Required Reading


Life isn't all hypertext and html tags... we must never forget the wonderful feeling of intellectual superiority we all feel when we cruise around will a nice pretentious hardcover volume of The Collected Works of Schopenhauer. The following is a smattering of books which have influenced me:

 

David Foster Wallace's 1000+ page doorstop is, next to Ulysses, the second greatest read of my life. Whether he's attacking current literary trends (A feminist prep-school teacher delivers a lecture entitled The Toothless Predator: Breast Feeding as Sexual Assault) or delving deep into the minds of recovering addicts at a bizarre half-way house, this novel strips bare the central role which entertainment as a commodity plays in our society. Funny, intelligent, occasionally arrogant, this is a must-read for anyone who seeks to make sense of contemporary American society.

 

For those intimidated by the sheer size of Infinite Jest, this collection of essays may be just the place to wet your feet with regards to Wallace's work. The best reads are the title story, in which Harper's Magazine send Wallace on a luxury cruise to investigate the social dynamics of such phenomena, and getting away from already pretty much being away from it all, where he does likewise with the Illinois State Fair. E Unibus Pluram is an excellent critique of the effects of TV, and when reading it you can see the groundwork being laid for the development of this theme in Infinite Jest.

 

Mark Leyner crackles and explodes in Et Tu, Babe... an irreverent, fast-paced piranha of a book. While Wallace is hyper-verbose, often using several pages to discuss the relevance of some obscure minutiae, Leyner slashes and burns his way across our contemporary landscape. This book is best summed up as an exercise in narcissistic hyperbole. He takes us into his world, where he reigns as a pumped-up writer whose fame and popularity make Michael Jordan seem about as popular as Lenny, the guy over at Circle K. If you want a quick, intense read take a bite out of this mind candy, but be prepared to laugh out loud...

 

Mark Leyner's latest work, Tooth Imprints on a Corn Dog, pretty much continues where Et Tu, Babe leaves of: in the middle of some hyperkinetic frenzy. An excerpt:

"When I'm not crisscrossing the globe, honing my conisseurship of the physical arts- an avocation that has taken me from the fighting-cockroach parlors of Rangoon and wet T-shirt contests at Khmer Rouge ruby mines to the self-service dive-through liposuction emporia of Boca Raton- I bodybuild"

All this from a guy who is 5'4", 145 lbs, and balding. He's the Walter Mitty of our generation.

 

-And Bear in Mind-

 

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