I was just alterted to an article called “Federer as a Religious Experience” that appeared in the 8/20/06 New York Times. It is by New American writer David Foster Wallace and I found it to be interesting on a number of fronts. First, I read his book “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” when it came out and found it a fascinating book by an author that obviously enjoys playing with the English language and the written form. Second, I’m a big fan of Roger Federer and definitely feel I’m watching a Michael Jordan-like performance when I see him play – playing at a level above even the best of his peers.
But third, it’s interesting in the context of hypertext. If hypertext is about breaking apart the boundries of the form of “book” or “document” and finding the links between the thoughts within, Wallace seems to be about playing with the boundries of the written word in a new way that defies hyptertext-like notions of chunkability and linking. He writes in a stream-of-conciousness style, alternating seamlessly between low levels of detail and high levels of abstraction. The point of Wallace’s writing style, to me, is that the value of his content is the unique structure he superimposes on it. More than most other writers, Wallace really gives you a feeling of not just what he knows and thinks, but how he is thinking about it. Reading his work is like being on a mental rollarcoaster ride as he zips around from thought to fact to idea with no order other than the natural one imposed by his brain. To chunk this up and allow parts to be repurposed, or let the reader reorder it would be to lose the unique value add of Wallace.
I wonder what Vannevar Bush, father of hypertext, would think of this article?