Tag Archives: terrible book

The worst of Wallace’s books

Though I didn’t know that Wallace was hired to write the book as part of a kickoff for a book series, that added knowledge helped me realize that not liking Everything and More was justified, that there was some underlying murkiness I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I sense that same murkiness when I go to a theater and see a film and walk out afterward feeling that I genuinely deserve a refund. That murkiness is best summed up as the use of a popular name to sale an unpopular perspective. And be it a terrible film idea or obscure math, this method inhibits the ability to enjoy the medium.

Because if a medium hopes to reach an audience, it needs to be made by someone that knows how to convey the medium’s key aspects. And if the medium is a story, the aspects that should be conveyed revolve around bringing closure to the reader — despite what the reader knows before the story starts[1]. Thus the “someone” that conveys a story’s key aspects is the storyteller. The storyteller, in this case a fiction writer, should know how to convey to me their story and bring a sense of closure to me after I’ve finished the last word of the last line of the last page. If that closure is not there, then the writer has failed their task and created someone that at best serves as a popular distraction.

The idea of popularism was brought up in class when prompted to answer the question of whether or not Wallace was a “pop writer.” My response was yes: (1) he was prompted to do the book not because of a background in math, but because he had a recognizable name and (2) the book was a part of a series meant to be significant not as a reliable source of expertise, but as a novel approach that could sell to book buyers that wouldn’t usually buy books on the topics covered in the series. Here Andy Warhol’s popism is most evident: he says that the height of culture is not what is of the highest quality, but what gains the most attention — despite its quality. The two can co-exist in a medium, but are not mutually exclusive — as is the case in Everything and More.

[1] Though it’s wholly acceptable to expect the reader to know how to read, as writing for people learning to read and writing for readers are two different arts.