BTC: David Foster Wallace

A break from campaign coverage to mourn the passing of David Foster Wallace.

As mentioned here previously, his writing about John McCain and the 2000 campaign was exemplary and it seems all the more necessary now. 

For those who like to read about things other than politics, his 2006 profile of Roger Federer probably ranks as one of the best pieces of North American sportswriting in recent years.

And then were all those acclaimed works of fiction.

Here, on the subject of John McCain, is an excerpt from an interview he did with Dave Eggers for the Believer in 2003. His complaints were and are hardly unique and perhaps nothing he says here wasn’t and isn’t readily obvious to anyone paying even a modicum of attention. But given how little’s changed in the five years since—and, for that matter, how much worse off we are in some regards—these remain things that need to be said. All the better, when they’re expressed by someone of this skill and genuine indignation. 

“The reason why doing political writing is so hard right now is probably also the reason why more young (am I included in the range of this predicate anymore?) fiction writers ought to be doing it. As of 2003, the rhetoric of the enterprise is fucked. 95 percent of political commentary, whether spoken or written, is now polluted by the very politics it’s supposed to be about. Meaning it’s become totally ideological and reductive: The writer/speaker has certain political convictions or affiliations, and proceeds to filter all reality and spin all assertion according to those convictions and loyalties. Everybody’s pissed off and exasperated and impervious to argument from any other side. Opposing viewpoints are not just incorrect but contemptible, corrupt, evil…

“… How can any of this possibly help me, the average citizen, deliberate about whom to choose to decide my country’s macroeconomic policy, or how even to conceive for myself what that policy’s outlines should be, or how to minimize the chances of North Korea nuking the DMZ and pulling us into a ghastly foreign war, or how to balance domestic security concerns with civil liberties? Questions like these are all massively complicated, and much of the complication is not sexy, and well over 90 percent of political commentary now simply abets the uncomplicatedly sexy delusion that one side is Right and Just and the other Wrong and Dangerous. Which is of course a pleasant delusion, in a way—as is the belief that every last person you’re in conflict with is an asshole—but it’s childish, and totally unconducive to hard thought, give and take, compromise, or the ability of grown-ups to function as any kind of community.”

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