Author Archives: tleggett

In Defense of Madden

This week I write in the memory of the career of sportscaster John Madden. Madden whose face created the commercial image of videogame football, retired after over 30 years of broadcasting on Thursday. His retirement was compared to that of comedian Johnny Carson because of his immense impact on American football and its boom in the televisual era. I personally remember him from the mid-nineties TV ads for “BOOM” tough-actin’ Tinactin, an athlete’s foot remedy using the raw style of Madden’s to describe its fast-acting relief.   Those were the days of the Fox network’s team of Madden and modern football pioneer Pat Summerall, where I first watched broadcast football. Madden’s simple, powerful color commentary on the game matched perfectly with Sumerall’s knowledge of the modern game of which he was a central figure during its 1950s foundation.

In 2001, comedian Frank Caliendo first appeared on ‘FOX NFL Sunday’ as Madden in a segment called “Jimmy’s Pick’s” hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and unfortunately, (for Madden) was delightfully impressive in his caricature. Now, in 2009 Kimmel has his own late-night show, Frank Calliendo is the one making picks on ‘FOX NFL Sunday’, and Madden is only respected as an image. Friends of mine have told me how simplistic and stupid Madden’s commentary seemed, and I can only think that it wasn’t Madden’s fault he was so easily impersonated. The fact of the matter is that Madden did his job, he told the audience what was happening on the field and gave a colorful interpretation of the player’s feelings and emotions. Now, in an era of statistics ad absurdum people want more from an announcer. They want inference. The result sports ‘analyst’ Tony Kornheiser and his new style of announcing as part of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”. Kornheiser has segments or ‘bits’ of material in the style of a “soft profile” of players and the game. These go on and the announcers will miss downs of football commentary and even skip coverage of punts altogether. I think this is an excellent place to point out the difference between Madden and Sumerall, and analysts such as Kornheiser: Madden had played the game. And coached, he had been in the grime and dirt, and felt what it was like. He knew the game because of his experience and this is why he could commentate football. A descriptive analyst such as Kornheiser has so much information on players and statistics, that he can’t help but bombard you to the point that the game itself has become irrelevant. John Madden was simple in his analysis because football is simple. The part that makes football hard is the emotion, the “BOOM”, the “WHAM”, the part Madden knew so well. A hero has finally stepped down, but year after his cause had been made obselete. His proscriptive approach to announcing football was seceded years ago to descriptive analysts seeking to improve the game with a more personal, statistical approach. For years I had known, now I can begin to mourn the loss.

Oblivion As Nightmare


What is a nightmare?At what point are children told that the nightmares are no different from typical dreams? The solitude and individuality of dreamscapes mirrors the loneliness and loss of control that nightmares pose, the difference lies in the interpretation.  

Oblivion is a collection of stories that are solely fragments of greater wholes. Each story’s context radiates outside the story itself, including the beginning and end. One could say that Oblivion is a book of nightmares.

The story “Oblivion” itself could be argued as a nightmare, but its place in the collection only adds to the entropy of Oblivion. The story “Another Pioneer” is told from a distant narrator and many of the nuances of the tale are lost in translation. “Good Old Neon” is the post-humous suicide tale from an actual figure in Wallace’s past. “Incarnations of Burnt Children” is a tragedy with not only the loss of a child’s ‘soul’, but possibly life-long tragic implications on the parents involved as well. “The Soul is Not a Smithy”   is the first person account of a scarring tragedy, whose memories were scarred by not tragedy but confusion and daydreaming.  

Like “Team [delta]y”, Wallace has nearly avoided reaching any one point with his stories and left the reader with an entropic mess of data leaving them to pick and choose for demographics. After reading Oblivion I was left dazed and confused. Unlike Wallace’s other collections of stories, Oblivion seemed to lack a recurring thematic approach. None of the stories were divided and scattered throughout. None of the stories seemed to be upbeat and kind to the reader. Oblivion only proposes theme through its ambiguity and entropic characteristics. It is truly a nightmare. But I think in this nightmare, there is also a dream. A dreamy literature filled with new-detail and insight, to give a new perspective of a non-dream world. Only this dream seemed on the horizon of the nightmare, the ending which Wallace left out.

