Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Prose Television

The Fiction Advocate has a nice little run-down of David Foster Wallace's 1990 essay, "E Unibus Pluram."

Brian's particularly interest in Wallace's take-down of what he (Wallace) calls "witty, erudite, extremely high-quality prose television." Brian writes, "If he were still alive, I would love to hear him pick apart the layers of irony in a show like 30 Rock, or a writer like Tao Lin."

I'm curious too, but I think it's worth pointing out just how self-conscious the essay is. Wallace rarely commented on his peers and only occassionally wrote about his forebears, but he was extremely aware of the weaknesses of his own writing, which he worried was shallow, cute, and primarily concerned with making himself look good rather than revealing deep truths. When he talks about "prose television," he's almost certainly referring to his own early writing, which explains the progression of his writing from the neurotic slapstick of The Broom of the System to more interior, increasingly discursive narratives like "Mr. Squishy."

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