Friday, February 13, 2009

The Origin of The Name Rough Fractals Was This Interview........

I have copied below an accurate description of an interview with David Foster Wallace conducted by Michael Silverblatt on his KCRW radio show Bookworm. The quoted passage is from a blog called litagogo (

I too carry the interview around with me on my ipod.

The most riveting TV I have ever seen is the DFW interview with Charlie Rose and the most riveting radio this DFW interview with Silverblatt. In large part because of the ferocity of DFW in defending his vulnerability (at least that is how I see it) but also on account of the awe of both interviewers.

"Fractals in Foster Wallace

Silverblatt opens his interviews with a highly specific and unusual appreciation of the work, a softening-up that often generates moments of mutual human giddiness before the half-hour is up. Early in his 4/11/1996 interview with David Foster Wallace (repodcasted in memorium on 11/26/08, and available on the Bookworm archive), Silverblatt posits that Infinite Jest seemed to be written in fractals (!). This really gets DFW's attention, who responds by riffing on the Sierpinski Gasket, which he describes as a very primitive kind of pyramidical fractal that looks like "a pyramid on acid. " (How miserable that we are now deprived of this mind, with its talent for clarifying the esoteric via the vernacular). Minutes later, Silverblatt thrills over how great Infinite Jest gets around 200 pages in, and says, "It didn't seem like difficulty for difficulty's sake; it seemed like immense difficulty being expended because something important about how difficult it has become to be human needed to be said." (Minute 8) DFW's wonderfully po-voiced response: "I feel like I want to ask you to adopt me."

The many pleasures in this recording are made more poignant by the knowledge that Foster Wallace cannot be interviewed again. He lets Silverblatt lead the discussion, and permits some Bookwormian elevation of theme, but he also stands fast by his authorial humility. Their conversation covers the challenge of writing demanding fiction without being a show-off, the loneliness of art, DFW's desire to write something really sad yet also fun, and the nihilism and double-blinds of contemporary culture in the absence of organizing principles. The podcast, like DFW's writing, contains more complexity than you can process with one listen. I am grateful that it exists, and that Bookworm has put it back on iTunes, so I can carry it around in my pocket. (The archive contains additional interviews with DFW, but this is the one they chose as a commemoration.)"

*** David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest Bookworm interview recorded 4/11/1996, 28:30, downloadable from iTunes with a repodcast date of 11/26/2009.

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