The bright, shiny penny & David Foster Wallace

Thursday I had the pleasure and honor to be interviewed by a delightful young woman from the UofM for the English Major’s blog. Or something like that. I can’t exactly remember what the focus of the blog is, but I do know I was interviewed all about Minnesota Reads.

My interviewer was so earnest and enthusiastic and optimistic about her post-college future. When she pulled out a list of hand-written questions she had prepared I nearly died, and when she sheepishly asked me for a pen I wanted to hug her and put her in my hip pocket for safekeeping.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, because I actually did die when I handed her the MN Reads pin that says “I finished Infinite Jest” and she asked what Infinite Jest was.

“What?” I screeched as my head fell right off my shoulders. I picked my head up from the floor of The Loft, which was quaking in disbelief, dusted it off and put it back in place. “David Foster Wallace?”
“I don’t know who he is,” she said.
“Oh my god,” I said, which I hope came off as ‘what are they teaching you’ and not ‘yer so dum.’ There are a crapton of books in the world and I hate when people screech at me for not reading something that have deemed important. It’s annoying. But at the same time, goddamnit, to never even hear of David Foster Wallace? “He wrote experimental fiction. He won the McArthur Genius Grant. . .”
She just shook her head at me.
“I can’t wait to learn more about Infinite Jest after this interview,” she sparkled at me.

Later Thursday, before class, I was relaying the tale of my interview to FFJ.

“She was just so cute and earnest and smart and hopeful,” I said.
“Like a bright shiny penny,” she said.
“Yes! I wish I was twenty again,” I said.

FFJ wrinkled her nose and sneered a little.

“Not really,” I said. “Being in my twenties sucked.
“You just want to be a shiny penny,” she said.
“Exactly!” I said. “I never had that. We never had that. In the 90s we were bitter and jaded from the start, worrying about selling out and if our flannel was genuine enough.”
FFJ nodded her head in agreement. “Damn the man, fight the system, riotgrrl.”
“But come on, David Foster Wallace?” I whined.
“He’s not a writer for her generation,” she said.
“But never hear of him. He died three years ago, wouldn’t she have heard of that?”
“She was probably seventeen when he died. She worried about the prom.”


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  1. Barrett Chase 30.Jul.11 at 9:45 am

    One month after DFW died, I dressed as him for Halloween. Even though I carried a copy of Infinite Jest with me, a grand total of two people I encountered had heard of him. Two people, married to each other.

    1. Jodi 31.Jul.11 at 10:38 pm

      @Barrett Chase, When I hear stories like this it convinces me that I live in a bubble surrounded by mostly like-minded individuals.

      Also, for reasons I cannot explain WP decided your comment was spam. How rude!

  2. M-----l 30.Jul.11 at 12:21 pm

    What’s a guy got to do to get his hands on one of those buttons? My mom read Infinite Jest four or five years ago and sometimes brags about it when she wants me and my brother to think she’s hip. She especially likes to brag about it to me as I haven’t read the book. I think she’d like a button.

    1. Jodi 30.Jul.11 at 12:38 pm

      @M—–l, I have no idea where they are at the moment. But as soon as I dig them up (probably make the interns find them on Tuesday), I’ll send a few your way.


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