David Foster Wallace: Waking to Darkness and Lightning

I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame the earth seems to me a stale promontory, this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.

—SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet

Depression is no laughing matter, is it? It eats up life like a black hole that has no bounds. It sucks the life force out of even the happiest of beings. Someone once said that happiness is a state of mind. Milton said: “The mind is its own place, and in it self / Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” How do we survive in a wasteland of our own making? Samuel Beckett once told us that “nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. Yes, yes, it’s the most  comical thing in the world (Endgame).”   Someone asked Ken Bruen, the Galwegian Crime Writer: “How do you define humor?” His response to this was: “It’s our way of getting even.” Maybe that’s the key. Maybe that’s the only way we can confront our despair of existence – the darkness within and without. Getting even. Laughing till the pain and bleakness disappear under the burden of darkness. As David Foster Wallace says it: “You are a trained observer and there is nothing to observe” (The Pale King). That’s DFW to a tee. A man all guzzied up ready to take on the whole world who realizes at the last moment that the world he’d take on resides in his own brain pan all curled up like the Cheshire cat winking back at him with the feint smile and gnomic wisdom of a Dostoevskian idiot. A gentle giant of a man whose compassion and passion gave us the Infinite Jest.

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The Divine Oscar: The Critic as Artist

“And it is for this very reason that the criticism which I have quoted is criticism of the highest kind. It treats the work of art simply as a starting point for a new creation. … There was never a time when Criticism was more needed than it is now. It is only by its means that Humanity can become conscious of the point at which it has arrived.”
– Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

Every time I read Oscar Wilde I sense a man who cared deeply about life and art, about the eloquence of language and taste as it should be in the old high style of a classically bred ‘man of letters’. There is a sense of power and majesty in his voice, a calm sense of his own rightness and judgment, a voice that gathers around its self an amplitude of harmonies that have no match in our own time. Full of wit and charm the divine Oscar leads us through the mazes of art and culture with a delicate and refined touch, which never oversteps that boundaries of a mannered taste. Curious about everything he looked upon all things with equal aplomb, cherishing the memento moris of the past like a collector of rare jewels. If Oscar Wilde had a failing it was his blind trust in the goodness of other human beings, for this he paid a very heavy price; as we all do.

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