In “Octet,” DFW claims that he wants his piece to do all these incredible things. I admire his ambition, but I’m not atr all sure he suceeds. I want him to suceed in producing “belletristic fiction” that “works,” but I really don’t know if “Octet” is anything more than some “mortal gymnastics equiptment” (156).
For starters, why doesn’t DFW actually just “ask the reader straight out whether she feels it, too, this queer nameless ambient urgent interhuman sameness” (157). Why does he create a barrier to that sameness he claims to so urgently feel by hiding behind this metafictional “you”? He claims that the “unfortunate fiction writer – will have to puncture the fourth wall” (157), but does he? He comes so close, and this is what frustrates me the most: he acknowledges, at length, exactly what he would have to do to puncture this fourth wall; he knows how to do it, but he can’t, and I think the big question, the one the stories in the octet and, perhaps more importantly, DFW’s seeming inability to actually come out and be honest, asks us is:
Can we ever transcend/stop hiding behind our own self-consciousness and become truly, genuinely “other-directed” (138)?
We are ashamed of our self-consciosness because it is a sign of self-involvement, but isn’t that shame just self-involved on a whole new level? I.e. if DFW just came out, unarmed, and said “‘Do you like me? Please like me‘” (154), would that be more, or less, self-involved? Is there any way to penetrate that wall? If “the idea of sayig this sort of thing straight out is regarded as somehow obscene” (154), does that mean it actually is obscene? Is it obscene (improper, immoral, indecent, all those bad things) to be totally naked/unarmed? Isn’t it only obscene because we’re trapped in a fourth wall of post-lapsarian/post-modern cynical self-consciousness and “secret shame” (141)?
In Pop Quiz 6(A), “X’s secret conflict and corrosive shame finally wear him down so utterly and make him so miserable at work and catatonic at home that he finally swallows all pride and goes hat in hand to his trusted friend and colleague Y” (139). My Pop Quiz question for DFW (who I really think needs to be quizzed here) is why can he write characters who do this but never do it himself?
My question to you- do you think he succeeds? If so, WHY/HOW?