Why I am never bored

The first week I arrived in New York, the great photojournalist W. Eugene Smith died.  Eugene Smith once wrote,  “my pictures as evidence to show why I am never bored.”

I had just graduated from RISD, arriving at Grand Central Station with stack of cardboard boxes, which I moved like a little train of stuff five feet at a time across the grand lobby up to the taxi stand.   I checked into the YMCA on 23 St. and was ready to tear it  up as the newest photographer in town.   No one checked me into the city.   No one gave me a license to take pictures.  I was on my own listening to Birdflight on my portable radio and dreaming big.

The first Sunday there was a memorial service for Smith at the old International Center of Photography museum on upper Fifth Avenue.   A bunch of people talked, then they made Gene Smith’s chili recipe and everyone sat around eating along the floors of the galleries.  I found myself sitting next to Kurt Vonnegut’s future wife, Jill Krementz.   She asked what I was doing there.   I told her I had just moved to town, and felt like I was the next generation arriving on the tails of the last.   She asked where I was from.  I told her Pittsburgh.  She said I should go back home.    I got up, put some extra sour cream on her chili and ignored her advice.

David Foster Wallace’s final novel, “The Pale King” was talked about on NPR this past weekend with his editor at Little Brown, Michael Pietsch.

"Bliss — a second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious — lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom," he wrote. Pietsch says it attempts the greatest challenge he's ever seen a novelist take on: "To write a novel about the boring parts of life." By working through the boring, complex and difficult details of life, Pietsch says Wallace believed it was possible to truly connect with another person in a meaningful way. "The book deals with boredom," Pietsch says, "But it's because it wants to deal with joy."

He wanted to write a novel that connected to peoples' true lives. "He's trying to write about what's it's like to go home every day to the same spouse for 40, 50 years," Pietsch says. "How do you look into the face of a job that you know you're going to do again and again for 40 years? "How can you find meaning? How can you find delight? How do you find love? How do you find someone who will sit with you while you talk about what happened to you in line waiting to get to the bank teller?" Those are questions Wallace grappled with until his death, Pietsch says.