It started before the summer, actually. With “Tense Present,” David Foster Wallace’s painstaking work of genius, a treatise on the “usage wars” in the form of a review of Bryan Garner’s Dictionary of Modern American Usage.
Two things are obvious in “Tense Present”: one, that Wallace is an extremely intelligent man (an understatement on par with “Usain Bolt is fast” or “Facebook is far-reaching”); and that, in “Tense Present,” Wallace is having such an unquantifiable amount of fun it simply defies description. He is in his element, performing at an incredibly high level, so confident that his relaxed cockiness would be grating if the reader was able to contemplate anything but the greatness of the piece.
He is Ali dancing around the ring. Seve Ballesteros yucking up the crowd at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
His prose is sharp and his wit acerbic. His tone casually academic or academically casual; he cites his favorite philosopher—Wittgenstein—in the footnotes, while accusing one particular argument of being “so stupid it drools” in the main text. Wallace does everything in “Tense Present” in a way that both reveals his immense genius and says, simultaneously, Yes, I know this is an incredibly intelligent and fun piece—about a usage dictionary and the different factions in the fight about how dictionaries should be compiled, no less—and I want you to know, reader, that I too am enjoying it, not least because it’s a topic for which I possess a true and earnest love.
It is meta-genius. And it’s a flourish, really. Read it.