Atavism in IJ


In re-reading parts of IJ, I found a parallel between Hal and Orin’s phone conversation on November 5 Y.D.A.U. (p242-258) and the November 6 description of addictions within the E.T.A. Hal tells Orin that he has found the magic in shooting toe-nail clippings, “It’s like the celluloid moment when Luke removes his high-tech targeting helmet” (p258). This confuses even Orin and he begins to wonder if this has ‘fucked Hal up’ somehow, talking about Himself. But the reference is not unimportant, it suggests that somehow in a divine sense that [real] direction is lost within God’s plans and that evolution is a sort of ‘high-tech’ plan that itself has flaws.   Atavism is again mentioned in “Hal’s devolution from occasional tourist to subterranean compulsive, substance-wise” (p270).

I think that this notion of atavism is crucial in understanding IJ, especially with regard to addiction. The idea that human beings can become dependent on substances which are not beneficial, and more often then not detrimental to themselves, is an anti-evolutionary idea. It suggests that human’s could be trying to avoid the rules of whatever ‘game’ that   they play, or not even have understood the rules of the game in the first place . This corresponds with the idea that AA itself gives into an idea that parallels addiction itself.

I think DFW is asking how to move forward, when nature itself often moves backwards (fish with teeth, whales with legs, no I’m not making this shit up). Why can’t the addiction be accepted as natural? Why do we constantly reject people who have natural problems? Why isn’t everyone in AA? If everyone succumbs to addiction, why are we constantly avoiding it? I think that this relates to White Flag’s belief that 99.9% of reality is outside of our control (p1004 fn. 100). It all comes back to the .1% that we are. The 0.1% can either work for us or against us, and in the case of addiction it is working against us, at least that’s what I think.

Literature as Discovery

Reading DFW’s Everything and More I feel as though I am entrenched in a literary version of the Discovery Channel. Just as the Discovery Channel is bringing an interesting but very difficult concept to new light, DFW does the same in this work using the tools and tricks of a modern fiction writer instead of multiple screenshots of surreal landscapes. Aside from the new subject matter, a different side of DFW seems to be revealed in this self acclaimed ‘booklet’: the book is written in a [chronological] series of sections, catch phrases are defined, there is an index. I think that these were added to ease reader confusion and are atypical of DFW’s writing. IYI is an a abbreviation that I truly find it hard to take seriously after reading Wallace’s earlier work: of course I’m interested, if I wasn’t why would I take the time to read. I think that when Wallace presented his original edit of E&M to the “Great Discoveries” editors it may have come off as pretentious and high minded. Without an ‘IYI’ and a reachable glossary, DFW assumed that his readers could do the math just had never taken the time. I’m almost sure the editors forced the forward and glossaries. This is helpful, but took a lot of merit from the text itself. The book now is presented as a way to almost ‘dumb down’ the math so that everyone could learn and skip over parts which proved too difficult. This brought in reviewers who thought of the book as ‘infinitely confusing’ or ‘when good novelists do bad science’.   DFW was never trying to do science, only make scientific thinking more accessible to those who never took the time to try it.  In this way DFW proves to be a Discovery Channel for literature, never does Planet Earth claim to be making discoveries but it can open unexperienced eyes toward uncharted waters. DFW cringes at mathematicians in the audience the way the Discovery Channel cringes when ecologists are in the audience. I think he does a wonderful job explaining what I don’t understand. Do you?

