The book that I currently find myself bringing everywhere I go with me is David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System. David Foster Wallace is the man who penned the modern-day epic Infinite Jest, and also the man who left this world far too soon in 2008. He was a genius in so many different regards, for example, he used his extensive mathematics skills to become an outstanding tennis player (calculating wind speed, angling of his swings, etc) that we can assume his legacy will continue to live on for many years.
The Broom of the System has a plot and a storyline, but it’s David Foster Wallace’s ability to turn the idea of what literature is and can be on its head that truly allows his work to stay relevant. His novels showcase a sort of experimental game with language, and his gift for words is truly something to be marveled at. Whenever I’m reading a story and I don’t recognize a word, I’ve always been in the habit of putting the book down so that I can do some research on the vocabulary. With David Foster Wallace, I find myself doing this at every turn, and I wanted to share a few of the words I only just recently discovered.
1. Antimony (noun)
The chemical element of atomic number 51, a brittle silvery-white metalloid.
Image Via Photographic Periodic Table
2. Querulous (adjective)
Complaining in a petulant or whining manner.
Image Via ThingLink
3. Prehensile (adjective)
(chiefly of an animal’s limb or tail) Capable of grasping.
Image Via Recess Anytime
4. Nascent (adjective)
(especially of a process or organization) Just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential.
Image Via Flickr
5. Palanquin (noun)
(in India and the East) A covered litter for one passenger, consisting of a large box carried on two horizontal poles by four or six bearers.
Image Via YourDictionary
I truly look forward to continuing and finishing this novel so that my arsenal of vocabulary can be made that much more well-equipped!
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest has become less a book and more of a baton used to whack lesser intellectuals with. “Oh,” smart people say, “you haven’t read Infinite Jest?” No, I have not and, frankly, I don’t want to. I have other books I want to read, including ones about cowboys, and ones that contain jokes.
I have neither the time nor interest to take on Wallace’s behemoth magnum opus, and that is a knock against it. I’m sure it’s a wonderful book deserving of its renown. Still, not going to read it. What I have read, however, are these quotes from it. They’re must more manageable, and very enjoyable.
1. You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.
2. Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you.
3. …logical validity is not a guarantee of truth.
4. I do things like get in a taxi and say, “The library, and step on it.
5. That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness. That it is possible to fall asleep during an anxiety attack. That concentrating on anything is very hard work.
6. …almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of ‘psst’ that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.
7. Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.
8. Sarcasm and jokes were often the bottle in which clinical depressives sent out their most plangent screams for someone to care and help them.
9. God seems to have a kind of laid-back management style I’m not crazy about.
10. The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.
We were as sad as everyone else to wake up this morning to the news of Anna Faris and Chris Pratt’s separation. Especially since their ‘getting-together’ story involves the adorable revelation that they both had dead-bug collections. So while Hollywood is in mourning, we put together a list of the top five doomed couples of the literary world.
1. Zelda Sayre and F. Scott FitzGerald.
Image Courtesy of MentalFloss
This doomed couple of the roaring twenties are one of the most famous literary couples of all time; their relationship and penchant for partying almost as legendary as their work (I say ‘their work’ because, apart from Zelda writing a lesser known novel ‘Save Me The Waltz,’ much of Scott’s famous prose was lifted from Zelda’s diary…) Despite taking direct inspiration from his relationship with Sayre, FitzGerald was furious when ‘Save Me The Waltz’ appeared to divulge details of their relationship. Both parties were unfaithful to one another, with Sayre even accusing FitzGerald of having an affair with Ernest Hemingway. Due to Zelda’s ill health, she lived much of her later life in institutions, and, though the couple never divorced, they were living apart when FitzGerald when he died suddenly in 1940.
2. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
Image Courtesy of YouTube
Plath and Hughes’s relationship is often touted as one of the most dysfunctional in literature, ending with Plath’s suicide in 1963. At this stage, the two were estranged though not divorced. It has been alleged that Hughes’s philandering spurred Plath’s depression and recently, previously-unseen letters from Plath were discovered, accusing Hughes of physical violence towards her. Much of each other’s most famous work is inspired by their relationship including many of Plath’s poems in ‘Ariel,’ and Hughes’s collection ‘Birthday Letters.’
3. Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville West
Image Courtesy of BrainPickings
Woolf and Sackville-West met in 1922 when Woolf was forty and Sackville-West thirty. Both were married but had open relationships with their spouses. They instantly formed a bond which lasted until Woolf’s death in 1941, during which time West famously described herself, in what might be one of the most honest, beautiful comments anyone has ever made about love, as ‘reduced to a thing that wants Virginia.’ Though they were not lovers the entire time, they remained important to one another, with Sackville-West penning a heartfelt letter of condolence to Leonard Woolf when Virginia passed away. The relationship between Woolf and Sackville-West was far less tumultuous than some on this list, with the two enjoying a genuine love and respect for each other.
4. Mary Karr and David Foster Wallace
Image Courtesy of Flavorwire
Poet Mary Karr and author David Foster Wallace had an affair in the early 90s. Foster Wallace had said before they got together that he had become obsessed with Karr, even tattooing her name on his body, and considering killing her husband. While the two were together, Karr alleged Foster Wallace’s behavior was sometimes violent and erratic. Karr was the inspiration behind Foster Wallace’s most famous work, the sprawling ‘Infinite Jest.’ When Foster Wallace died, Karr penned a deeply moving poem, Suicide’s Note: An Annual, in his honor.
5. Arthur Rimbaud and Peter Verlaine
Image Courtesy of Kentishtowner
When poet extraordinaire Arthur Rimbaud was eighteen, he wrote to several poets hoping that one would take him on as an apprentice. He received a positive reply from Verlaine, who sent him a one-way ticket to Paris, accompanied by the message: “Come, dear great soul. We await you; we desire you.” Shortly after Rimbaud arrived, he and Verlaine began a short and disastrous affair, which, after Verlaine had left his young wife and infant son to move to London with Rimbaud, culminated in Verlaine shooting Rimbaud in the wrist in a drunken rage. Verlaine was sentenced to two years in prison and the relationship between the two world renowned poets ended there. Rimbaud’s wrist healed and he went on to become one of the most famous poets in history.