Even if the hymns are impossible to sing

This is from a magazine interview that came out in the publicity wake of David Foster Wallace’s 1996 ur-novel Infinite Jest. Though I’d heard in recent years that DFW was a churchgoer, and read (in the aftermath of his 2008 suicide) that the Apostle Paul was among his favorite writers, those revelations come as a bit of a surprise (followed by a nod of recognition). It adds hope to his tragic aspect, but is, of course, also rather sobering.

He’ll blend in even more after he starts attending church. Brought up an atheist, he has twice failed to pass through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, the first step toward becoming a Catholic. The last time, he made the mistake of referring to “the cult of personality surrounding Jesus.” That didn’t go over big with the priest, who correctly suspected Wallace might have a bit too much skepticism to make a fully obedient Catholic. “I’m a typical American,” says Wallace. “Half of me is dying to give myself away, and the other half is continually rebelling.”

Recently he found a Mennonite house of worship, which he finds sympathetic even if the hymns are impossible to sing. “The more I believe in something, and the more I take something other than me seriously, the less bored I am, the less self-hating. I get less scared. When I was going through that hard time a few years ago, I was scared all the time.” It’s not a trip he ever plans to take again.

from “The Wasted Land,” by David Streitfeld, Details, March 1996 :: via Craig Fehrman, kottke

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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