Allusion to ‘lo maravilloso’

In reading Infinite jest, I cannot help but think that DFW is alluding to an integral piece of writing from 1949, Alejo Carpentier’s El Reino de Este Mundo (The Kingdom of this World). This work signified, in many ways, the literary transition from surrealism to a new genre   of ‘magical realism” (doesn’t quite translate but in spanish A.C. referred to ‘lo maravilloso’ or in english ‘the jaw-droppingly astonishing’). ERDEM is about the Haitian revolution, told from the p.o.v. of a slave, masking certain realities of the Haitian revolution with magical elements to excite a certain human fascination in the reader to make the overall picture of the story that much more vivid and capturing. A.C. himself said that he essentially created ‘lo maravilloso’, in contrast to the surrealist authors of the time, to create what he thought what was a justifiable recreation of this incredible revolution in modern society. The Haitian revolution required ‘lo maravilloso’ because it involved a clash of post-industrial people and binary belief systems, and an attempt to truly restore freedom to people who forever live in the shadows of slavery. A.C.’s writing changed literature forever.

I think that DFW might be alluding to ERDEM because of the Quebecois Separatism   that is present in IJ. Steeply says “I was a Haitian”, in response to Marathe’s inquisition   to why he was never himself in the field and last dressed as a ‘Negro’. The Haitian devotion to the Quebecois separatist movement is common respect and devotion to the French tongue and heritage. I think the allusion might hold an ironic notion such as: the people who perpetuated the new View of the world are now helping to fight against it. But it cannot be that simple, perhaps DFW had no idea and referenced Haiti because a francophone negro can be easily identified as Haitian. Perhaps too he is referring to the complexity of the (post)-postmodern world and how the Quebecois separatists and the Haitian’s each had unique identity in post-industrial North America and are fighting an overall condensation of this identity into a single O.N.A.N. Either way I thought referencing A.C.’s work is pretty cool, as IJ could become as important or more so than ‘El Reino de Este Mundo’ in the literary world.

I couldn’t help but notice the strong Haitian population in Quebec or the literary influence Carpentier has had on modern literature through his telling of the Haitian revolution.  Maybe DFW is trying to turn around the corner Carpentier turned us to.  Maybe I’m just reading too much. Thoughts?

A Personal Aside

When I first began reading meta-fiction I thought “oh cool” or “how convenient”: the author’s juxtaposition into his own work seemed like a good concept but it didn’t really click.  

Then I went to visit my ‘family’ in San Diego. I say ‘family’ because I don’t want to suggest brothers and sisters (I have none of either), but only aunts and uncles and such. My father wasn’t keen on attending, and since Claremont is closer to Solana Beach than Albuquerque, I would represent the THL lineage this time (I am the VII, dad the VI, so on..) I like these semi-reunions because they are always filled with aunt/uncle drama (most of which is irrelevant to me) to the point of which the cousins (I am one) can fly under the radar and do what we please. This occasion was particularly interesting because I honed in on some specific information about my forefathers. It seemed my Great-grandfather (THL IV) was a liked man   and my grandfather(THL V) was not. These points seemed to be emphasized to the point of insanity and by the end of my weekend my head was bursting with familial data.  

The first thing I did was call my father. He too knows how taxing these semi-reunions are and enjoys hearing the shenanigans through a speaker 600 miles away. To be frank he almost instantly cleared the b/s up for me. I know my father, he knows me, and we are very close. Not only personally are we close, but politically as well (politics beyond red and blue) and where we might disagree, we would know why. Nothing is hidden from me by him and this makes his stories very easy to understand (for me).

This made me realize, that in my life as a fiction created my father, these meta-fictional references (albeit a phone call here) are not merely for sport but are imperative. My call to my father helped me clear up all of the b/s fictionalizations or interpretations to get down to the good stuff, the real life problems. This is what DFW does so well. In “Octet” the ninth pop-quiz provides the motive for the entire piece. He’s helping, he doesn’t need the reader to wonder why there are 5 pieces in the octet or why PQ6 doesn’t resolve. He can give us the answers to these questions , and help us get down to the questions he really wants us to answer. This meta-fictional story structure shows the meta-fictional qualities of life. That in life there can be pages and pages of mixed feelings and unsaid words that mean nothing unless we’re guided through. DFW gives a voice thats strong enough to tell us what he thinks is b/s and what we should really focus on. Do we believe him?

