Survey: Part 2
Respond to this essay question for a chance to win a free virtual meeting with the avatar of your favorite author: Which of your favorite dead author avatars would you wish to engage with and why? Feel free to respond creatively.
Me: First off, to be clear. Academics annoy the heck out of me.
Me: Because they can never leave well enough alone.
DFW: I was an academic.
Me: Wait, you are or were? Am I dealing with DFW purely of the past or DFW if he were brought back to life?
DFW: Good question. Since I am technically dead, I have a history that can be referred to, in which case, I was an academic. If you take I—the avatar—to be a representation of DFW as if he were brought back to the exact same life he was living up until his death, then he is a professor.
Me: I’m well aware that you is/were a professor of English and creative writing. For me, that fact is neither here nor there. Simply put and because of the wording of the essay question, I would identify you as my favorite author—dead or alive, because what you wrote appealed to me. I am also aware that this platform tends to attract the most annoying types who peddle in literary theory: psychoanalysis, structuralism and post-structuralism, reception theory. Why can’t they just enjoy literature in and of itself? Literary theorists remind me of those stupid audio guides in museums. Who can explain what they like in a Van Gogh or Renoir? How can I explain what it is/was about your writing that drew me in, to the point of obsession? After reading almost everything you wrote—I’ll shamefully admit that I tried several times to read your most notable work, Infinite Jest, but could never finish for reasons that I don’t want to get into, some of which are not entirely clear to me because digging deep is not in my nature—I read the first major biography of your life Every Love Story is a Ghost Story. Why did I do so if all that mattered was that I liked your books? I don’t know. For me, asking the question of whether one should (or can) separate the writer from their writing is moot. I read for the pleasure it, not to satisfy any ethical or moral agenda.
DFW: Interesting. I take it you heard the rumors that I was abusive in some of my romantic relationships. Some even called me a monster.
Me: Rumors? As far as I could tell, they were not just rumors. Let’s not go there, shall we?
DFW: Fine, then tell me, which of my books did you like the most?
Me: Do I like the most, not even a book, but one short story, The Depressed Person.
DFW: That is a peculiar choice for favorite. May I ask what it is you like about it?
Me: Ugh. I told you I hate being asked why I like something. But to satisfy the requirements for this essay question, and so I can have a real chance at winning a real interaction with the real you, let me see. Can I just say that you mimicked the inner workings of the mind of a truly depressed person—paranoid, affectless, recursive. How there’s a difference between wanting to die and wanting for the pain to end. The limits of expression, at once horrifying yet the virtuosity of which is nearly joyous…
If I could ask you one thing, and one thing only, it would be…