Never In A Million Years

by mark neely

In his introduction to The Best American Essays 2007, David Foster Wallace writes about the impossible task of choosing the “best” of the hundred or so essays he was assigned to read for the project:

I tend, as a reader, to prize and admire clarity, precision, plainness, lucidity, and the sort of magical compression that enriches instead of vitiates.

Anyone who has read even a little David Foster Wallace will immediately recognize the writing he describes as something like the polar opposite of his own work.

Maybe this is a peek into the mind of the self-hating writer. Or maybe it is Wallace lapsing into his default, self-deprecatory mode. 

But I like to think it springs from envy and admiration, from the same thought I often have when I read the work of talented peers: Never in a million years could I write something like that.

A terrible and thrilling feeling. A feeling reading Wallace’s writing often inspires in me. And one I hope to inspire in someone else one day.