The Unified Theory of Fiction

When I’m asked to elaborate on the fiction-writer whom I am taking a class about, I first mumble some and then settle (albeit only because the pause is becoming all to ackward) for the word “post-modernist”. After reading “Westward” one can only assume DFW is also irked at this choice of title, and many of us who’ve read “Joesph Frank’s Dostoyevsky” know that postmodernism probably was much to pointless for Dave.   But, then, what is the work to be labeled?  

The first time it really slaps the reader in the face that DFW is playing with the concept of genre is at   A REALLY BLATANT AND INTRUSIVE INTERRUPTION. The author comes through the page to give a two page sentence about the theoretical notions of metafiction. This of course being theoretical because we’re told “As mentioned before- and if this were a piece of metafiction, which it’s NOT,” [264]. The author clearly thinks that metafiction is “a princely pain in the ass, not to mention cocky”.   The narrator is begging here that we DO NOT consider the implications or suggestions of the genre, rather that of the story (non-fiction) he is telling.

Of course , then we get these metafictional passages about writing. First the narrator telling us about his most successful piece,  “It’ll be kind of plagiarsm, a small usurpation;..will not be any type of recognized classified fiction, but simply a weird blind rearrangement of what’s been in plain sight, the whole time, through the moving windows. That its claim to be a lie will itself be a lie” [356], and dissecting why it is that Ambrose likes it. Then the narrator tells us what Ambrose has told him about writing fiction:”Basically what you’re doing when you’re writing fiction is telling a lie, he tells those us in the seminar; and the psychology of reading dictates that we’re willing to buy only what coheres, on some gut level, with what we already believe.” [360] The two most important parts of the definition being the “psychology of reading” and already believing in a lie that is untold. This definition I think is clear and importantly carries no concept of genre.

Assuming the label as insight to meaning, I think the fiction here is attempting to transcend genre and become feeling in of itself. When the narrator is in his discourse about the neglecting the implications of metafiction, he accidentally tells us that somehow these genre’s are all doing work on themselves, “. ..this metafictional shit…plus naïve baloney-laced shit, resting on just as many “undisclosed assumptions” as the “realistic” fiction metafiction would try to”debunk”, ….opens the door to a fetid closetfull of gratuitous cleverness… the closest we get to the forbidden, “[265] That fiction builds on itself on way that it could eventually articulate words to give real meaning. In a [metafictional] twist when Mark’s character of Dave is talking about dissecting his ‘feelings’, the narrator gives light art of articulation, “Dave, pretty darn stubborn when it comes to his tiny archer’s cry, refuses, inside, to use the passive voice to articulate his love. And one fine day he actually articulates this refusal, and the reasonable arguments that lie behind it. He does this at significant personal risk.”[358] This risk comes with uncovering his true feelings only to be met with nothing; that the risk is articulation.

If fiction is thought of as science, what is the practice? If all science were to be (theoretically) articulated by a Unified Theory of Physics, than DFW presents us here with the Unified Theory of Fiction. The theory says that the composition of fiction is   a sum of its parts, therefore fiction can not be composed of any one genre. The character of Mark says this well by saying, “dividing this fiction business into realistic and naturalistic and surrealistic and modern and postmodern and new-realistic and meta- is like dividing history into cosmic and tragic and prophetic and apocalyptic; is like dividing human beings into white and black and brown and yellow and orange.” [346] Just absurd as racial boundaries, the real fictional boundaries need to be broken. Again backing up the notion of a single Fiction, Mark says “What Ambrose’s “different” fictions do are just shadows, made various by the movements of men against one light. This one light is always desire.” [346] The light of desire casts a shadow of feeling upon the reader, thus fulfilling the purpose of fiction. DFW must make it clear that his characters are not in stories, but enlighten the possibility of being in one. This is why the surrealistic roses aren’t overwrought “If this were fiction, the fried roses that unite J.D. as cultivator, Ambrose as distributor, Mark as consumer and disciple, D.L. as Manichee, Magda as apostate, and Sternberg as supplicant would be rendered- by the process of quick frying- all the more lovely, as roses,”[335]. When Ambrose is critiquing Mark’s story as postmodernist he complains about surrealism, “Why compromise the tale’s carefully crafted heart-felt feel and charming emotional realism with a sudden, gratuitous, and worst of all symbolic bit of surrealism like this?”[360] This could also be used to critique DFW’s story, that would only be valid if this was metafiction. To bad its-

R.V. Creepy?

