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David Foster Wallace and Music:
The Grunge Writer and the
Hitherto Criminally Overlooked
Importance of Signifying Rappers.
TONY MCMAHON
RMIT University
Melbourne, Australia
[email protected]
[We’re] at a moment
when the consensus
about Wallace is
congealing
prematurely around
a handful of
canonical themes…
—McHaile, B. quote from back cover
David Foster Wallace and
“The Long Thing”
a boy hotly cocky enough to think he might
someday inherit Ambrose’s bald crown and
ballpoint sceptre, to wish to try and sing to
the next generation of the very same sad
kids.
—Wallace, D.F. Girl With Curious Hair,
p.348
Listen to the silence behind the engine’s
noise. Jesus, Sweets, listen. Hear it? It’s a
love song. For whom? You are loved.
—Wallace, D.F. Girl With Curious Hair,
p.373
God has certain languages, one of them is
mathematics, and one of them is music.
—Wallace interviewed by Crain, C. in Burn, S
(Ed.), Conversations with David Foster
Wallace, p.124
…pure undampered sound longing…
—Wallace, D.F. Infinite Jest, p.695
The Grunge Writer
Punk
A reaction against depressed social
conditions, particularly in Britain, and
the overindulgence of 70s stadium
rock.
Grunge
The nihilistic younger sibling and
logical endpoint of punk.
…both proffered an awkward sincerity.
They shared an allergy to facades, to
disco-type slickness. Infinite Jest’s
jagged multiple-conjunction opening
sentences held the same promise of
authenticity as the primitive musical
arrangement and bad amping of Seattle
garage bands. —Max, D.T., Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: a
Life of David Foster Wallace, p. 221
Dada
Preferences nonsense and play over
serious artistic endeavour.
Situationism
Be Reasonable, Demand the
Impossible.
In ‘Anarchy in the U.K.,’ a twenty-year-old
called Johnny Rotten had rephrased a
social critique generated by people who,
as far as he knew, had never been born.
Who knew what else was part of the tale?
—Greil, M., Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the
Twentieth Century, p. 23
A recurrent Situationist theme: the idea of
‘the vacation’ as a sort of loop of
alienation and domination, a symbol of
the false promises of modern life, a
notion that as CLUB MED – A CHEAP
HOLIDAY IN OTHER PEOPLE’S
MISERY would become graffiti in Paris in
May 1968, and then, it seemed, turned
into ‘Holidays in the Sun’
—Greil, M., Lipstick Traces: A Secret History
of the Twentieth Century, p. 21
London: 1970s
Punk
Paris 1960s
Situationism
Seattle 1990s
Grunge
Midwest 1990s
Wallace
Boston 1990s
Wallace
New York 1970s
Punk
Zurich 1910s
Dada
Ratbag
Australian slang for a trouble maker, an
eccentric provocateur. Often used in an
affectionate or semi-affectionate manner.
The Hitherto Criminally
Overlooked Importance of
Signifying Rappers
Revealing is the fact that the ‘also by
David Foster Wallace’ list in Both Flesh
and Not, though it catalogues every other
Wallace publication, neglects to include
Signifying Rappers.
—Morrissey,T. & Thompson,L.‘”The Rare White at
the Window”: A Reappraisal of Mark Costello and
David Foster Wallace’s Signifying Rappers’, p.2
Bogan
Australian slang, usually pejorative or
self-deprecating, for a person with an
unsophisticated background, or whose
speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour
exemplify a lack of manners and
education.
Rough international equivalents are
white-trash (U.S), chav (U.K.) and beauf
(France).
That Signifying Rappers has not made more
of an impact on studies of hip-hop and race
is regrettable: the study articulates, at times
problematically but always in a spirit of
cross-cultural earnestness, a fascinating
confrontation of race and critical
engagement that both pre-dates critical
whiteness theory and sheds light on an area
of Wallace’s intellectual curiosity that is
seldom explored.
—Morrissey,T. & Thompson,L.‘”The Rare White at
the Window”: A Reappraisal of Mark Costello and
David Foster Wallace’s Signifying Rappers’, p.12
A close interrogation of Signifying
Rappers enriches our understanding of
Wallace’s work, revealing an oblique
vision of Wallace striving to articulate a
personal artistic agenda in response to
the postmodern literary tradition.
—Morrissey,T. & Thompson,L.‘”The Rare White at
the Window”: A Reappraisal of Mark Costello and
David Foster Wallace’s Signifying Rappers’, p.14
Sample of Signifying
Rappers’ compound
conjunctions
And but you can feel
But so the point is…
Well, but except…
—
p.43
—
p.47
—
p.94
—Morrissey,T. &
Thompson,L.‘”The Rare White
at the Window”: A Reappraisal
of Mark Costello and David
Foster Wallace’s Signifying
Capitalised nouns
Part to Whole
—
p.38
Yuppie America
Great White Male
—
p.63
—
p.24
—Morrissey,T. &
Thompson,L.‘”The Rare White at
the Window”: A Reappraisal of
Mark Costello and David Foster
Wallace’s Signifying Rappers’, p.7
Truncations
thru
w/o
w/r/t
—
p.33
— p.102
—
p.84
—Morrissey,T. & Thompson,L.‘”The
Rare White at the Window”: A
Reappraisal of Mark Costello and David
Foster Wallace’s Signifying Rappers’,
p.8
Thank you
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