"I read for hours that way, morning after morning, my mind awhirl."

— Bissell, Tom (b. 1974)

February 1, 2016
"I read for hours that way, morning after morning, my mind awhirl."
Metaphor in Context
s I read "Infinite Jest" in the dark early mornings before my Uzbek language class, I could hear my host mother talking to the chickens in the barn on the other side of my bedroom wall as she flung scatters of feed before them. I could hear the cows stirring, and then their deep monstrous mooing, along with the compound's approximately 10,000 wild cats moving in the crawl space directly above my bed. What I am trying to say is that it should have been difficult to focus on the doings of Hal Incandenza, Don Gately, Rémy Marathe and Madame Psychosis. But it wasn't. I read for hours that way, morning after morning, my mind awhirl. For the first few hundred pages of my initial reading, I will confess that I greatly disliked "Infinite Jest." Why? Jealousy, frustration, impatience. It's hard to remember exactly why. It wasn't until I was writing letters to my girlfriend, and describing to her my fellow Peace Corps volunteers and host-family members and long walks home through old Soviet collectivized farmland in what I would categorize as yellow-belt Wallaceian prose, that I realized how completely the book had rewired me. Here is one of the great Wallace innovations: the revelatory power of freakishly thorough noticing, of corralling and controlling detail. Most great prose writers make the real world seem realer -- it's why we read great prose writers. But Wallace does something weirder, something more astounding: Even when you're not reading him, he trains you to study the real world through the lens of his prose. Several writers' names have become adjectivized -- Kafkaesque, Orwellian, Dickensian -- but these are designators of mood, of situation, of civic decay. The Wallaceian is not a description of something external; it describes something that happens ecstatically within, a state of apprehension (in both senses) and understanding. He didn't name a condition, in other words. He created one.
(p. 17)
Tom Bissell, "Everything about Everything," The New York Times Book Review (February 1, 2016). <Link to NYTimes.com>
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.