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‘A matter of perspective’
‘Good Old Neon’ between literature and philosophy
in Reading David Foster Wallace between philosophy and literature
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This chapter analyses ‘Good Old Neon’, detailing the reader’s progressive coming to terms with its multi-layered structure. The reader encounters Neal, who speaks and imagines, David Wallace, who stares and imagines, and David Foster Wallace, who writes and imagines.

In delving into these three layers and exploring the centrality of imagination, the chapter demonstrates why a reflection on the shifting referents of the second-person pronoun is necessary to understand the dynamics of the text and why Neal’s posthumous positioning and its inherent privileges – first and foremost omniscience – open up a reflection on the kind of authorship Wallace is interested in. Being-posthumous provides a frame, an interpretative key, that juxtaposes knowledge with invention.

This reading proposes to consider Wallace’s short story as ultimately staging a meditation on how literary imagination may counterbalance and somehow undo the ending – opening up the possibility of endlessness. The overall argument is that the kind of imagining activated here is the essence of literature itself: the experience of close-reading the short story invites to consider it as thematizing, indirectly, what literature is all about according to David Foster Wallace. This aboutness concerns, crucially, the possibility of caring and compassion, past the pervasiveness of fraudulence and past the manipulative attitude that fraudulence entails.

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