Rick Vigorous couldn’t help but give away too much about his own story. He established him self as the ‘anti-hero’, scaring Lenore into reality and extinguishing his own narrative. Much of the novel is told from Rick Vigorous’ point of view and many of the descriptions are in his word, but this doesn’t hide the fact that he is a creepy little man.

By the end of the novel, we can come to the conclusion that Rick Vigorous has been our narrator. He has narrated Lenore Beadsman’s life, and, as any good author, given it his own context. Through his manipulation, critique, and telling of stories, it can be established that Rick Vigorous is a very opinionated writer, who knows where his story is going. In a pre-text to the dramatic ending of the novel, he even tells us “Not after tomorrow I’m not upset. Tomorrow is the end.” (406) Before this he has hidden details of his story, to make it more interesting for the reader (maybe only the author). T

Two major examples of this are when Andy Lang reveals Rick’s engagement belief, and when R.V. himself tells Lenore what he thinks of her interpretation. When Lang ‘spills the beans’ about Rick flaunting his engagement to Lenore, he immediately tries to take it back,   “Oh shit, did I just do it again? Oh lord. Just forget what I said. Forget I said anything” (401). WDL knows that Rick wouldn’t want to know that he is spreading his telling around, especially to characters within it. After he calls Lenore a bitch for being insensitive to Rick’s difficult and emotionally intricate story, “Please forget I said anything. Let’s just walk back along the lake.” (432) Rick doesn’t want Lenore to know about his sensitivity to someone’s interpretation of his own story.

The re-appearance of Andy Lang, brings with it a Tex mentality without Rick’s context. The first appearance of Lang only shows him in Lenore’s context, and displays him as a straight shooter. There is no doubt that Lang tells it like it is. After he spills the beans on R.V.’s story, he finds himself telling more truth, “But I’ll just   go ahead and say that I think the one’s maybe doing more controlling than’s good for anybody is old R.V.” (405) The context of which, he gives as a small sweaty man dangling from an airplane suit. It is at this point when Lang tells Lenore that RV wanted her possession, “like a TV”. This brings us to think of when Rick seems creepy to Lenore, when Lenore refused his desires (both in word and action),

“Look we’ve been through this. I told you I just won’t do that stuff. If you cared in any non-creepy way, you’d only want to do what I want to do. And I don’t want to be tied up, and I’m sure not going to hit your bottom with any paddles. It’s just sick.”(283)  

Lenore gets the notion that R.V.’s love is in a ‘creepy’ way. Again she feels this only this time R.V. can’t narrate his way to safety. Lang proposes that no one can possess the control Rick wants, “How does he think something like that’s going to make us feel.”(406).  

Conclusively Lenore finds R.V. creepy in the desert, “Andy was right”(432). Lenore is done with this narrator forcing his interpretation on his work and will no longer be a part. Somewhere in between his incessant narration, and his suggestion of ‘union’ in the physical sense (opposed to a verbal-marriage), Lenore parts ways with our narrator.  

That’s why, in the climax, he doesn’t even belong. Mr. Beadsman asks about his daughter in handcuffs and Rick provides the context. “”Well sir whyn’t you just ask that little dung beetle right back there?” Lang said, pointing at Rick Vigorous back in the shadow”(455) Rick Vigorous hides in the shadow, to observe creepy, like an insect. I think this suggests something of our narrator, all narrators, and their insect-like creepiness. Does it?

meta-“insert reality”

The year is off to a [great] start, of course, because today was Super Bowl Sunday. The first milestone in the corporate year. The day where millions of eyes are guaranteed to be fixated on the advertisements, maybe even more so than the game itself. The day corporations test the water for advertising by tapping into the American psyche with commercials that have budgets equaling that of 3rd rate Hollywood productions only to see what type of wit and ingenuity will channel and attract consumers.

