Jackson Pollock's Moby Dick
Another nice review with an acceptable caveat from Mr. Cutter, a beautiful moniker for a literary critic (though I must add that his criticisms of my book are gently rendered. And they're far outweighed by praise:
There’s a whole other thing ... that this book emphatically deserves praise for: the thing’s trying, in total good faith, to engage with the present world. Meaning, in this case, Iraq and blogging and wars, meaning nationalism and antiquities, meaning how all good stories not only overlap but are literally, at a genetically-coded level, made of the same stuff. For the sake of the book and it’s really great narrative riches, I won’t go further into it than that, but know that, reading Lacuna is not akin to reading some slow-burning navel-gazer about middle-classers coming of age, nor is it some hijinxy send-up of mores and morals and manners. The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal’s a fierce and challenging and spunky book, and it’s fun as hell...)
Where he finds fault, it seems to be with the narrative voice, the first person plural negotiations of Jennifer H and Danielle D.
And he lays the blame for my choices squarely at the feet of David Foster Wallace.
Now I’m honoured to be considered part of the genius run-off from DFW, given that he should be still here and he should be still writing, he was clearly a writer for the ages and a great teacher, and I also admire his heroic struggles to contend with the bullshit of some contemporary philosophers, using language that these same philosophers would understand...
I also pride myself on giving credit where credit is due. Although in this particular instance it suddenly occurs to me that Mr. Cutter is talking about blame rather than credit, so I must suddenly assume for the purposes of an essay on the subject of influence that he would cite DFW for influence over more positive aspects of my book as well...
Image from here
But I’m afraid I’ve never read Infinite Jest.
I’m aware that it’s possible to be influenced by a work through the zeitgeist, through all the chatter that accumulates around it and through the work that it influences, and so I could most definitely be wrong about the following theory, but…
I would say rather that DFW benefited from the same primary influence as I did -- the great stories of J.D. Salinger. Not Catcher in the Rye -- though that novel has always been Salinger’s calling card among scholars and critics -- but rather Franny & Zooey and Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, considered far less important by these same critics (with some notable exceptions), but whose moment-to-moment narratives are the precious touchstones for me, and, I suspect, for writers everywhere.
Actually no. They’re not touchstones. I don’t go back and reread these stories. I haven’t read them in twenty years. They’ve rather become woven into the mechanics of my synapses, their images occasionally popping up in association with moments in my own experience, carried from firing to firing (and no I'm not talking about my undistinguished employment record) (although on the other hand I could be) throughout my life.
In a part of my mind, I will always be in the back seat of the limousine with Buddy Glass, stuck in a traffic jam with several strong characters travelling away from Seymour’s cancelled wedding. I will always be executing a perfect shave with Zooey, talking with his mother on the other side of the bathroom door; lingering on the phone with Franny who sits downstairs in a darkened living room; even swatting flies with a fat lady, sitting on her porch and listening to It’s A Wise Child, along with Christ himself, buddy, Christ himself.
I loved these stories and I carry them with me, not because of their themes and apparent allusions to eastern philosophies, but rather because of the inherent warmth in the relationships and the reader’s capacity to get right inside the dialogue.
That said, I also consider it reasonable to regard DFW as the primary Salingerian heir, since Infinite Jest seems to have pushed Salinger's very personal brand of narrative as far as it can go. One of these days I intend to read it and find out for sure.