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Act of contrition: So I’m going to stop putting off Infinite Jest by flipping channels …

I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves. Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a sort of “generalization” of suffering. Does this make sense? We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple. But now realize that TV and popular film and most kinds of “low” art—which just means art whose primary aim is to make money—is lucrative precisely because it recognizes that audiences prefer 100 percent pleasure to the reality that tends to be 49 percent pleasure and 51 percent pain. Whereas “serious” art, which is not primarily about getting money out of you, is more apt to make you uncomfortable, or to force you to work hard to access its pleasures, the same way that in real life true pleasure is usually a by-product of hard work and discomfort.

—David Foster Wallace, interview with Larry McCaffery, Dalkey Archive Press

Nietzsche (roman) and Sartre (italics) Mix Up Their Quotes

(after Kristincanwrite’s entry)

One must have     I exist.
It’s sweet
chaos in oneself
And light
to give birth
you’d think it floated
to a dancing star
all by itself.

—Tim Tiernan, 5/31/2010, 10:30 a.m., taken from a Nietzsche quote i know and Sartre’s Nausea, Alexander trans., paperback, p. 98.

Issa haiku

The world of dew—
A world of dew it is indeed,
And yet, and yet …

(tsuyu no yo wa tsuyu no yo nagara sari nagara)

—translation by Lewis Mackenzie

Issa wrote this poem after the death of his very young second child. For me it represents almost a tension between his Buddhist belief in the transience of the universe and the mourning love he feels for his child. It would be moralizing and glib to write anything that simply restated the “all things arise and pass” philosophy. I believe in a buddha who would grieve and pound his fists; he would not say c’est la vie.

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