“At his best, Wallace wrote about how impossible it was to truly know or connect with others in any kind of important or authentic way, despite our wired-in yearning to do so; how solipsism and anxiety and an addiction to the pleasures and artifice of modern American culture—with its fragmentary focus, narcissistic impulses, and worship of soul-numbing devices and mindless entertainments—had rendered us obscenely disconnected from one another, and ourselves, and fundamentally unable to connect with the truly important things that might actually save or sustain us. Yet he also realized how almost impossibly difficult it was to step outside of all of that seductive American noise, and found himself just as seduced as any of us (if not more so) by this cultural barrage of base, empty, momentary pleasures. It was a dilemma he returned to time and again, in both his fiction and his non-fiction: how to connect and empathize with others, how to lead a decent life that made any kind of sense or tasted real in the face of endless distractions and false gods. If he ever was anything like “the voice of a generation”, it was largely because he was able to diagnose, in painstaking detail (complete with footnotes), the central maladies and malaise of our modern times and the deep loneliness at its core—a loneliness we had hoped education or income or intoxication or entertainment might cure, only to realize that these things were just more empty calories, serving to dig the hole ever deeper.”

Chad Perman, “On the Road”

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