Entries Tagged as 'reading response'
16 April 2009 · 11.02 am · by kk · Comments Off
Back to Wallace’s nonfiction! I always struggle to explain why his nonfiction is my favorite of all his work until I am in the process of reading it; then I stumble upon all the “Wallace-isms” and the personal anecdotes that make me love his work in the first place. So far, Consider the Lobster has not been an exception.
One section that I think is particularly telling about Wallace himself comes in the essay “Authority and American Usage.” In footnote six (page 70), Wallace explains his rather fanatical thoughts about grammar: “but I am so pathologically obsessed with usage that every semester the same thing happens: once I’ve had to read my students’ first set of papers, we immediately abandon the regular Lit syllabus and have a three-week Emergency Remedial Usage and Grammar Unit, during which my demeanor is basically that of somebody teaching HIV prevention to intravenous-drug users” (70). I think that what I enjoy the most about this passage (besides the mental image of him flying into a grammar-induced rage) is that we know this is true. In the New Yorker article, there was a quote from a woman who had him as a professor; he wrote “I hate you” in the margins of her paper after she made the same grammatical mistake for the umpteenth time. It makes me appreciate Wallace’s stories all the more when I know they have at least some truth in themâ€”Wallace seems even more human than usual when he gives us a tiny insight into his life through an anecdote.
The notion of snobbishness that Wallace discusses in “Authority and American Usage” is particularly interesting because Wallace, despite seeming like the opposite of a snob, claims to have some “embarrassing” snobbish tendencies: “every August I vow silently to chill about usage this year, and then by Labor Day there’s foam on my chin. I can’t seem to help it. The truth is that I’m not even an especially good or dedicated teacher; I don’t have this kind of fervor in class about anything else, and I know it’s not a very productive fervor, nor a healthy oneâ€”it’s got elements of fanaticism and rage to it, plus a snobbishness that I know I’d be mortified to display about anything else” (70). As Wallace states, “a SNOOT can be loosely defined as somebody who knows what dysphemism means and doesn’t mind letting you know it” (70). One interesting point is that Wallace, while claiming to be a snob, doesn’t let the reader know what “dysphemism” means; perhaps this indicates some sort of difference between a snob and a SNOOT, or perhaps it serves to refute his claim that he is, in fact, a snob. Although this, in turn, is refuted by his mention of the “chilling little family song that Mom and we little SNOOTlets would sing in the car on long trips,” of which Wallace was himself the author (71). So is Wallace a snob? A SNOOT? None of the above?
I also greatly enjoyed the song that he wrote as a child, reproduced on page 71. The little family anecdotes and Wallace’s childhood writings remind give the reader a bit more information about his background, whichâ€”aside from his tennis-playing storiesâ€”is usually pretty rare. How could he have grown up any differently given his mother’s pretend coughing fits if “one of us children made a usage error” (71)?
Tags: reading response
15 April 2009 · 12.37 am · by rudy · 3 Comments
Ok, so I guess its not the last one.
One of the things that has been on my mind for the past couple weeks is the question of the authorship of Infinite Jest. The things that sparked this were 1. one of my previous classes (Pre/Post Modern Novel) which brought up the question of authorship for almost every book we read and 2. footnote 123. In the footnote (if you are too lazy to go look it up (which I would be if someone else were reading this post)), which is on page 1023, it begins with Pemulis stating he is dictating to Hal. The immediate implication is that Hal ended up writing down what Pemulis dictated to him. The secondary implication/question is then, how did it end up in Infinite Jest, as a footnote? Finally, a brief conjecture that it seems Hal is the author of Infinite Jest: The Novel as compared to Himself, who made Infinite Jest: The Film.
With that said, I’ll finish this tomorrow hopefully, after I get some sleep.
Back to finish finally.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish this without using the end of the book, so spoilers exist after the cut.
Tags: discussion · reading response
13 April 2009 · 11.59 am · by erinlikescupcakes · 8 Comments
After finishing Oblivion, Good Old Neon, Mr. Squishy, Incarnations of Burned Children, I felt a little frustrated with Wallace. Not that the stories don’t live up to his normal standard of writing. To the contrary, some of these, including Good Old Neon and Incarnations of Burned Children, might be his best short works. But it seems that in this collection Wallace really doesn’t want to placate the reader. Each time, we are left before the moment of completion. We’re close to being resolved, but not quite close enough to be satisfied. And it’s not just that the endings are difficult to interpret. We’re left (it seems to me) with a hollowness that lacks the unfamiliar twinge of hope or at least humor that we usually find by the end of Wallace’s pieces.
My interpretation of this is a bit like my mom’s favorite life lesson- instant gratification. As readers, we are always seeking a gratification of our needs right away: our need to be calmed, resolved, entertained, fulfilled, completedâ€¦ Throughout the DFW stuff we have read, it’s always been a challenge for us, as readers, to trust and hold on rather than give up. Wallace likes to make us wait a bit with the promise of understanding later. But these stories seem a little mean at times. He keeps dumping stuff on us at the last minute: what is with the last dialogue in Oblivion? The whole story I was dying to see Hope embarrassed to find that, in fact, Randall was truly awake and not snoring each time she yelled at him. He had me right on a leash, following to the end to see exactly who is at fault. And the end dialogue, from what I got out of it, was trying to point toward something completely different, with no winner or loser(reality vs. dream? relationship? whaaaat?). Not to mention the lack of resolution of this creepy sexual step-father complex everyone has that is fairly disturbing and unsettling. I couldn’t even quite decide whether I liked the narrator, because the whole Audrey obsession thing seemed fairly normal to him by the end. Similarly, in Mr. Squishy we seem to be waiting for something the entire time. Descriptions and exposition seem like build-up and preparation for the main action that is to comeâ€¦ but somehow the main action never comes. Is the main action actually the build-up? Did we completely miss the point waiting for the real exciting part to come? We are so accustomed to getting to the climax that we miss what comes before.
