In 2005, author David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. However, the resulting speech didn’t become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death. It is, without a doubt, some of the best life advice we’ve ever come across, and perhaps the most simple and elegant explanation of the real value of education.
We made this video, built around an abridged version of the original audio recording, with the hopes that the core message of the speech could reach a wider audience who might not have otherwise been interested. However, we encourage everyone to seek out the full speech (because, in this case, the book is definitely better than the movie).
Thought I might share some thoughts on this, it’s been a while since I’ve been inspired by a story – I think what’s written below can only be understood if you’ve read it before (it was meant for class, but thought this blog was due for a new post of some sort)…
I found “Good Old Neon” to be particularly grabbing as it delves straight into the mind of the character. Although fiction, the monologue is presented very personally, reminiscent of a private diary or journal. Not only do we instantly become interested in this character’s story through his voice and the way in which he includes readers by referring to them as “you”, we also find that as readers we are drawn into this kind of intimacy. This attraction may be because we are so intrigued with honesty, we believe that the character’s thoughts are true – thoughts that have no space or time and yet somehow we are granted access to it.
Personally, I found the character’s struggle to escape the trap of his own fraudulence an interesting theme, since this seems to be an account of self-consciousness that we could more or less relate to (probably not this extreme though). Written in a style similar to that of stream-of-consciousness writing, as a reader I found myself become increasingly agitated with the constant overlapping and repetitiveness each time Neal realises or recounts the times he has undone genuine events with his self manipulative behaviour. For readers’ feelings to parallel with the frustration the character might have felt, may or may not have been the author’s intention.
In an interview David Wallace said, “I just think that fiction that isn’t exploring what it means to be human today isn’t good art” (18 September 2008) could assist readers in deciding what the whole point of this story is – perhaps it is to show how hopelessly inevitable it is for human behaviour to be paradoxical or contradicting.
Good Old Neon’s conclusion of the story, to me, was rather dissatisfying. Perhaps I was just naively expecting more closure. I hoped that it might have been found somewhere in between his writing of the letter to his sister and his skepticism that the act itself was also fraud – maybe even a “cheesy” character revelation of some sort that solves all of Neal’s “fraudulence paradox”. But in our futile search for reasons why the character did not go through with the suicide (because if he did, how could he have written his story), we eventually discover that the entire monologue were imaginary reflections constructed by “David Wallace” based on a picture of a classmate in his highschool year book.
(sources used: http://www.thesmartset.com/article/article09180801.aspx)
You always see in movies a character who owns this one piece of jewellery that has sentimental value. You also notice that it’s the only piece of jewellery they are wearing on their body.
I always find it touching to watch and listen to the story behind these special objects, and I realised that there’s not much of that these days anymore. Yes there’s always that special gift from a loved one, but given how fortunate many of us are now, these gifts are easily overshadowed by other material possessions. In a contemporary world where the young are perhaps more concerned than they should be about style, fashion, and the latest must-have – that special something finds it difficult to find itself a permanent place on an individual’s body. It is constantly switched up and replaced with more special items, and its value seems to drop with every additional item one comes to possess.
It’s just a thought. Of course we can cherish many things at one time. It’s what makes us human. We could be mistaking our big hearts for greed (but which also makes us humans). We have a heart which constantly desires; its pace increases with the increasingly fast-paced world full of temptation. This is how it is. We possess more, and grow more possessive. No amount of possessions is enough, so I guess it’s only natural for that special object to struggle to hold the most value at all times…