The Dark Night

Posted: September 8th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: DFW | 1 Comment »

After a brief illness, Bob Giroux (of Farrar, Straus Giroux) passes away at a home in New Jersey on September 5, 2008. Throughout his career, the writers Giroux was closest to—John Berryman, Robert Lowell (who died 9/12/77), Jean Stafford—all broke down.

After losing the second set, Roger Federer defeats Andy Murray to win his fifth consecutive US Open title on September 8.

After weeks of speculation, rumors swirl that the fourth largest investment bank in the US, Lehman Brothers, won’t be able to raise the required capital for a bailout. The Dow Jones Industrial Average drops another 2.5% on September 9 as the financial crisis widens.

“I am not very curious about the lives or personalities of other writers.”—David Foster Wallace to Jacob Didier, 2005.

After the Democratic convention in Denver, David Remnick’s analysis of Obama’s rhetorical powers appears in the Talk of the Town, September 8 issue of The New Yorker. David Foster Wallace had agreed to write an analysis of Obama and rhetoric for GQ magazine but deferred in August, citing a stomach ailment. Joel Lovell at GQ had offered Wallace a deadline of September 12.

After weeks of border skirmishes, Navy SEALs raid the Pakistani town of Angur Ada. Seven years after 9/11, the trail to find Osama Bin Laden had gone cold. Vice-Admiral William McRaven (who would be installed as Chancellor of the University of Texas system just six years later) wanted to jump start the mission with a ground raid in Pakistan itself.

After a decade of construction and billions of dollars invested, the first beam was circulated through the Large Hadron Collider on the morning of September 10, 2008.

The code among gutter punks is not to inquire about or investigate someone’s past.

After all of Galveston Island is ordered to evacuate, three million Texans lose power on the night of September 12, 2008. Hurricane Ike makes landfall the next morning, causing upwards of $35B in damage and killing at least 50.

“Trying to calculate the odds against two poets as talented as Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton taking part in the same university writing workshop at the same time—and with an instructor of the stature of Robert Lowell.”—David Markson, The Last Novel

After John McCain showcases his running mate Sarah Palin at the Republican National Convention, the duo briefly overtake Obama-Biden in the Quinnipiac polls for the week ending September 12, 2008.

“In the Nazi camps, it was forbidden to rescue a man who wanted to hang himself.”—Evan S. Connell, Points for a Compass Rose

After opening on Friday, September 12, 2008, the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading wins the weekend box office, knocking Heath Ledger’s The Dark Knight down to 9th place.

Federer fathers four children in nine years and is, by all accounts, a devoted and loving father.

After dinner, I am running bath water for my toddler’s nightly routine. Somewhere out in that dark night, Ed Champion’s finger hovers above the tweet button, eager to break the news of an author’s death.


The Day After

Posted: November 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | No Comments »

I only have a few minutes to write this but I want to try to put down something in writing on this day, November 9, 2016. I woke up this morning hungover, very tired, and had to tell my two boys (a 4th grader and a kindergartner) that the bad man had won. I woke up in a similar state on September 12, 2001, in Brooklyn, with the exception that I had no children to explain this to. I am still grappling with the implications of this election, and what that will mean to our country. I can’t imagine all the progress that will be undone. My great hope is that there is no major calamity that befalls us, that nothing catastrophic can stop us from resisting the changes to our social, political, and environmental progress. I still believe in the idea of this country and don’t want to flee it. I want to stay and fight. I wish I had done more to oppose this villain.

To my boys: I will tell you what I have always said – we will treat other people with respect and dignity. And we will stand up for those who can’t stand on their own, we will fight for what we believe in, and we will be okay. This will all be OK in the end.


A Couple of Things

Posted: August 16th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Over at Publishers Weekly I interviewed Jane Alison about her latest novel, Nine Island.

I wrote a short essay on Impostor Syndrome for Poor Yorick’s Summer (an Infinite Jest reading group).


Writing Samples

Posted: June 8th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | No Comments »

Samples of my published writing can be found by clicking on this link:

http://www.mattbucher.com/tag/clips/


Twenty Years of wallace-l

Posted: April 29th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: DFW | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

“Are we not all of us fanatics?”—Infinite Jest

Today marks twenty years since the first email was sent to wallace-l@waste.org. Since that day, another 77,000 emails have found their way through the waste.org servers and in to the inboxes of thousands of subscribers. Twenty years of email! The very phrase inspires dread in some. Yet, these emails have brought me so many delightful surprises, so many new ideas to consider, and a real sense of community.

In 2009, I wrote a history of how wallace-l came to be, so I won’t rehash that particular story here. I expected traffic to decline after Wallace’s death in 2008 and it has somewhat, but each month sees a handful of new, substantive posts. After his death, we began to see the emergence of a real “Wallace Studies” in academia as well as other discussion-worthy topics like David Lipsky’s book-length interview, D.T. Max’s biography, the publication of The Pale King, the opening of his archive at the Ransom Center, and dozens of other scholarly works. What has had a greater impact on the email list is the rise of Twitter and Facebook. I now retweet links about Wallace or any mentions of his work rather than composing a new email. But there are still things that cannot be said in 140 characters. I created a list of wallace-l members on Twitter and find myself reading the sorts of short messages there that might have passed as just-chiming-in emails in the past. But, the advantage of email remains, its primitiveness, its text-only nature, and its anonymity. Facebook forces us to focus on the visual elements, the lazy scroll that does not push us to read its contents so much as to “react” to them.

But, despite a decrease in traffic, I suspect there will be many more anniversaries to celebrate. So, it might seem like 20 years is a long time for an email listserv (and it is), but The Howling Fantods is almost 20, and we are getting to the point where digital communities have established and entrenched histories and archives.

I’ve asked Rob Short, who has done some scholarly work on the Wallace fan community, to compile some statistics for this anniversary. So, any stats mentioned here are courtesy of him.

  • The top five posters (who, coincidentally, represent the “over 2,000 posts” club) have collectively contributed over 14,000 posts.
  • Those folks are:
    • George Carr (3,707)
    • Hillary Brown (3,295)
    • Prabhakar Ragde (2,540)
    • Maria Bustillos (2,410), and
    • Matt Bucher (2,094).

Most of those posts (thousands!) were from a period of years before 2008. So, looking at those names for me in 2016 calls to mind an earlier time when Wallace was still writing and publishing, and finding others to talk about his work was vital, an epiphany. And yet, for all those names that popped up in the “from” field of emails, there are hundreds of other subscribers who simply lurk and have never posted.

Rob also created a word cloud of the most-used terms in all wallace-l posts.

Earlier this month, I asked our 1400+ subscribers to send me any sort of fond memories or kind words about the listserv and I will share a couple of those stories below. If you have not read Maria Bustillos’s appreciation of the list, do check it out. A few people emailed me and thanked me for keeping the list going, but the dirty secret of that is that it doesn’t require much work from me at all. In fact, I want to thank all of you who have contributed to such enlightening conversations and who have provided for me the best possible home on the web I could imagine, a real Shangri-La.

The true heroes behind the scenes are the mysterious folks who own and operate waste.org. I know almost nothing about them. They have never asked us for anything. In return for hosting the listserv (and Pynchon-l and a lot of other stuff) for 20+ years, they have literally never contacted me or anyone I know. The waste.org FAQ states:

Who pays for it?

Back when internet was expensive and we had a bunch of phone lines (and we were young and poor), WASTE was supported primarily by user donations. Today, you should probably give your money to the EFF instead.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to ask you to do. If you are inclined to thank waste.org for hosting wallace-l all these years, please make a donation to the Electronic Frontier Foundation https://supporters.eff.org/donate/

Now I am going to leave you with two stories from longtime members of the list. Here’s to another 20 years.


George Carr’s story

I’ve been on the list since about 2002, no later than 2003; as I wrote in the blurb that’s still up on the Howling Fantods describing the Brief Interviews Project, I joined after re-reading Brief Interviews and looking for online reviews & commentary. I can’t say exactly when I joined, as my Gmail account only goes back to 2004; I remember getting my Gmail Beta invitation from a fellow lister!

The story that dominates the early years of my time on wallace-l was gathering all the unpublished pieces for what would become the original samizdat DFW Reader; that was a major group effort, as I got scans and Inter-Library Loans from all over the country, and even talked to staffers in the archives of the newspapers that DFW reviewed books for, to make a little extra scratch. The resulting book is a project I’m still proud of, even though more than half of it has since been officially published; I loved how listers were so willing to pen their own essays about wallace-l, and how easy it was to get people excited about the prospect of reading more of DFW’s work.

Oddly, I was kind of distanced from wallace-l by the time Wallace died; we hadn’t done a Group Read in some time, since finishing the big Oblivion analysis project (“OO” in each email header, please!) and I was just treading water until the next book came out. His death actually happened on my wedding anniversary, so every year I commemorate both events, each year more one than the other.

I remember the list being VERY cathartic around the time of Wallace’s death; whatever part of my feelings I wanted to indulge, I could find companionship on wallace-l: cold-eyed cynicism, frustration at the treatment/pharmaceutical scenario that led to his death, awed contemplation of the much deeper and different grief experienced by his family and close friends; it was all thrown out there, as we all helped each other figure out the best way to come out the other end of that tunnel of emotion. In a strange way, that experience and the wallace-l help with processing it helped me greatly when my mother died almost a decade later; by then, I knew pretty well how to feel grief while understanding it at the same time, and what kind of emotional place I wanted to aim for, after the immediate sadness was over. Having felt such frustration and anger over Wallace’s untimely demise, the fact that she lived a long and full life — raising children, traveling the world, reading great literature in depth — made it ultimately easier to deal with her death, emotionally.

Even after the publication of TPK and the realization that there just won’t ever be any more DFW, and even after the amateur analysis we’ve done has been mostly surpassed by the work of hardcore academics, I’ve never felt it would be right to leave wallace-l. It played such a huge part in what I now consider my maturing years, helping create my adult-ish attitudes about everything from what makes great fiction to online etiquette, I don’t ever want it to come to an end. But if it does, I’ll know how to deal with it.

These days, I mostly enjoy the discussion of everyone’s reading lists, and new discoveries that kindle some of the same fire that burns hot in DFW’s writings. I continue to meet up face-to-face with listers whenever possible, and love keeping an ear on the chatter; some of my favorite books of the past decade have found me through wallace-l recommendations.


Ryan Blanck’s story

I know it sounds cheesy and cliché, but finding wallace-l was, in many ways, a life-changing event for me. Maybe not on par with a religious conversion, but it was a profoundly important thing for me.

The stars aligned in the spring of 2009 as I was introduced to DFW, then started my Letters to DFW blog, then I found “my people” in wallace-l. I was a novice writer wanting to take my craft to a new level. I found my muse. And I found a community to help foster my growth.

Because of wallace-l, I was able to hone my art and craft as a writer. I was able to move from periodic blog posts to writing and publishing my book, Supposedly Fun Things. I was afforded the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Antwerp to present my first academic paper at the Work in Process conference. I was named a Featured Panelist at the first annual DFW conference, which led to the publication of my Infinite LEGO book. And most recently, I was asked to be a guide in the Infinite Winter group read.

But more than these opportunities and experiences has been the friendships I’ve forged through Wallace-l. Even though I’ve only met a handful of listers in person, I feel an incredible bond to this worldwide group of fans and scholars. And for that I am grateful.


From DFW to wallace-l

As I mentioned in my 2009 article about wallace-l, there was one instance where David Foster Wallace was asked directly about this email list that followed his every word. At a March 2003 Bookworm event at Barnes & Noble in LA, list-member Christina Wilson asked him to write a brief message to the list. That note was, at one time, posted on a wallace-l resources page created by Marcel Molina called andbutso.com. That page is long gone so I want to repost the message here, for a little more posterity:

half_note

 

 


Two New Reviews

Posted: March 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I reviewed Thomas Rayfiel’s excellent new novel Genius for the Chicago Review of Books.

Thomas Rayfiel’s <em>Genius</em> Tackles Sexuality, Philosophy, and Cancer

And at Mexico City Lit I wrote a review / appreciation of Carlos Velazquez’s first book in English, The Cowboy Bible.

http://mexicocitylit.com/matt-bucher-reviews-the-cowboy-bible-collage-by-alberto-pazzi/


Publishers Weekly

Posted: February 25th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

This week I wrote a piece of MEL magazine about job insecurity.

https://features.wearemel.com/company-loyalty-is-a-myth

MEL

 

Also, I had a brief quote in this New Yorker piece about Infinite Jest.

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/beyond-infinite-jest

blog2

 
Over at Publishers Weekly, I interviewed author Laura Tillman about her new book The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/69409-scene-of-the-crime-pw-talks-with-laura-tillman.html

 


Recent updates

Posted: February 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

For issue 3 of molossus, thumb I reviewed Luis Felipe Fabre’s poems about Sor Juana.

http://www.molossus.co/the-long-story-of-bad-translations-on-luis-felipe-fabres-monsters/

I was intrigued by this book because I had seen Fabre’s name mentioned in a lot of prominent places but had not read his work. In fact, I saw somewhere on Twitter that Valeria Luiselli called Fabre the best contemporary poet in Mexico (or something along those lines).

 

molo

 

 
This week I wrote a piece of MEL magazine about job insecurity.

https://features.wearemel.com/company-loyalty-is-a-myth

MEL

 

Also, page
I had a brief quote in this New Yorker piece about Infinite Jest.

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/beyond-infinite-jest

blog2

 


Fabre in Molossus

Posted: February 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

For issue 3 of molossus, I reviewed Luis Felipe Fabre’s poems about Sor Juana.

http://www.molossus.co/the-long-story-of-bad-translations-on-luis-felipe-fabres-monsters/

I was intrigued by this book because I had seen Fabre’s name mentioned in a lot of prominent places but had not read his work. In fact, saw somewhere on Twitter that Valeria Luiselli called Fabre the best contemporary poet in Mexico (or something along those lines).

 

molo

 

 


Great Concavity Podcast

Posted: January 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: DFW, personal | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I have yet to mention it here, but back in October of 2015, Dave Laird and I created a podcast centered around discussions of David Foster Wallace and his work. It’s called The Great Concavity and you can see our website here: http://greatconcavity.podbean.com/

You can also find us on iTunes with this link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-great-concavity/id1048764063?mt=2

We’ve posted six episodes so far and have a lot more in store for 2016. If you have a question about Wallace you’d like for us to answer, you can tweet at us @ConcavityShow.

Our logo comes from Robyn O’Neil’s incredible pencil drawing titled These final hours embrace at last; this is our ending, this is our past (2007).

CONCAVITY