The writer who taught me most about creative Non-fiction is inarguably, David Foster Wallace. Although I had never read Wallace, I was already in awe and has a certain respect for him as an undergraduate in college. Infinite Jest, was the book to make it through if you wanted bragging rights as a devote, literary-endowed English Major. My timidity of Wallace tapered as I made my way through his essay, “Consider The Lobster.” It is not often that I get excited about an author, but after reading Wallace I found that whatever I may lack in intelligence I tend to make up for in enthusiasm. Therefore, after reading “Consider the Lobster” I eagerly sought out his other essays, “Big Red Son, Certainly The End of Something or Other, One Would Sort of Have To Think,” “Authority and American Usage,” “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart,” “Up, Simba,” “Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky,” and “Host.” In writing it, Wallace demonstrates the versatility of creative non-fiction. Wallace writes about everything from the porn industry to what its like to follow on a campaign trail with former Presidential candidate, John McCain. But what I specifically took from Wallace’s writing is his funny, self-effacing comedic style that unpretentiously explores the issues that tend to get wrapped up in the hot-air of self-righteousness. Though playful at times, Wallace makes you– instead of joking about those “PETA hippies”)– really sit down and question, for instance: Do lobsters feel pain? Wallace sardonically points out: “I am also concerned not to come off as shrill or preachy when what I really am is more like confused, uneasy.” Wallace not only asks his readers to step outside of their comfort zone, but also himself.
David Foster Wallace not only engages the reader through humor, but also through–to some–his overwhelming usage of footnotes– or footnote hypertrophy. Generally, footnotes are used when a text isn’t important enough to include in the main body. But Wallace’s footnotes are anything but “subordinate” or “minor” to the main text. In fact, if you ignore the footnotes in David Foster Wallace’s piece then you are missing the most important parts. Wallace not only has footnotes to his footnotes, but also even includes interviews within his footnotes– for example, in “The Host” where he explores the world of talk-radio shows. Wallace forces you to not only keep up with his genius, but forces you to read in a completely new way. You are not only reading from left to right, you are also moving laterally up and down the page. In the one essay–“Host”– that doesn’t contain footnotes, Wallace utilizes text boxes instead. Though most tend to dismiss this rather unconventional style as merely exhaustive, I think it is what makes both his style and voice all the more powerful and enriching. Wallace encourages me, as a writer, to not only experiment in subject, but also in style.