A Supposedly Fun Blog

July 17, 2009

“You Will Acquire Many Exotic New Facts”

Filed under: Uncategorized — dylanmatthews @ 3:35 am

By Dylan Matthews

That you can cop a sort of thin jittery amphetaminic buzz if you rapidly consume three Millenial Fizzies and a whole package of Oreo cookies on an empty stomach.

That no matter how smart you thought you were, you are actually way less smart than that.

That Nyquil is over 50 proof.

That sometimes human beings have to just sit in one place and, like, hurt. That you will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do. That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness. That it is possible to fall asleep during an anxiety attack.

That most Substance-addicted people are also addicted to thinking, meaning they have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking.

That you don’t have to hit somebody even if you really really want to. That no single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable.

To be perfectly honest, before I got to this section, which starts at page 200 and ends at 205, I was reconsidering this enterprise. I was frustrated – like I sense most of the people here were to varying degrees – by the yrstruly passage, the barely existent plot, and the more or less useless endnotes, which for efficiency’s sake I started reading in ten note chunks, thus eliminating even their purely stylistic purpose of making the reading experience more disjointed.

But those five pages were brilliant enough to keep me chugging. To some degree it’s a matter of contrast. They’re concise when Wallace is usually verbose, straightforward when he’s usually (and purposefully) elliptical, and eclectic when he’s usually maddeningly obsessive. But more meaningfully, they seem to serve as a statement of purpose. A novel composed of a thousand pages of vignettes and diversions in the service of no particular purpose may make for an interesting Dadaist exercise, but it wouldn’t exactly be worth reading. A thousand page novel with a small kernel of explicitly laid out themes whose tentacles reach widely through the rest of the anarchic, intentionally disorganized text has the potential to be quite rewarding, especially when those themes include issues (human frailty, free will and complacency, the limits and evils of intelligence) that Wallace can convey astonishingly well.

I still think that’s merely potential. But as I keep being reassured that the next few hundred pages will tie the loose ends together into a more powerful – if not more orderly – whole, the “exotic new facts” section gives me cause to believe the hype.


  1. Since I quit around page 100, I’ve finished The Strain, Nixonland, and 1/2 of Bob Wright’s new book without ever feeling like I was doing homework.

    Comment by Mike — July 17, 2009 @ 6:35 am | Reply

    • congratulations on not finishing a book! I wish to subscribe to your newsletter to hear more uninformed, uninteresting opinions without arguments.

      Comment by Notmike — July 17, 2009 @ 11:02 am | Reply

  2. I agree — this section is absolutely brilliant. And believe it or not it gets even better.

    Comment by infinitedetox — July 17, 2009 @ 11:16 am | Reply

  3. I think we all need to just let the yrstruly section go. It was 100+ pages ago!

    Comment by timmy — July 17, 2009 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

  4. Those five pages turned it around for me, too. And now I can’t stop reading.

    Comment by vj — July 22, 2009 @ 1:22 pm | Reply

  5. […] you ever chance to spend a little time around a Substance-recovery halfway facility.” I’ve read this section three times […]

    Pingback by The Walrus Blogs » Infinite Summer: Required Reading » The Haulout — August 24, 2009 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

  6. Pretty part of content. I simply stumbled upon your blog and in accession
    capital to claim that I acquire actually enjoyed
    account your weblog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing for your feeds
    and even I success you access constantly rapidly.

    Comment by Bauchmuskeltraining — June 21, 2013 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: