Jan 09, 2018

Excerpts from a David Foster Wallace television interview

A good & very human 2003 interview with David Foster Wallace. A particularly good part, starting around 30:00:

...There's a difference though between being mildly bored, but then there's another kind of boredom... reading requires sitting alone by yourself in a quiet room. And I have friends – intelligent friends – who don't like to read because they get – it's not just bored – there's an almost dread that comes out, I think, here about having to be alone, and about having to be quiet.

When you walk into most public spaces in America, it isn't quiet anymore; they pipe music through. And the music's easy to make fun of, because it's usually really horrible music. But it seems significant that we don't want things to be quiet ever, anymore...

I don't know that I could defend it, but it seems to me to have something to do with when you feel like the purpose of your life is to gratify your self and to get things for your self and go all the time, there's this other part of you – the same part that's almost hungry for silence and quiet and thinking really hard about the same thing for maybe half an hour instead of thirty seconds – that doesn't get fed at all. And it makes itself felt in the body, in a kind of dread in here [rubs his abdomen].

Also regarding television (around 42:30):

Particularly, now if you have a remote control, [when you get bored], you go to a different channel. And if you don't like that channel you go to a different channel.

One of the reasons I can't own a TV is I've started having this thing where I've become convinced there's something really good on another channel. And that I'm missing it. And so instead of watching, I'm scanning anxiously back and forth for this thing that I think I want, that I don't even know what it is.

...it's very stressful now. What it is is too much good stuff, combined with my sick little head that thinks there's always something a little better on the next [channel].

And all you have to do... you don't even have to get up now to change it. That was the problem. When it became easy – when you had to move your thumb to change it – that's when we were screwed.

Incidentally, this bit contains a good definition of FOMO, three years before the term was coined (a).