Philosophical Sweep: To understand the fiction of David Foster Wallace, it helps to have a little Wittgenstein by James Ryerson in Slate.com:
In an interview with the literary critic Larry McCaffery published in 1993, Wallace explained that as a philosophy student he had been “chasing a special sort of buzz,” a flash of feeling whose nature he didn’t comprehend at first. [...] It was really an experience of what I think Yeats called ‘the click of a well-made box.’ The word I always think of it as is ‘click.’ ”
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams:
- Brick: Somethin’ hasn’t happened yet.
- Big Daddy: What’s that?
- Brick: A click in my head.
- Big Daddy: Did you say “click”?
- Brick: Yes sir, the click in my head that makes me feel peaceful.
- Big Daddy: Boy, sometimes you worry me.
- Brick: It’s like a switch, clickin’ off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on, and all of a sudden there’s peace.
- Big Daddy: Boy, you’re, you’re a real alcoholic!
- Brick: That is the truth. Yes, sir, I am an alcoholic. So if you’d just excuse me…
- Big Daddy: [grabbing him] No, I won’t excuse you.
- Brick: Now I’m waitin’ for that click and I don’t get it. Listen, I’m all alone. I’m talkin’ to no one where there’s absolute quiet.
- Big Daddy: You’ll hear plenty of that in the grave soon enough.
Wallace’s writing about drug and alcohol addiction forms the moral core of Infinite Jest, using addiction as a lens through which to view tennis and visual entertainment as well. Years before his suicide, he checked into rehab and asked to be put on suicide watch. It’s no surprise that he would approach thought itself as a desperate search for ‘a special sort of buzz’ or ‘the click’.