The other day I put this on and re-read David Foster Wallace’s The View From Mrs. Thompson’s, and it reminded me about what Wallace once said about fiction:
Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being. If you operate, which most of us do, from the premise that there are things about the contemporary U.S. that make it distinctively hard to be a real human being, then maybe half of fiction’s job is to dramatize what it is that makes it tough. The other half is to dramatize the fact that we still “are” human beings, now. Or can be.
And looking back at what happened that Tuesday morning, cynicalness in all of us dissolved, even for the briefest of moments. Like how Wallace explained in The View From Mrs. Thompson’s:
Overheard in the checkout line at Burwell Oil between a lady in an Osco cashier’s smock and a man in a dungaree jacket cut off at the shoulders to make a sort of homemade vest: ”With my boys they thought it was all some movie like that Independence Day til then after a while they started to notice it was the same movie on all the channels.”
And I remember that morning well, my dad waking me up by calling me at home from work and telling me to turn on the TV to which my first reaction after a morbid flutter of shock was “Christ, Die Hard’s at the doorstep.” And it’s at a moment like that I wished it was fiction, some movie and not tangible, actual buildings where people who could’ve been my neighbors went to work their jobs only to have the walls around them dissolve and collapse inward. And at that moment I realized there are glaring instances of truth being so much stranger than fiction that it defies definition and in the rarest of cases, almost defies explanation. This was literally “the real toughness” that had so often been dramatized for us in fiction. And it was only then, after the cynicism had floated away, at that moment watching my television, staring at two smoking buildings, that there was nothing remotely hard or confusing about feeling alive or what it meant to be living. It was truth, not fiction in that moment, that taught me about what it is to be a fucking human being.
And it was only after I finished re-reading The View From Mrs. Thompson’s that I realized William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops sounds like what it is to be a fucking human being.