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Samuel Liu on David Foster Wallace

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Samuel Liu reassesses the work of David Foster Wallace in light of an uncertainty about Wallace’s gifts, let alone his supposed “genius”:

Writers who are tied to their culture, who want to show the world “how it is right now,” are also tied down to the world “how it is right now.” That is to say, I have the suspicion that as soon as Wallace’s pop-culture references cease to make sense, he may simply be incomprehensible.

Is it possible that we love Wallace only because we have the same illnesses? — And in what way does a future people for whom depression has become as anachronistic as tuberculosis understand ‘The Depressed Person’? Realism has this disadvantage in that many of its details have to be experienced, by the same culture, in order to be understood. … My feeling is that every reader discovers, or loses their linguistic virginity, only once, to a powerful stylist who shows them that the whole world is to be observed. No doubt Wallace has been this stylist for many.

Maybe I could like Wallace if I knew what was he referencing. Well, then, what about Wallace’s linguistic gift?