A (Little) Bit of DFW Archival Nonsense

(Note: for many the following may not come as news whatsoever, as the important events occurred in 2004 and 2009 respectively.  For the rest, enjoy.)

Just read Jay Murray Siskind’s review of Boswell’s Understanding DFW and DFW’s Oblivion, “An Undeniably Controversial and Perhaps Even Repulsive Talent,” from a 2004 issue of Modernism/modernity.  And the thing is, it took me all of, oh, four seconds to realize that this review was “written” by the same Jay Murray Siskind who so famously described the Most Photographed Barn in America in Don DeLillo’s White Noise.  What is so incredible about this very small “hoax,” is that it took almost 5 years–and many serious citations of the review by graduate students, mind you–for anyone to notice it, namely Mark Sample over at Sample Reality.  (Also read about it here and here and here.)  Even more surprising w/r/t this “hoax” is the clear fact that Hal Incandenza is referenced as an author in the first footnote!  For anyone working on DFW to not notice this, nor, perhaps even more criminally, to not read footnotes in an article on DFW (!), well. . . .

Sample and others are clear to point out that this “Littlest Literary Hoax” suggests some fairly dark things about academic publishing and scholarship–i.e. did anyone actually read the article in the first place (or does anyone even read literary scholarship much at all, for that matter); that more people have responded in the electronic realm (i.e. no published self-account in Modernism/modernity); and that a whole army of grads and undergrads referenced the article w/o any awareness whatsoever of White Noise (seriously, isn’t White Noise, like, as close to required pomo reading as it gets [w/ the exception, say, of Beloved]?  Like Cont. Am. Lit.’s version of Relativity for Physicists?).  But, then again, I wonder how many people, like myself, quickly caught the hoax, laughed a bit to themselves, found it clever, and immediately suggestive of a whole host of interesting pomo/popomo(/not to mention mo) debates that DFW is so clearly involved in, and then simply moved on, for it was essentially nothing more than a (fairly good and funny) book review–these various (fictional) readers not feeling the need, unlike my current self, to comment much further on it in any other forum.

Either way, though, the archival implications of this are fairly interesting, if for no other reason than DFW’s clear affinity for DeLillo; my own sense is that the very explosive archival nature of DFW’s work almost calls forth or demands that Hal Incandenza enter into the real world of ideas through a footnote to some obscure and (clearly) overlooked academic article.  Hyperachivization indeed.  (Also, Incandenza’s title is telling: How I Conquered Analysis: Ten Ways to Dupe Your Therapist [Elisingborg: Yorick Press, 1998], or perhaps a better title would be: Ten Ways to Dupe Literary Scholars Who Clearly Haven’t Read Enough (of What They’re Supposed to be Getting Paid to Read) and Didn’t Even Get the Hamlet! References in the Footnote.)

Anyway, just thought I’d (re-)share.   And now, (back) to the archive, and step on it!


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