August 16, 2014
Tryout 25: Correspondences between the Nonfiction of John Jeremiah Sullivan/Wells Tower and the NF of (primarily) David Foster Wallace and (secondarily) Hunter Stockton Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson

Blood Horses (JJS, Picador 2004) pp. 146-170. Cf. “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved”.

—“You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey!” (JJS, New York Times Magazine, June 2011). Cf. HST’s whole schtick, really; but consider this piece as a direct response to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, on two points:  one, Disney World as an apotheosis of the (corrupt?) “American Dream,” parallel and apposite to Las Vegas; two, drug use by the reporter becoming a part of the story.

—“My Kushy New Job” (WT, GQ, August 2010). Cf. “YBMM. H,M!” above.

David Foster Wallace

(First, the Unarguables)

—“Too Much Information” (JJS, GQ, May 2011). It’s even sort of stupid to do a Cf here. This piece is both a review of DFW’s The Pale King, and an essay on DFW, his work, his effect, etc.

—“Venus and Serena Against the World” (JJS, New York Times Magazine, August 2012). Cf. DFW’s “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” and “Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness” from A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and “Federer Both Flesh and Not” and “Democracy and Commerce at the U.S. Open” from Both Flesh and Not (DFW’s profound identification with tennis makes this one kind of an empty-netter).

—“Desperately Seeking Mitt” (WT, GQ, August 2012). Cf. “Up, Simba” from Consider the Lobster. (There’s a one-to-one correspondence, here and in the next one down):  “DSM” is about a GOP candidate for President in the GOP Primary; same with “U,S”.

—“The Well-Hung Boy Next Door” (WT, GQ, July 2012). Cf. “Big Red Son” from Consider the Lobster. (1-to-1:  “BRS” is about porn, same as “TW-HBND”).

(Second, the More Arguables)

—“My Multiday Massage-a-Thon” (JJS, New York Times Magazine, October 2012). Cf. “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” (Eponymous). Argument:  This piece is, in part, about the hang-ups, the hesitancies, the resistances of a man toward concepts like comfort, relaxation, being pampered, etc., which “ASFTINDA” is just crawling all over with.

—“Upon this Rock” (JJS, Pulphead, FSG 2011). Cf. “Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All” (ASFTINDA). Argument:  Hear me out. “UtR” is about an outdoor Christian Rock festival in rural PA, and “GAfABPMAfIA” is about the IL State fair. There’s more:  the epiphany of “UtR” is of an atheist/agnostic finding beauty in the devout without losing his non-faith. In the parlance of those times, it’s about a Blue Stater being reconfirmed in his Blue Stateness by contact with Red Staters in their essential Red Stateness, but where neither surrenders an inch of the gulf that separates them but finds a great, wild beauty in the Other (well, the Blue Stater does; though I think the West Virginians’ delight and appreciation for JJS’s performances of Lou Reed’s “Jesus” and Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” go into this column too; and then so meanwhile the epiphany of “GAfABPMAfIA” is also a kind of Red State/Blue State thing:  when DFW’s old prom date gets ogled by asshole carnies, and she responds with (to him) mystifying stoicism, he says “The core value informing a kind of willed politico-sexual stoicism on your part is your prototypically Midwestern appreciation of fun … whereas on the East Coast, politico-sexual indignation is the fun.” Not a 1-to-1, sure; but the correspondence of fancy flash-mag East Coaster(s) heading out (returning, really) into Rural America and finding illumination in “the Other Who Is and Is Not Other” is simply undeniable.

—“Violence of the Lambs” (JJS, Pulphead) and “One of Us” (JJS, Lapham’s Quarterly, March 2013) and “Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?” (WT, GQ, July 2014). Cf.  “Consider the Lobster” (Eponymous). Argument:  These pieces (two by Sullivan, one by Tower) revolve around a question—to what extent should human beings feel morally accountable for our treatment of animals?—which is exactly what “CtL” is about, too. This one actually doesn’t feel so arguable, now that I’m looking at it. What’s especially interesting about this correspondence is how not front and center to American life and culture this question really is. It’s probably the one subject that all three of these guys have written about which the most number of people would find perfectly irrelevant. That’s strange, right?

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