A couple of commercials and a trend caught my eye: (1) The next generation of Pepsi, (2) Internet-based television and (3) 3-D entertainment.  

(1)The Pepsi commercial is genius. It begins with the introduction to a popular skit on Saturday Night Live, “MacGruber”, which is an obvious parody of the American television show MacGyver, and proceeds to show MacGruber (played by SNL’s Will Forte) in a typically “sticky” situation. Inside of the control room of an illegal supply ship MacGruber appears to be in charge, while the real MacGeyver and the heroine wait inform him of their impending doom (“..and from the looks of that C-4 we’ve only got about 15 seconds” camera rolls to countdown of 15) MacGruber then says ” take a chill, grab a Pepsi and refresh everything”. The real MacGeyver asks what that even means and MacGruber begins a personal interpretation of Pepsi’s new slogan. MacGeyver wonders why MacGruber has an interest in Pepsi (Geyver: Why do you keep talking about pepsi? Gruber: Why do I love my mom? Because she’s a great woman. Well, Pepsi’s a great product. Geyver: Are you sponsered by Pepsi or something? Gruber: Whaat? Well..maybe, but WHO CARES? I am 100% my own man! .. btw I had my name legally changed to Pepsuber, so if you guys could take that into account..”) All this happens, and the heroine reminds MacGruber err. Pepsuber he has only seconds left, which he fills by further advertising Pepsi, and the commercial concludes with an explosion and the Pepsi colored graphic “Pepsuber”.

What should I make of this? I mean really, is MacGruber endorsing Pepsi? Is Will Forte endorsing Pepsi? Is Saturday Night Live endorsing Pepsi? Is Pepsi endorsing Barack Obama? ( no one can truly be blind to the National Broadcasting Corporation’s (ironic) love for Obama) “But it is not I the spy   who have crept inside television’s boundaries. It is vice versa. Television has become my -our- own interior. (Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram” p11.)” This commercial, like the St. Elsewhere episode that blended MTM studios productions into a weird episode where “there is nothing but television on [this] episode,(Wallace, p11)” is metatelevision now mixed into corporate advertising. With the in-crowd of 1990 on the beach allowing you to “choose” Pepsi, the in- crowd of roughly 20 years later is sitting on the couch watching SNL allowing you whether or not to believe what your told. Independence, as a belief, overthrows independence from a visual standpoint. Yes, Pepsi is a mulitbillion dollar multinational corporation that has just thrown money at the situation, but one of your friends drinks Pepsi, and your brand affinity for Coke has sprung from the binary soft drink battle between Coke and Pepsi, without which you wouldn’t even drink Coke in the first place. Showing that advertising has overtaken, or at least is on par with, TV in the meta-“insert reality”.

Allowing the TV to relocate to, where else but, (2) the internet. Now Alec Baldwin, spokesman for all things televisual, is off in a mad rush around a, what -appears- to- be, scientific laboratory explaining that TV will be on the internet, impossible to turn off via Hulu. With this he will turn your mind to mush, and use you to take over the world because he is, of course an alien. OH Hollywood! No way can TV ruin your mind, I mean Alec Baldwin’s in on it and he seems much smarter, actually in the know, than I am. So, whether you like it or not, the viewer will find something for himself to watch. No matter who else might happen to live in his vicinity, he will not be alone but actively satisfied but what’s appealing to him.   Showing that Wallace was correct, “We will, in short be able to engineer our own dreams” in reference to Gilder’s hypothesis. It is correct, but missing a dimension. (3) During the Super Bowl an ad for an upcoming 3-D movie and for an upcoming   3-D TV show episode ran, in 3-D. No, there is no difference between this and the Honey I Shrank The Kids   at Epcot (at least thats what it was in 1998), and yes you do have to wear the box- cut- out glasses (or else you will see strange placement of bright colors and double edges). Now “TV’s ironic, totalitarian grip on the American psychic cojones will be broken.!!!(Wallace, p61), and replaced by a monitor, a processing chip, an ethernet cord, and a sadly enthused twentysomething wearing something that could be snipped from the inside of his Crispex.