Loads of Learned Lumber

Monday, May 29, 2017

Amy Hungerford, "On Not Reading DFW" (3)

What, still not done? I guess not. Something about this piece really bothered me. But I think I will be able to confine myself to three further points.

1. Among the things Hungerford dislikes about Wallace is that he was arrogant. Yet she feels entitled to disparage Wallace's character without having known him and to dismiss his work without having read it. Isn't that somewhat...arrogant?

2. Hungerford mentions that Leslie Jamison is one of her doctoral students, and that Jamison is doing a dissertation on "the American recovery culture that grew up in the 20th century after the founding of AA." The dissertation naturally includes consideration of Wallace's writing, by which Jamison is "both moved and inspired." Now, I am merely a fan of Leslie Jamison's work, unlikely ever to have a conversation with her, but if she were to write that she was moved and inspired by a writer I had deliberately chosen not to read, I for one would reconsider. Just saying.

3. I am now facing a refuse-to-read decision of my own. "On Not Reading DFW" is the final chapter of Hungerford's recent book Making Literature Now, but I read it first. Now I have to decide whether I want to read the rest of the book. Even though Hungerford, as she says of Wallace, "would qualify, by many measures, as 'smart'," and even though she, as she says of him, "has "sensed where an interesting question lay," I'm not sure I want to read the rest of Making Literature Now. She has endorsements from a lot of people whose opinion I respect--Mark Greif, Cynthia Zarin, Juliana Spahr, William Deresiewicz--but I find her reasoning in this chapter specious and her tone uncongenial. The book is not due back in the library for three weeks, though, so I have time to think about it.

No comments: