David Foster Wallace’s Introduction to ‘The Best American Essays 2007’

Speaking of “The Best American” anthologies, David Foster Wallace edited the 2007 edition, and his introduction is, unsurprisingly, killer — an examination regarding just what the title of the book, The Best American Essays 2007, actually means, including wondering what exactly an “essay” is:

And yet Beard’s and Orozco’s pieces are so arresting and alive and good that they end up being salient even if one is working as a guest essay editor and sitting there reading a dozen Xeroxed pieces in a row before them and then another dozen in a row after them — essays on everything from memory and surfing and Esperanto to childhood and mortality and Wikipedia, on depression and translation and emptiness and James Brown, Mozart, prison, poker, trees, anorgasmia, color, homelessness, stalking, fellatio, ferns, fathers, grandmothers, falconry, grief, film comedy — a rate of consumption which tends to level everything out into an undifferentiated mass of high-quality description and trenchant reflection that becomes both numbing and euphoric, a kind of Total Noise that’s also the sound of our U.S. culture right now, a culture and volume of info and spin and rhetoric and context that I know I’m not alone in finding too much to even absorb, much less to try to make sense of or organize into any kind of triage of saliency or value.

That’s probably the best sentence I’ve read all year.

Monday, 1 October 2007