Charlie Hunter plays what looks like Count Rugen’s guitar and during the show his expression is an impossible combination of coolness and sincerity. This was the expression we all watched longingly from across the quad on the face of a certain boy in high school as he leaned, Jordan Catalano-like, against the wall, thinking hip thoughts. It was this expression which led some of us, not me but other people, to include versions of him in stories we wrote for college classes at Santa Cruz, stories which used dead grandmothers as metaphors and were given high marks by hyperbolic professors who used lecture time exhorting us all to spend more time dancing in the forest. All of this came back to me, watching Charlie Hunter scrunch his face up sincerely and with coolness at a drum solo and crawl his six fingered hands up and down his freakish guitar.
I’ve been reading David Foster Wallace’s new Oblivion, and also Zembla, which is why I’m back to thinking about sincerity. Authors have to spend a lot of time now explaining how they know that the situations they’re discussing are hackneyed and not really cool to discuss anymore (love, death, sex, etc.), but how they’re going to talk about them regardless, even though they have nothing new to contribute, and so on. DWF is a master of this, and then after all that he includes a few paragraphs dealing with the hackneyed situation in a meaningful way which makes you wish you didn’t need all the preceding post-modern nonsense because it only distracts from what’s good in the story. Except you know you do need it. You need a chance to smirk at him for writing about these things and yourself for reading about them before you let yourself enjoy it.
Charlie Hunter did not smirk, but just went on scrunching his face and occasionally bursting out with an “oh yeah!” when the occasion called for it. But he was still cool. So what’s his secret? Is it just talent? Would DFW still be a literary darling if he cut out all the apologies and just went right for the meat of things? Or would we all be slightly embarrassed to be caught reading his book on the subway? It’s difficult to even enjoy sex in an unironic way anymore, so can we enjoy a book without watching ourselves carefully? And more importantly, why haven’t I found a new job yet? Don’t any of you people work at companies that need admin staff?