It teaches us to see a building as a material object made up of structure, support, pipes, wires. Very interesting, no doubt. Arid Technical Experiments Robert Alter wrote in Partial Magic that the danger of metafiction is that it may produce overly intellectual formal exercises that lack the emotional power and philosophical complexity of art. In fact, I got tired of metaficion. Why had I given myself this enormous project to investigate and understand metafiction?
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Wallace photographed circa It was a horror show. It is possible to see Wallace as an artist who grew less certain of what he was doing the longer he did it, but at the same time becoming increasingly certain that this uncertainty was where he should focus his energy.
It is this decision, and the scrupulousness with which Wallace pursued it, that can make areas of his work so tricky to engage with.
His second collection, for example, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men , is a brilliant book that is very difficult to enjoy. They are ouroboros-like stories that consume themselves at the same time as we consume them. In Octet, Wallace is working himself to just such a standstill. The misgivings catalogued and explored in Octet are, as Norfolk noted, sincere.
This idea of human connection, and whether it is even possible, is present right through his work, from the early story Little Expressionless Animals onwards, but its most urgent interrogation comes in his final and darkest collection, Oblivion The story operates on several different levels: as an adult, the narrator reflects on the day in when he and three classmates were apparently held hostage by an unhinged supply teacher; in fact the narrator was unaware of being a hostage, because he was deeply involved in his habitual pastime of authoring a mental comic strip, the images of which appeared in the reticulate mesh of the classroom windows.
He means the everyday sorrow of it, the smallness of its pleasures against the vastness of its mundanity, and the fear that this is his birthright. This account, in tandem with numerous other glancing references to disappointments and misfortunes scattered throughout the story, is the capstone to a profoundly sorrowful work of fiction.
Flipping the entropy of stories like Octet, or Adult World parts I and II — where the story begins coherently only to become more and more unconventional until it atomises — here, unexpectedly, it is mimesis that comes to dominate a narrative that for much of its length has been fragmented and surreal.
To be willing to sort of die in order to move the reader, somehow. Relationships are fractured, parasitic, and often the cause for psychic pain and disturbance; sex is furtive or coercive. But it is also a deeply moral body of work. Its difficulties, and many of its cruelties, exist for specific reasons.
A brief survey of the short story: David Foster Wallace
Sign up for our newsletter to get submission announcements and stay on top of our best work. He once forced me to do cocaine by shoving it inside me during sex. Wallace-recommending men are ubiquitous enough to be their own in-joke. Small, liberal arts colleges are spawning ground for Wallace fans; mine was no exception. These guys persevere after graduation.
The Danger of Meta: Centre George Pompidou and David Foster Wallace’s “Octet”
Wallace photographed circa It was a horror show. It is possible to see Wallace as an artist who grew less certain of what he was doing the longer he did it, but at the same time becoming increasingly certain that this uncertainty was where he should focus his energy. It is this decision, and the scrupulousness with which Wallace pursued it, that can make areas of his work so tricky to engage with. His second collection, for example, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men , is a brilliant book that is very difficult to enjoy. They are ouroboros-like stories that consume themselves at the same time as we consume them. In Octet, Wallace is working himself to just such a standstill.
Shitty First Drafts
The quizzes tend to follow trends: none of them employ names for the characters involved, referring to them by pronouns, parenthetical clarification i. There are five arguably four, given that one is an extension of another quizzes, despite the fact that the collection is titled Octet—something that Wallace mentions in the last quiz. The quiz is dense with emotion while simultaneously containing enough hard facts e. The quiz details a scenario wherein Y, who potentially sees X as his only friend, vaguely angers X to great extent. This unclear action causes X to condemn Y to a frightening degree and thus provoking X to assault Y verbally and, eventually, physically. The quiz is very complex—so much so that Wallace ends it with a clear recognition of the overwhelming ambiguity and thus its poor ability to act as a pop quiz. Accordingly, it does not end with a question like most of the other quizzes.
Topics of Interest
Having sat through graduate courses on Postmodernism and Critical Theory, I know the feeling—really—and yet I find Wallace to be one of the more approachable, humanistic purveyors of post-post-whatever meta-fictional experimentation. We get 4 such quizzes, numbered two are labelled 6 and 6A. Number 8 is skipped. And 9 begins with a direct address to the reader: You are, unfortunately, a fiction writer.