Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Grill Tease

The problem word is grill. Or rather, its usage in yesterday’s post, “Dmitri Shostakovich: Part-time Fireman.” I started thinking yesterday afternoon, while watering the lawn in the fading sunlight, about yesterday’s problematic usage of the word grill. I think somebody somewhere should be saying to themselves: when you water the lawn in the fading afternoon sunlight you should think about watering the lawn in the fading afternoon sunlight. Well, I was happy to be there with the sun dipping beneath the concrete wall casting long shadows from the back of the yard to the front. I am always happy to be there in the late afternoon sun standing in my underwear using my thumb to focus the spray of water from thirsty plant to thirsty plant. I said to myself, oh, this is nice. Then I thought about my problematic usage of the word grill and decided I might as well say something about David Foster Wallace.

Was grill the most problematic word from yesterday’s potentially multi-problematic post? There are certainly other candidates. Fecund. Not a big fan of that word. I tossed it in there on a whim and dared myself to leave it in. The word means productive, but it communicates more essentially, I believe, a writer’s earnest desire to be perceived as smart, lexically advanced, a real wordsmith. If I were a casual reader of “Dmitri Shostakovich: Part-time Fireman” instead of the author I would have jumped ship at fecund. For real.

What exactly is a high quality Russian, by the by? How does one differentiate between a high quality Russian and a Russian of, say, medium quality? If a Russian is of unquestionably high quality, who is it who wouldn’t dare question the quality of the Russian, and who is qualified to qualify this Russian’s quality as unquestionably high? It would have to be a real connoisseur of Russians. And what the hell is that? Does it even exist? Probably not.

Before I get to the nitty-gritty about the word grill as used or abused in yesterday’s post, let me first say a few words about David Foster Wallace.

Somebody somewhere said that Wallace was a once in a century talent. We’ve had ourselves a country now for two centuries and change, which means as a nation we’ve only had two of these guys. Mark Twain, I’m guessing, would be the handicapper’s favorite for our first century’s once a century. That puts David Foster Wallace in some heavy duty company. And the rest: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemmingway, E.B White, Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, -- all of them great writers, smart, lexically adventurous wordsmiths. Well, they’re nice, but they aren’t Mark Twain. And they are not David Foster Wallace.

Holy armpits! That’s a very serious endorsement from someone somewhere. What do I think? I’m 230 pages into my first David Foster Wallace experience, Infinite Jest. I think somebody somewhere might be right.


Anonymous said...

You have too much time on your hands. I'm jealous.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Anonymous! I'm just trying to sell books. Did you like my ad?

Anonymous said...


What about "grill"?

my name is Amanda said...

"Fecund" is one of those words that sounds like it should mean something different than it actually means.