Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

The Tortured Artist and A World Gone Mad . . .


It’s been said that to be insane in an insane world is the height of sanity

I used to believe that—back in my twenties

I’m now 67—survivor of three attempts at suicide, 11 months of hellacious medical treatment for Hepatitis C, and being involved in many extremely risky ventures.

I’m also still a survivor in a world gone mad

Today, I believe that to be insane in an insane world is a living hell.

This is a good point to give a link to a post with a video of Elizabeth Gilbert—Must Writers Suffer Melancholy, Anguish, and Depression?

Now, I’ll introduce a highly celebrated writer—David Foster Wallace—who once said, “I want to convince you that irony, poker-faced silence, and fear of ridicule are distinctive of those features of contemporary U.S. culture (of which cutting-edge fiction is a part) that enjoy any significant relation to the television whose weird pretty hand has my generation by the throat. I’m going to argue that irony and ridicule are entertaining and effective, and that at the same time they are agents of a great despair and stasis in U.S. culture, and that for aspiring fictionists they pose terrifically vexing problems.”

I contend that what Wallace attributes to a U.S. culture is now well-woven into many countries’ cultures

Despair

Stasis

Terminal culture-shock—numbed by the pressure of rampant materialism

Sadly, many writers attempt to create from this tragic space.

Wallace did.

Two excerpts from an article in The AwlInside David Foster Wallace’s Private Self-Help Library:

“Wallace seemed always to be trying to erase the distance between himself and others in order to understand them better, and trying visibly to make himself understood—always asking questions, demanding to know more details. He owned his own weaknesses willingly and in the gentlest, most inclusive manner. Also he talked a lot about the role of good fiction, which, he opined more than once, is about making us feel less alone. He offered a lot of himself to his readers, in all his writing; this generosity seemed like his whole project, in a way.”

“But those who followed his career at all closely always knew that there was another, darker part to his nature. A secret part. Wallace was fairly well known to have been very ill, to have been hospitalized more than once for depression, to have attempted suicide, and to have been in recovery for addiction to alcohol and drugs.”

Now, a quote from the commencement address he gave to the graduates of Kenyon College in 2005, three years before he succeeded in committing suicide:

“…most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.”

Wallace lost in his battle with the Culture—he hanged himself—yet he left behind much to ponder


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One response to “The Tortured Artist and A World Gone Mad . . .

  1. Pingback: Holidays & Writer’s Depression | Notes from An Alien

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