Oblivion


I’m reading David Foster Wallace’s Oblivion at the moment: a collection of short stories that I picked out at the library because I thought it would be a better introduction to his work than trying, and inevitably failing, to make it through Infinite Jest. The writing is good, of course, in the way a Christmas fruitcake is good: rich, complex, dense, probably soaked in booze, given freely as a kind of status gift but rarely consumed for pleasure, etc. I keep having to remind myself not to try to consume it all in one sitting.

The writing makes me think of trying to find my way around in an unfamiliar and complicated room while not wearing my contacts. I can only see about three inches without my contacts in, but I can see exceptionally well for those three inches: like macro-lens well. Details are extremely clear up close, so I find myself trying to piece together reality by stringing together hundreds of tiny, vivid details. I’m aware that there’s a lot going on, but it’s all a bit of a blur.

I worry that I might be missing the point of most of the stories.

Then again, maybe that IS the point. So many of these stories are nihilistic and recursive to the extreme: like being in an unfamiliar and complicated room without my contacts in, from which there is no exit and no meaning and the author himself is standing nearby watching me struggle and laughing as he repeats “the point is there is no point!” Over and over.

It’s a rather difficult book for someone still working to wrench themselves out of depression. Because boy howdy can it describe pathos and futility in ways that feel eerily close to home: especially when the stories describe working in an advertising adjacent field in the River North area of Chicago, or the internal struggle of someone trying to get over themselves enough to get any benefit from therapy. Etc.

So I’m slogging through it, but I keep having to stop and take little breaks. And I may have to wait until I finish reading it before I try to do any writing because I keep catching myself trying to mimic the style and write in a voice that isn’t my own. #writerproblems

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 18, 2019.

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