Friday, August 28, 2015

The End of the Tour

I went to see the David Foster Wallace movie last night, The End of the Tour [trailer]---partly because it's set in my city (also Michael at OCA recommended it).

I was disappointed, however: there were only a few shots of the city, DFW not being one for sightseeing, the movie suggests, preferring to watch TV at a friend's house, or to go to the Mall of America. 
(I guess going to the MOA is sightseeing... but he didn't stand on the Hennepin Bridge over the Mississippi River and exclaim "Huck Finn!" like I'd hoped.)

There was only one other person in the theater, so when the characters drive from the airport past the Mary Tyler Moore statue on the mall, I felt free to mutter out loud, "You can't drive down the mall!"     Buses and pedestrians only.

And when they go to the Mall of America, I squeaked: 
I was just passing through there two days ago, on my way with Marz to IKEA, across the street from the MOA, to get new stuff for her new apartment. (I felt such a mom...)

May I say, the area is not designed for pedestrians at all. There's no way to cross the highway from the Mall to IKEA, except to jaywalk. Luckily there's not much traffic... because it's all turned into the Mall's parking lots.

But DFW didn't have to worry about pedestrian crossings because he got a ride from my favorite person in the movie:
the publicists' driver, played by Joan Cusak, an actress who always, always delights me.

Better than any sight, she captured the local culture, with her [adorable? annoying? both?] Minnesota brand of perkiness. (I cringed: I'm like her sometimes.)

Enthusing over DFW's radio interview, which she'd listened to live on the car radio, waiting outside the public-radio building for him, she says to him as he gets in the car,
"Now I'm going to have to buy your book!"

"I'm sorry," he mumbles.

I think this is the only time I laughed out loud at the movie.

[Was it just a touch too reverential, too precious? I think so.
And the music? Would he have liked that? Couldn't he have been dancing to the Bee Gees, since he'd mentioned 70s dancing?]

Darning sampler from the Fries museum, from
I'm not actually a huge fan of DFW's writing.
I do love and admire the way he weaves mind-threads together, with footnotes and whatnot--like elaborate darning--but his content doesn't usually catch me much.
He even says in the movie that most of his readers seem to be young men, and that makes sense to me.

Both the "men" and the "young".

I'd have enjoyed this movie more (and DFW too) if I'd seen it at the same age (twenty) I saw and enjoyed My Dinner with Andre, which now doesn't interest me. 
DFW mentions the loneliness of people under forty-five; 
I wish he'd lived long enough to write about the loneliness of people over forty-five.
Loneliness does feel different to me at midlife; less desperate, for one thing, accompanied with the relief of dropping some of the illusions of youth:
"Oh, thankgod, I don't have to burn the candle at both ends! I could never get that other end to light anyway, and the wax seems to be dwindling all too fast as it is."

But in old age, loneliness seems likelier to return to the killing strength it has in youth.

Anyway, I always point people of any age or gender to DFW's fantastic article on eating lobsters in Maine –– "Consider the Lobster" –– which veers off from considering the lobster and becomes pretty damn terrific on the problem of pleasure and pain, going from talking about how lobsters taste good with butter, and how they're giant sea insects, to asking,
" Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?"

And I do feel that I like DFW, the person, though I have no trouble at all believing him when he answers the question of why he's not married at thirty-four by saying it's because he's hard to be around.
No trouble at all. 

But watching him (or rather, Jason Segel, speaking his words), I remember that I'd always thought of him as one of us, one of mine; 

not in a shared level of intensity, or an ability to to work hard or to keep one's thread from tangling impossibly, but in what he cares about: 
And he asks questions! I liked how he kept trying to turn the interview with the Rolling Stone reporter into a conversation. 
And he answers them, of course, in depth. 

I laughed a little again, come to think of it, or exhaled a huff of pleasure, the pleasure of recognition, when he goes back to the interviewer's room on the last night to clarify a point he'd made--an important point about depression--obviously he'd been thinking on it and couldn't stand to let his incomplete, inaccurate answer stand.

So, the End of the Tour cheered me up, the way seeing an old friend does, even if after three days you remember why you don't want to see that friend more often. 
But, of course, at the same time the movie made me so, so sad, I cried, because you know DFW doesn't make it... that sparky mind got rubbed out... 
And that left me lonely.

I also left with a craving for Hostess cupcakes. DFW eats junk food throughout the movie (though not those, my craving was brought on through the process of association). 

Pleasure and pain, all twisted up, like a nest of sewing thread.


Note to Jesse Eisenberg: Learn to smoke, man! Watching you do it wrong was distracting. 

For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.


Michael Leddy said...

Did you notice that Joan Cuscack’s character’s full name is Patty Gunderson? A little Fargo homage.

