And so I'm less interested in drug addiction per se, than I am in [free] will and pleasure and whether really thepoint of life is to experience as much pleasure as possible- and whether, in fact, America is under that assumption.
OV: Your work also deals with America and American culture- is there something unique about the Americancharacter?
OV: We're going to hit you with the Big Questions now.
DFW: If somebody asked you that what would you say?
OV: Well, I don't write novels that deal with that theme-
DFW: We're not talking about your qualifications: I'm genuinely curious . . . wouldn't you just kind of go slack- jawed and your mind go blank when faced with that question?
OV: Okay then, let's try it from a different direction: You've written a few travel pieces for Harper's from theperspective of an outsider, almost as an anthropologist. Do you feel a connection to society, or are youpermanently on the outside?
DFW: Are you kidding? While we're having this interview, part of my brain is occupied with, "Be careful what you say, because youdon't want to look like a pretentious asshole." That is the American character. There's this kind of oddcombination of exhibitionism and weird self-conscious fear of other people's judgment.
OV: You've said in other interviews that living in America today is a sad thing. Could you articulate that for us?
DFW: Your questions are too good man, 'cause they're unanswerable. Theremark, the way I remember it, was during all the fuss about
Infinite Jest -
-people laughing about
and describing it as sad and true.The genesis of that book was people about age 30 who have been incredibly lucky career-wise and education-wise and health-wise and all that stuff. All of us having similar friends and all of us seeming to be unhappy when none of us had ever been hungry for a day, or cold. We have 500 channels of television. Americans enjoy a standard of living with a degree of excess that's really unprecedented in history. Just how strange is it that a generation like that is unhappy and impotent andanxious?It's possible that we're just a bunch of ungrateful, self-absorbed whiners.That might be part of it but it's probably not the whole story . . . I don't know. I'm sorry if that sounds like a bunch of rubbish.
OV: In an era when critics are declaring the death of the novel, how do youaccount for your success when you write long, reader-intensive novels?