  Recall the way Bono has used arena stages as a bully pulpit for his various causes: El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Iraq, and gun violence. I confess I’ve always loved this about Bono, though I know it makes lots of people squeamish. [Read more...]

Writing in the Age of Unbelief

Years ago I was at a panel discussion featuring several Catholic authors when someone asked the question: “As artists, do you struggle with orthodoxy?” The panelists leaned forward in their seats, looked at one another, and began nervously laughing.

When they regained their composure, the answers were not memorable.

That’s not to say the writers were not thoughtful or up to the task—they were all at least a generation older than me, very well published and well respected—and it was kind of a punk question to ask—but my heart was burning for at least one of the panelists to say no.  [Read more...]

Thomas Merton: Contemplative Outlaw

On December 10, 1968, Thomas Merton stepped out of the shower in his Bangkok hotel room, reached to adjust the speed of a fan, and was fatally electrocuted.

In many ways, Merton foresaw his own death. And though he could never have imagined it exactly, it was filled with the kind of intent irony and poetry that his life as a contemplative monk/author/peace activist embodied.

As a Trappist monk, he was, by definition and order, cloistered. According to the Rule of Benedict, he was to avoid idle speech, and to live by the work of his hands. But as is well known, Merton struggled to stay silent and disengaged from the world. [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X