Holding Steady with DFW

The Hold Steady--my favorite band and the subject of a great post here by Eric Bugyis--just came out with a new album called Teeth Dreams. It offers all the pleasures fans have come to expect from the best bar band in America: smart lyrics, rocking music, and an epic, 9-minute song to cap things off. It also offers an example of one great writer, the band's Craig Finn, responding to another: David Foster Wallace.

In several interviews, Finn has talked about how his reading of Infinite Jest--twice, no less!--while working on the album helped shape its particular vision of "American sadness":

American sadness is, yes, something I got from David Foster Wallace, about this realization that there’s a void inside of us that can’t be filled, and it especially can’t be filled with consumer goods. The song “On With the Business,” where I’m directly referring to “American sadness,” is about consumerism and the way people screw each other over — and certainly the characters in that song do — to get more stuff, and the idea that it might not actually help.

The album is available to listen to on Spotify, but it's absolutely worth purchasing in full.


Anthony Domestico is Chair of the Literature Department at Purchase College, and a frequent contributor to Commonweal. His book Poetry and Theology in the Modernist Period is available from Johns Hopkins University Press.

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