...Everything About Everything: David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’ at 20
Here is one of the great Wallace innovations: the revelatory power of freakishly thorough noticing, of corralling and controlling detail. Most great prose writers make the real world seem realer — it’s why we read great prose writers. But Wallace does something weirder, something more astounding: Even when you’re not reading him, he trains you to study the real world through the lens of his prose. Several writers’ names have become adjectivized — Kafkaesque, Orwellian, Dickensian — but these are designators of mood, of situation, of civic decay. The Wallaceian is not a description of something external; it describes something that happens ecstatically within, a state of apprehension (in both senses) and understanding. He didn’t name a condition, in other words. He created one.
I am reminded of Virginia Woolf who, like David, killed herself. Wonder if this mode of writing, this constant need to observe and analyse, might have something to do with it. Is it possible that they finished their reserves for empathy, obervation and living too soon because they used them up for their art?