Monday, April 6, 2009

“hovering above and just to the left of myself”

First of all, for all of you who didn’t get a copy of the rest of ‘Good Old Neon’, I highly recommend it and will happily lend mine to you if you find me in class.

As the astute reader has already inferred, I was really blown away by David Foster Wallace’s ‘Good Old Neon’, and would like to share my thoughts and maybe get some insight into what other people who finished it thought.

The Narrator argues: “Although we are seldom conscious of it, we are all basically just instruments or expressions of our evolutionary drives...” Is this true in all cases? In many parts of life, such as caring for children and even (debatably) choosing mates, there seems to be a strong influence by our own “hardwiring” or even ‘instinct’, and seems logical that some things just come natural to all humans. But what about literature? Literature, and more broadly art, is something that is unique to humans. How do these activities fit into our “evolutionary drives”? Perhaps memorizing a Shakespearean love sonnet might increase my ability to pass on my genetic material, but does a desire to create lasting works of art a human evolutionary drive or is it something we learn? And if it’s something we learn, does that mean that there are societies that do not value the past or create works of art? It seems very hard to tell where the line between nature and nuture ends.

Shifting gears (mostly cause I don’t know where I was going with that last paragraph), I also really liked the way he used the huge footnote on pg 179 to discuss the linearity of time. Even as he wonders if there is any linearity to life at all, all of the narrator’s musings are stuck in a footnote, out of relation to the rest of the story. At the end of this paragraph I was admittedly confused. The idea of time not being a line but just an instant is rather hard to grasp, but does that mean that it is not true? I cannot imagine time not being a forward progression, but maybe the narrator can? This reminds me of The Pornographic Imagination and Sontag’s definition of the artist as someone “making forays into and taking positions on the frontiers of consciousness”. I certainly feel that this is what Wallace is doing in “Good Old Neon”, sharing his experiences and struggles with these concepts, and really stretching our consciousness, allowing us to really understand the scattered final thoughts of his narrator.

Anyway, hope this made some sense at all, I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the piece.

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