Which essay is DFW referring to?
July 24, 2013 10:51 PM   Subscribe

In David Foster Wallace's introduction to The Best American Essays 2007, he refers to one of the essays as a "brutal little treat." Is there consensus on which essay he's referring to? Quote inside.

Many [essays] are valuable simply as exhibits of what a first-rate artistic mind can make of particular factsets—whether these involve the 17-kHz ring tones of some kids’ cell phones, the language of movement as parsed by dogs, the near-infinity of ways to experience and describe an earthquake, the existential synecdoche of stagefright, or the revelation that most of what you’ve believed and revered turns out to be self-indulgent crap.

That last one’s* of especial value, I think. As exquisite verbal art, yes, but also as a model for what free, informed adulthood might look like in the context of Total Noise: not just the intelligence to discern one’s own error or stupidity, but the humility to address it, absorb it, and move on and out there from, bravely, toward the next revealed error. [. . .]

[. . .]

*You probably know which essay I’m referring to, assuming you’re reading this guest intro last as is SOP. If you’re not, and so don’t, then you have a brutal little treat in store.
posted by homodachi to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Is he not explicitly saying it's the last one in the book?
posted by ocherdraco at 11:10 PM on July 24, 2013

Er, nevermind, my proofreading at 2am is poor.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:11 PM on July 24, 2013

Best answer: Previously.
posted by cairdeas at 11:44 PM on July 24, 2013

Response by poster: thanks cairdeas! looks like there's not a ton of consensus, but that has the gist of the answers I was looking for.
posted by homodachi at 11:51 PM on July 24, 2013

No prob. For whatever it's worth I think it's most likely the Ozick essay.

And I'm really struck by the similarities between what Ozick wrote and (the end of) this long piece also linked in the past few days on Metafilter, in which a 20-something describes what it is like to abruptly come out of psychosis:

On the far side of the revelation turned hell, I awoke to find an earth solid and unaltered. The world goes all the way through, the trees don't know your name, and the cosmos is busy with other things. The palpable truths and beauties that seduced my mind a neuron at a time fell silent and intangible. In the space of a half remembered dream, the universe went from my kingdom, my lover, and myself, to the vast, empty, and uncaring noise it is today.

I mumbled my way through that first day of sanity, not making eye contact with my family, trying to get used to a mind that seemed barely functional, and a life that seemed impossibly empty. As I pieced together the memories as much as I could bear, and realized how close to death all of the things I'd done had brought me, I had the dim impression that I'd fought my way back to the real world. My rewards were a distraught and despairing family, a college that had significantly flipped in its appraisal of my academic potential, an entire county of police that knew my name, unemployment, unemployability in Bar Harbor, dozens of friends lost forever, and a felony soon to be on my record.

That night, I mixed myself a drink after my mom and brother had gone to bed, lit a cigarette, and went out to the deck. I looked up, and for the first time since I entered the institution, I saw the stars.

They looked cold, and far away.

posted by cairdeas at 12:02 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

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