David Foster Wallace — A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

While some authors make you feel stupid for even trying to read them, I’m looking at you, James Joyce, others seem to immediately give the ol’ noggin a boost. While working through this collection of “essays and arguments” by the late David Foster Wallace, sometimes refered to as our generation’s Joyce for his long and obtuse novel Infinite Jest, I made a list of 20 words I had been lamentably unaware of, as well as two that, apparently, he made up:

ablated, anaclitic, appurtenance, belletristic, commissure, decoct, enfilade, erumpent, espial, exergue, frottage, hieratic, lalations, otiose, preterite, sedulous, threnody, titivation, ventricose, weltschmerz

Of those 20 words, I have to say that the most amusing discovery for me was frottage, which some of you already know means, “the act of obtaining sexual stimulation by rubbing against a person or object.” I’m not here to judge; I’m just sayin’. Erumpent is also pretty fun to say, and could actually be onomatopoetic if you were to listen very, very closely.

As for the two Wallacisms that don’t seem to exist in the English language, some DFW wiki-tweakers have pointed out that katexic could be derived from Freud’s katexis referring to “the process by means of which libido energy is tied or placed into the mental representation of a personality, idea, or thing.” In this respect, Wallace’s writing in toto could be viewed as katexic. The energy that must have gone into building such a vocabulary and the means to swing it around as effectively as he did—the creation and subsequent projection of “David Foster Wallace” as a literary force—could easily be imagined as a gloriously sublimated primal urge.

Plumeocide is another matter. Wordnik member vbogard22 postulated about a year ago that “plumeo- could come from the Latin “pluma,” which means feather or pen [when] added to –cide (Latin, kill) would come to mean something along the lines of ‘death of the pen.’” Given Wallace’s tragic end by his own hand, the fact that he may have coined a word for the silencing of a writer is prescient and a bit creepy.

I was beguiled, beleaguered, and besotted by Wallace’s use of language, often all at the same time. In much the same way that Wallace thought he was a decent tennis player until he got the opportunity to view the pros in action, I thought that I could, on occasion, craft a clever line. Now I’m reminded that there are players out there operating on a whole different plane.

I almost forgot to mention that the book is really funny. Cheers to you, DFW, wherever you are.

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One thought on “David Foster Wallace — A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

  1. Found your site in a search for the definition of plumeocide during the midst of my weekend-immersion in this book. Good to know other wordies are nerding out on this stuff.

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