David Foster Wallace books tend to take a very long time for me to finish. Infinite Jest took almost a year. After just 2 short months, I finally finished his latest book of short stories, Oblivion, and am relieved, if not exactly satisfied. This guy just throws the fastest, most convoluted shitload of words at the reader that when it’s not dizzying it approaches painful. Here’s a short sentence…
‘‘Many of the most important impressions and thoughts in a person’s life are ones that flash through your head so fast that fast isn’t even the right word, they seem totally different from or outside of the regular sequential clock time we all live by, and they have so little relation to the sort of linear, one-word-after-another-word English we all communicate with each other with that it could easily take a whole lifetime just to spell out the contents of one split-second’s flash of thoughts and connections, etc. —and yet we all seem to go around trying to use English (or whatever language our native country happens to use, it goes without saying) to try to convey to other people what we’re thinking and to find out what they’re thinking, when in fact deep down everybody knows it’s a charade and they’re just going through the motions.”
Did I say short? There are longer ones. Or try this one on…
“Structurally, this scene apparently functions as both the climax of the protasis and the as it were engine of the narrative’s rising action, because at just this point we are told that the original exemplum splits or diverges into at least the main epictatic variants.”
I’d tell you if it was brilliant or crap, but I’m too busy just trying to hang on. Most of the pieces have almost no narrative normalcy at all. He goes into page after page of minutiae and sometimes never returns. If you want something that acts like a real story, try The Suffering Channel, which finishes the book. Yes, it’s about an “artist” who’s crap comes out in the shape of things like the Liberty Bell. I know, but at least it makes sense. The best of the lot is Incarnations of Burned Children. Three harrowing pages, but very well done.
I’m off to take a pill of some sort.