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May 24, 2010


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Ben Sachs

Thanks for the piece, Glenn, as I've been similarly skeptical about picking this up. It's interesting that desiring fame should be anything like an issue in Lipsky's book, as there are several passages in Jest that shoot it down pretty clearly. I finally read the book a few months ago, and one scene that sticks with me is of Lyle assuaging one of the younger tennis students (I think it's LaMont Chu?) obsessed with becoming a celebrity. It's a fine passage that addresses the lure in no uncertain terms, the conclusion being: life is too precious for that.



Tom Bissell

Glenn, I gotta two-cent this as well and say: Thank you for writing this. I liked the book ultimately but like you found the fame stuff and Lipsky's unwillingness to countenance the possibility that Wallace had *his* number on the issue kind of infuriating. Bless you, sir.


as suggested in our conversation in at the Poetry Center,
Dave was a careful mysterion
a private guy by nature
layered and wise to the crimes of fame
and his hand
most often invisibly
effected many voices and tones

semper fi


Thanks for the review. It's an interesting perspective from somebody who actually knew the guy. I have to say, though, it seems to me that the last little excerpt that you quibble with isn't really saying anything different from what you write in that last long paragraph. Or anyway, it's saying something different, but your objection sort of goes off at another angle.

"The reader knows how good press must feel." The reader "knows" that, regardless of what insight you feel yourself to have about the true nature of fame. Lipsky's talking about how you're going to come off, not what fame is really worth. Now, you and I may agree that Wallace most certainly has *not* taken the "wrong" lesson when it comes to fame and enjoyment and suspicion, but Lipsky is pointing out an important problem, and that problem is the reason that Wallace ends up talking so much every time Lipsky brings it up--it's tough to negotiate that territory and make it clear that you're aware of all the layers of affectation that people could be assigning to you.

And it's not exactly as if Lipsky's inappropriately hoisting Wallace up onto the sacrificial altar of fame; Wallace climbed up there himself when he decided to publish books. The whole issue is a lose-lose, but you can't opt out. Being circumspect is choosing a side: that's all I took Lipsky to be saying.

Glenn Kenny

Charlie, that's an interesting perspective, and I appreciate your close reading of Lipsky. But Lipsky's not talking about "the reader" when he says Wallace "grabbed the wrong lesson;" he's talking about Dave.

To say Wallace "climbed up" unto the "sacrificial altar" of fame by choosing to publish is not, I think, entirely correct; fact is, a couple of changes of circumstances and he could have wound up as famous as, say, Charles Portis, and he might well have come to be all right with that. Yes. there was a lure. But Dave very quickly recoiled from the literary celeb gambit after his first taste of it, almost like a child who's stuck a fork in a socket. Of course he remained torn, because he wanted a wide readership, a great readership. But he wanted it different.


trackback on http://personalshoplifter.com - lovely in form and content

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