The bro-ness of so much of the DFW audience made me flee all things DFW for a while. When I hear someone saying that he (it’s always a he) spent the summer drinking whiskey and reading Infinite Jest , I want to run the other way.

Fresca said...

I had NOT caught the Gunderson connection. Even better!
"Why kill yourself? Here ya are, and it's a beautiful day..."

clowncar said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I am one of those "he's" who spent a school semester reading Infinite Jest, while waiting for my eldest daughter to get out of school, and I'd leave to pick her up earlier and earlier, so I could read it more. It's a messy, flawed, self-indulgent book, but there is such compassion there when it works, and he has the ability to drill deep down inside people's heads and get at what is really going on. He was on the way to find a new way to write a novel, and it's leaves me sad and lonely too, Fresca, to know he never made it there.

Fresca said...

CLOWNCAR! Hi! Nice to see you, old blog compatriot!

I thought of you and how Infinite Jest kept you company during a bad stretch. Really bad. I haven't read it.

I first read DFW before he published IJ, and I'd never associated him with the bros until his take on who his readers are turned up in the movie. When the interviewer asks him, his answer (young men) made sense to me;
but in fact, , I'd thought he was going to say what Sherman Alexei says:
nice, well-educated, white women (me!).

Anyway, that's all an aside. I did like the movie (even if the director made it a bit too much of a hagiography) and would be interested in your take, if you see it.

clowncar said...

“That guy,” she said. “I just feel like he’s first in line to see the David Foster Wallace movie.”

This article - - is very dismissive of IJ's audience, and I found it borderline offensive (though she does note in passing she's talking about guys who haven't actually read it).

I'll see it eventually. It won't come to town, so I have to wait for Netflix.

Fresca said...

CLOWNCAR: Well, I am truly out of touch:
I did not know DFW had become such a Guy Thing. Don't women like it too? A *woman* I know wrote her thesis on it for her MA in Theology.

I suppose to some people, it's a style Marker--the sort of book you have on your bookshelf but don't read. But the article isn't very smart about it:
she doesn't address my question, WHAT IS IT about IJ that appeals to men especially?

DFW in the movie suggests it's a kind of loneliness.
If so, that might call for compassion and curiosity, not sneers.

The movie won't suffer for being seen on a small screen. (Remember life before Netflix? It sucked.) I was disappointed in how uninteresting it was visually, how the director didn't exploit the nature of film. There's one shot of the interviewer's shoe that is nice, and some windows, otherwise it's your basic talking heads.

Here's a weird thing: I was thinking IJ was a later book. I looked it up and it came out in 1996... That's almost twenty years ago!

clowncar said...

"DFW in the movie suggests it's a kind of loneliness. "

I still haven't seen it.

But we live in a lonely American landscape, and I think one of the book's MANY central ideas is that flavor of loneliness specific to modern America. My guess as to why it's a guy book is that guys have fewer ways of expressing that loneliness, and fewer avenues available to dispel it.

That is, it's a guy book to those who have read it. For those who haven't, it's just a totem saying, "I'm cool." And guys are more prone to that kind of thing.

I know I am.

Frex said...

Frex = Fresca

OK, Clowncar, this chat has convinced me the time has come to at least pick up Infinite Jest.

On American Loneliness, I always appreciated what Mother Teresa said (mutatis mutandis re "God"):

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

― Mother Teresa, _A Simple Path: Mother Teresa_

Hm. I wonder what one could point to as a Cool Marker for women...
Must think on this.

ArtSparker said...

I went to see the film mostly for the actors (who have diametrically opposed styles) and was not disappointed. I have read reviews and objections to it not being TOTALLY ACCURATE as to who DFW was, to it being insufficiently delivering of the goods and who he really was, and so on, which strike as comments somewhat naive and beside the point. The most remarkable thing about the script was David Lipsky's apparent honesty about his own sense of standing in the shadow of a more talented writer. From my point of view, it was a reasonably interesting examination of some issues for creatives, and also the state of envy and how to cope with it (which is more universal) which gave the two actors an excuse to go at it.

And I have to admit, I've read no David Foster Wallace, so I didn't have a dog in the race.

Fresca said...

Ha, yes, all that back-and-forth about how accurate the movie was---that's stuff for true believers, not for me.

The movie stands on its own, as all movies must, and I don't care about how correct it is or isn't.

Your comment makes me realize I didn't really think about David Lipsky's character and his struggles, though they're very interesting.
I've been interested to watch Jesse Eisenberg ever since The Social Network--I thought he really portrayed the pain of feeling a mix of admiration and resentment/envy--as you say, surely recognizable to a lot of us! To me, anyway.
Like when DL winces as he reads Infinite Jest, recognizing that, damn, all the praise it's getting isn't just hype and he can't just dismiss it.
Ouch. I get it.

I had also like Jason Segel in Jeff Who Lives at Home, which charmed me.