Friday, April 18, 2003

David Foster Wallace's Footnotes

Well, sometimes you just can't update your blog. These times include the times that you have 60+ pages of essays due. So this will have to function as a ersatz entry.

For my Comedy 430 class with Professor Wes Folkerth (picture), I had to write a comic play and then write a short essay about it. Since I was uncomfortable writing an academic essay about my own work, I pretended that I was David Foster Wallace and then wrote an essay about my play.

I won't post the essay. Nope. But here are David Foster Wallace's footnotes from the essay on my play, called The Work Farce:

1. By seminal, I do not mean that The Work Farce deals solely with the subject of semen. Semen does, however, play an interesting role in the play. Fidel, the man who runs Lucy’s job interview, is scared that his semen has because lazy because of the years he has spent in an office in front of a computer under fluorescent lights.
Fidel’s fear was not uncommon among the North American population at the time this play was written. Scientific studies - most notably Dr. Ali Freischer of Harvard University’s groundbreaking “Sperm Count Among White Urbanized North American versus that of Middle Eastern Arabs” in 1997 – observed that White Christian Middle-Class Sperm in the West was less active and athletic than Brown Muslim Lower-Class Sperm in the Middle East.
It has been posited that this study was one of the main reasons that Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney founded The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) later that year. It is hardly a coincidence that PNAC members, upon gaining power in the 2000 elections in the United States tried to restrict abortion rights in the US and launched an euphemistically-titled “War on Terrorism,” which historians have since termed, “The War to Blow Up Lots of Virile Muslims by a President called ‘Bush’ and his friends ‘Dick’ and ‘Wolfy’.”
Anti-imperialists like Nestruck were equally concerned about the potency of their man juice. In a worried e-mail to his friend Lindsay Bernath in late 2002, Nestruck wrote, “I wonder if all this masturbating to internet porn is not only keeping me from getting laid now, but also affecting the future generations of Nestrucks. What kind of invisible rays are emanating from my laptop screen directly into my testicles? To be safe, I’ve started carrying my cell phone in my school bag instead of my pants [sic] pocket.”
In April of 2003, when this play was written, Nestruck had not yet fathered any of the three love-children he would accidentally bring into the world later in the decade. Had he known the true potency of his wayward sperm, he most certainly would have continued to transport his mobile telephone in the vicinity of his genitalia.

2. By British tight-asses.

3. This is, of course, just one of the OED’s definitions, and from the shorter, abridged pocket version.
Nestruck, in his undergraduate career, was most definitely brooding and pretentious. Take this “poem” he wrote in the final year of his BA:

The Comedy Club Act Grows Sour

Pasteurization! I yelled out, my mouth dripping teeth.
From behind, I heard the flatulent chuckles, ominous and menacing.
Men’s mouths, deep and hollow as their skulls, gaping.
Sublingual glands secreting saliva:
Bilious enzymes aimed to eat away at me.
The caws of dying crows…
But the scarecrow won’t move.

Instead, I smash his fucking beer bottle and gut his throat.
(His uvula, a bloody tear, weeps onto the floor.)
As I pour him to the ground,
I can’t help but
Laugh.

4. Esslin’s book The Theatre of the Absurd has nothing to do with semen. Esslin fathered two children by his wife and was not particularly occupied with worries about his potency.

5. Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd, (Eyre & Spottiswoode: London, 1961),16-17. I’m sorry that this paper is not in MLA style, but with all these footnotes, I just thought it would be easier to use Chicago. Chicago has increased in popularity since the Oscars, anyway.

6. Coursepack, 193.

7. Whose books Voltaire’s Bastards, The Unconscious Civilization, and On Equilibrium are highly critical of the “dictatorship of reason” in the modern world. Nestruck was first exposed to Saul’s ideas at his sister’s convocation from McGill University, where Saul was the keynote speaker. He read The Unconscious Civilization and heard Saul speak a couple more times. Though he often pretended that he had read Voltaire’s Bastards and Reflections of a Siamese Twin, he in fact had only skimmed the former and had lost his copy of the second in a bar on Rue Prince-Arthur after having read only the first few chapters.
Nonetheless, Nestruck, especially after a few drinks, would often claim that Saul was “the greatest thinker of the past fifty years.” After a few more drinks, Nestruck once told his classmate Simon Phillips, “If I had the chance, I’d totally fuck Adrienne Clarkson, because then my dick would have been where Saul’s dick has been. Heck, I’d suck his cock.” On that same evening, he also told a dirty joke involving Chancellor Dick Pound and thirteen naked nuns.

8. Coursepack, 227.

9. Nestruck, 5.

10. Ibid, 8.

11. Ibid, 8-9.

12. The play, significantly, was written just one month before Nestruck graduated from university and entered the work force. He was scared of going to work at The National Post where he was interning for the summer. Afraid to lose his soul. Afraid of losing what was left of it after four years at The McGill Daily, anyway.

13. Literally and figuratively.

14. Nestruck, 9.

15. Though it would be stretching it to conceive of The Work Farce as great comic art. Nestruck’s later works may someday gain that status, particularly his 2007 farce Fart and his great 2010 tragedy War and Piss. (Nestruck’s later works are a lot more grotesque and deal with bodily functions quite a bit.)

16.Dupe.

17. The Nepalese cymbals should not be seen as any grandiose symbolism on Nestruck’s part (Symbols/cymbals?). Nestruck owned a pair of Nepalese cymbals which sat on his desk during much of his undergraduate degree. They were intended to be used in meditation and were a gift from Dr. Kirsten Benzon, a friend of his who gave them to him upon departure for England to finish her PhD. Likewise, Nestruck owns an antique fireman’s helmet, which his father had gathered up from the street after it fell from a passing firetruck when he was five. His father passed the prized helmet on to Nestruck in 1999 saying, “Here. The damn thing clutters up the house.”

18. The chair behind the desk.

19. Nestruck, 10

20. This bit of self-referential postmodernism is emblematic of the stagnancy of turn of the century writing. Authors, playwrights, songwriters – they all seemed unable to restrain themselves from saying, “Look at me! I’m so postmodern! You aren’t reading a novel; you’re reading a metanovel! You aren’t watching a play; you’re watching a metaplay! La-dee-dah!”
At least Nestruck refrained from putting footnotes into his writing, unlike some of his favourite comic authors: David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, etc.
Wait a second. I’m David Foster Wallace. And this is a footnote.
Does that make this footnote a meta-footnote? Am I succumbing to the very vice that I have just disdained? Does anything truly exist?

21. For instance, one could discuss the relationship between comedy and tragedy, citing Holtz, Feibleman, or Girard. Or, one could write about the pudding “feast” that Fidel devours, and bring Bakhtin into the mix. Or one could list all of Farb’s six functions of comedy and show how this play does not enact any of them! But, frankly, I’m tired and have many other essays to write.

22. “Fuck you, motherfucker.”

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