"The desire to know everything...is a sign of love. It is also a sign of reading. And a sign of excess. And so, reading sometimes demands the contrary sign of looking away, of stopping short, of realizing that texts, like persons, cannot entirely be known, that they must keep some of their secrets"
Adam Zachary Newton, Narrative Ethics
"A dog if you point at something, will only look at your finger"
David Foster Wallace, "E Unibus Pluram"
In this essay, Wallace argues that the lure of television seems voyeuristic, but, in fact, voyeurism is based on the erotic feeling that the person you are watching, going about their little tasks, does not know you are invading their world. Television, while seeming one way, in fact presents us with actors whose job is to know they are being watched all the time, and to, in turn, "act natural." For Wallace, this means that young writers who watch television as if it were voyeurism, looking for characters and worlds to populate their fiction, end up writing fiction from fiction. The "finger" reference above, turns these writers (and perhaps us) into the dog. We no longer look at what television refers to--"the real world"--we just look at the signal: the image on the tube. However, Wallace goes further. He describes the way in which television is so full of self references that it is no longer a question of whether or not it does/doesn't actually reflect reality. In other words, the finger is no longer even pointing at anything except itself. Television no longer even asserts some outside world. For Wallace, it has become full of its own in-jokes, its own set of characters from one show playing characters from another show, one show's images reflecting another show's. Thus, for Wallace, television has become like Jameson's Bonaventure Hotel, a complete system no longer registering the existence of the rest of the city.