On Commercial Fiction

I was going to write a long post about commercial fiction, about what exactly determines if a book is good or not, I was even going to try to be funny now and there, but then I remembered about this interview David Foster Wallace gave to German TV Channel ZDF Mediathek and realized that he did a much better job at explaining the phenomenon that I could ever hope to do.

So here are two short videos, less than five minutes each, with one of the greatest American writers of the last decade. Or the last two decades.

Anyway.

I highly recommend that you check out the entire interview, which can be found here. It’s well worth the time.

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9 comments on “On Commercial Fiction

  1. Pandionna says:

    This entry hit on a sore point for me, as I’m reeling from hearing about the woman who makes $30K a day writing about trysts between humans and Bigfoot. That would definitely fall under escapism (albeit in a demented kind of way, to my thinking), and not under confrontation. Great interview Wallace gave. Such a shame his life ended the way it did.

  2. cardamone5 says:

    Dear Christian:

    Thank you for alerting me to these interviews, and for the blog on Monsters. Wonderful stuff.

    Best regards,
    Elizabeth

  3. shanuwater says:

    I too “think it is a form of magic.” I am going to guess; he speaks for literary artist everywhere.

  4. Wow, this guy was way smarter than I could ever hope to be. I looked him up on Wikipedia and was duly impressed. Then I looked up Infinite Jest. What a book! No wonder most people have never heard of it, it is so complex with many characters and is rather lengthy. I read Solzhenitsyn while in high school and it was some amount of work to finish, but I did, and thought myself quite smart. I’m a middle class non-college graduate with limited experience in “The Arts” like Shakespeare and classical music. He’s right, the people who read this type of book and few and would have to be well educated. I don’t believe I could read Infinite Jest and understand it. Though I am very interested in trying. I wish I had known about this author years ago when my mind was clearer. Thank you for introducing me to a very interesting author.

  5. I watched the full interview, and you know, I think the society needs to calm down and think deeply more. I also think that in this world where it seems like most mainstream media these days appeal to shallow, selfish interests, there still are and there always will be artists out there who try to make their art influence people to think deeply. That fragmentation of entertainment or something that Mr. Wallace mentioned in the interview, I think it’s an interesting idea. Most of us have the same basal interests, but if we go in deeper within ourselves, things really start to get different, and I think that makes our uniqueness more evident, so these various artworks that appeal to certain audiences may be a good idea to help people think that life has more interesting stuff in store than just basal interests. Well, I wonder what you think about what Mr. Wallace said about commercial fiction, Mr. Mihai?

    Oh, and by the way, thank you very much for sharing us Mr. Wallace’s words. They were very worthwhile to listen to, you know!

  6. njd1insulin says:

    One day I’m going to read Infinite Jest again. One year, maybe.

  7. David’s take on TV versus reading is so insightful and real. Reading is magical and TV is just a flat screen.

  8. ellyybee says:

    David Foster Wallace is always worth my time. Thanks for the post!

  9. What makes a good book varies from person to person. As a writer, my first rule for writing good fiction is to write what I would want to read.

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