Weird and wonderful. One of three novels that convinced me not to pursue an MFA. I couldn't be that funny, or strange, or creative, although I did dress like Lenore for a while, well, sometimes.
It's never the same book twice. The book I read as a recent college grad, who was wondering about pursuing an MFA, is not the same book I read as a newlywed, is not the same book I read this weekend, having recently toured Mt. Holyoke with my eldest daughter. Almost thirty years after it was published, I find a number of the jokes so tired, so juvenile, so tiring. But I'm even more struck by the staggering difference it represented from everything else being published in the twentieth century. No minimalist, New Yorker, slice of life with insight. Oh, no, this is Dickensian, Victorian in its detail, Gothic in its backstory (there's a nanny, there's a mother cruelly kept from her children). Although set in the near future from its publication (mostly in late summer, early fall of 1990) it does strongly evoke the 80s, more than the other hot young authors of that day managed to do, and I'm not just talking about the cover. The ending hasn't aged well at all. But still, when I picked it up I didn't remember anything except the black Converse sneakers, and by the end I was as enchanted as I had ever been before.
Wallace is at his best, I tell other people, in his essays, which I think will remain interesting far longer than his fiction. But anyone who's enjoyed his novels must also still mourn his loss. My condolences, late but sincere, to his loved ones.