Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Possible Family Tree

From Steven Augustine's very enjoyable essay about Nicholson Baker and The Mezzanine

An impertinent sketch of a possible family tree might put Joyce as a great uncle, Nabokov as grandfather, Updike as dad and Baker as eldest son, insofar as we may trace Updike, in his apprenticeship, to pathologically-descriptive mentor Nabokov, and Baker, in turn, to Updike via Baker’s admiration for Updike’s Nabokovian attributes...

David Foster Wallace’s “trademark” footnote-mania as on display in
Infinite Jest is sometimes (though Baker is by far the less-famous of the two writers) reckoned as a steal from Baker (The Mezzanine preceding Infinite Jest by about a decade), but neither writer invented the use of footnotes in fiction. It isn’t hard, though, to imagine Wallace reading The Mezzanine and wishing he’d written it, or thinking to himself that he could do better by bringing an epic, humanist plot to the formal (and possibly elitist) apparent barrenness of Baker’s twee-but-envy-seedingly original work. It’s not a stretch to see Wallace as the tragic little brother to Baker’s eldest son in this genealogy of a lacquered intensity of style.

1 comment:

Steven Augustine said...

I know it's gauche (laugh) but I've come to this page via self-Googling. I very much appreciate the mention; so much gets buried in the infinite productivity of the internet machine! You've helped to bring this piece a little more attention before it vanishes with a soft "pop" and a whiff of ozone...