Sunday, 5 October 2008

a few more thoughts following Friday's ruminations and relevant to the Fate of artists:
via Eric in comments friday: John Ziegler's commentary on the suicide of David Foster Wallace:

I strongly believe that a large ingredient of the toxic mix that ended up forming Wallace’s self-inflicted poison was the pressure he felt of living up to the hype surrounding his writing and the guilt he must have felt for not really having the true talent to back up his formidable reputation.
While I have absolutely no evidence to back up this assertion, I also think it is quite possible that he knew that killing himself in his “prime” and before he had been totally exposed as being a mere mortal in the literary realm would cement his status as a “genius” forever. After all, don’t tortured artists often kill themselves? Heck, based on the glowing and reverential reporting on his suicide, in some circles ending his on life may actually be seen as a badge of honor.
The notion that a (hypothetical) writer would take his own life to secure a place in some imaginary literary pantheon is one that could only be entertained by a dunderhead. In fact it is more reasonable to assume that a writer might have done it following the growing realization that there in fact IS NO SUCH pantheon, or literary afterlife, that it was just an imaginary construct he or she believed in during the naive youth of their artistic joy, and the world is in fact largely made up of dunderheads.

There's a line in Charles Rosen's The Classical Style in which he reflects that there was time when the world appeared to be in accord in the measuring of artistic genius:
"As for Beethoven, in spite of difficulties in winning acceptance for his larger works, by 1815 even most of those musicians who did not like his music would have admitted that he was the greatest living composer: some of the admiration he won may have been unwilling, but it was uncontested (except of course, by the lunatic fringe that is the normal burden of the taste and criticism of any age." (bolding mine)
I'm reminded of the scene in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen concerning the bet with the Sultan of Turkey: he, the Baron, will present the Sultan with a bottle of tokay from the Austrian Empress's own cellar that surpasses the Sultan's best, OR, he loses his head. If he succeeds, he gets to take as much from the Sultan's vault of jewellery and gold as his servant can carry. There are assorted slips between the cup and the lip, but by and by the Sultan pours a glass of the tokay. He nods in agreement and the Baron's strongman proceeds to empty the vault of its riches, carrying it all in one enormous pile. The Sultan is unable to do anything about it because the Tokay is as good as Munchausen claimed.

No argument. No room for opinion or splitting of hairs.

Compared to this world and time of ours, when every dunderhead claims entitlement to his opinion, how deliciously, gloriously daft.



Anonymous Anonymous said...


I couldn't say it better; DUNDERHEAD indeed!To even think a person (let alone write such thoughts) committed suicide because of some dream of entering the pantheon of great artists is obscene! What is true however the man must had been in great pain, I've been there. It was so after a very violent and brutal crime had been committed to me, I felt shame, alone and in complete despair. I'm so sadden that your friend felt so alone and was in so much pain! I pray he has found peace. Namaste- Geri

5 October 2008 at 23:12:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

John Ziegler in his article has basically said "David Foster Wallace wrote something about me that I didn't like, therefore I am happy the bastard is dead"

Douglas Valentine felt qualified to critique Wallace's work even though he had never read any of it. He also didn't understand that when Wallace mentioned his dislike of irony, that what Wallace meant was that he didn't like how our society hides it's apathy behind irony, and not that irony itself was bad.

I have never read Wallace, but those two negative critiques of the man and his work have probably whet my appetite for it even more.

6 October 2008 at 08:33:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Nick Mullins said...

Wallace was an artist, not a celebrity. Whatever one may think of the art he created, he was committed to it, not the accolades surrounding it. John Ziegler is right that Wallace felt disillusioned by his fame, but part of the disillusionment is exactly what you say Eddie, that fame is a hollow thing. When he was young, Wallace felt that he wanted to be famous. Once he was, he realized that the goal was an empty one and instead he became more interested in creating honest art. There are plenty of interviews with Wallace in which he talks about this. So not only does Ziegler have no evidence to back up his mean little assertion, the evidence contradicts it. Furthermore, Wallace battled depression his entire life. In the months before his suicide, he went off his medication. His death is a sad thing. Ziegler has no heart.

6 October 2008 at 12:34:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Mahendra Singh said...

There's something to be said for the 18th century … good taste still trumped filthy lucre.

8 October 2008 at 10:02:00 GMT-5  

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