The Resurrection of the Author

For David Foster Wallace—a writer who, three years ago, I would have been loathe to cite as the bedrock of this essay (more on that below)—good fiction, and for our purposes I think it is safe to say good art, was all about a communal clash—sometimes rough, sometimes smooth, sometimes both, usually inflected with dynamism not only in form but in content and trajectory—what he calls, later in this interview, the artist giving the reader “imaginative access to other selves.” But it’s also about something else: a dramatic reversal. Sometimes the reversal is of the reader’s expectations, sometimes the reversal occurs in the heart of a character, but wherever it happens the most important part is that it occurs as an experience for the reader. “I had a teacher,” DFW says in the same interview, and I’ll substitute the word art for fiction, “that used to say good art’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” I think that’s lovely.

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