Even in Good Old Neon I felt frustrated by the end. Yes, the narrator does the deed that he’s been readying us for all along. He’s promised to do so, and follows through in describing what it feels like to die. But the end threw this “David Wallace” spin at us too quickly to resolve. We’re left sort of in the lurch, uneasy. I was hoping for at least another page of some kind of slow unravel. Rather, David Wallace is introduced to us on the second-to-last page and sort of blows through an entire emotional battle/ inner turmoil before we quite get what is going on.
Not to complain. Surely Wallace has reasons for making these endings more difficult for the reader than usual. And I think it’s more than just making us work harder. I can’t help but lean toward some clichÃ© “carpe diem” thing, you know, enjoy the moment before you get dumped off to soon at the end. That somehow our lives become these waiting games, pushing towards that thing that we think we’ll maybe achieve tomorrow or next year. Or perhaps the joke is on us, because we have allowed Wallace to string us along waiting for the main action to take place (Mr. Squishy), or for our expectations to be proven true or false (Oblivion). Maybe we, particularly as American readers, have come to expect some sort of trauma to come (Mr. Squishy). From what I know of Wallace, there’s got to be something philosophical going on in these dissolved endings. Thoughts??
Tags: reading response
13 April 2009 · 11.57 am · by mr · 3 Comments
In the short piece, “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature,” Wallace introduces a new kind of character, a type that we have not seen from him yet. The narrator/protagonist of the story is purely rational, distant, and trusting. A far cry from Wallace’s more common neurotic, emotional, and troubled characters. The interesting part is, this new character provides fresh perspective on several of life’s troubles.
Our oafish narrator seems to categorize and catalog his world, to relate to it through a system of terms and definitions. Wallace at times uses italics for this, as whenever he alludes to broad social concepts, be it, “special effects,” “ignorantia facti excusat,” or “old-fashioned way,” italics come into play (Wallace 186, 185). There are other uses for italics, but I have trouble dissecting them all. Anyway, this method for viewing the world creates a distance, mentally and emotionally, between the narrator and the rest of the world, including his unfortunately deformed mother.
While this separation is certainly profound, this character does not express any of the symptoms of alienation, anxiety, or isolation that we’ve seen in so many of Wallace’s other work. In fact, he’s incredibly trusting and even a bit hopeful. He puts a great deal of faith into the Los Angeles legal system, listening to his lawyers and agreeing with commercials (186). He even defines sleazeball as the “the ones who say they will really get down in the dirt of the trench and really fight for you” (187). He also puts a positive spin on his mother’s unlucky facial mishap, jokingly encouraging her to be an extra in film roles, “as an extra in one of the many films nowadays in which crowds of extras are paid to look upwards in terrorâ€¦ Which I sincerely regret, after all I’m all the support she has” (186). The mother is quite bitter about the whole situation, and yet the narrator manages to find a smile in it.
He is also trusting of his society in that he believes himself to be of “studious bend.” He confirms this through standardized testing (184), without any sense of inner confidence or prescience. He simply relies on cultural standards, as outlined in his system of definitions. The whole setup creates an odd coupling of isolation and trust, alienation without the anxiousness. There is no real self-awareness here, just Self, which is the precise opposite of the majority of other DFW characters (the author in “Octet” and the protagonist from “Good Old Neon” as quick examples).
The question then becomes what do we learn from this lack of self-awareness in a story that’s apparently about philosophy? The narrator reminds me of Ignatius J. Reilly before he’d remind me of Plato. Is he any better off than the anxious self-aware characters? Could a system of blind trust be better than one of anxiety and loneliness?
Tags: reading response
13 April 2009 · 10.49 am · by reidau · 2 Comments
As we’ve witnessed in several of Wallace’s works, language is a frequently visited topic. Although, after finishing Oblivion I got the sense that Wallace altered his discussion of language. One of the issues that Wallace focuses a great deal on in Broom of The System is language as a source of definition and identity. He also emphasizes that language involves inevitable loss. With all that we’ve read by the author, I wasn’t surprised by Wallace’s return to this topic; however, I will admit I really enjoyed Wallace’s consistent use of withholding information because it provoked in me an awareness of the loss of linguistics. Literally, the word oblivion comes from the Latin for to forget, and this loss is experienced all over Oblivion, especially in a short paragraph from “Good Old Neon”:
This is another paradox, that many of the most important impressions and thoughts in a person’s life are the 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. What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant. (150)
While Wallace’s metaphor of language as a charade is frustrating, the loss that he attributes to language recognizes that the human experience is just too “fast and huge and all interconnected” to be adequately described. Oblivion‘s structure and plot organization seem to identify this failure of language in a way that confused me greatly at first. This technique is used all over Oblivion, witnessed in the way that “Mister Squishy” withholds conclusions, in the way that “The Suffering Channel” uses the tragedy of 9/11 as a looming cloud, and in the way “Good Old Neon” literally communicates language’s inadequacy, knowledge only fully realized by someone who’s transcended language’s hegemony by entering the afterlife.
To go back to Wallace’s notion of language as a process of â€˜going through the motions’, his writing style seems to gain a new self-consciousness in Oblivion. I got the sense after reading the collection that Wallace reached a point of exasperation, a final acceptance that the words he uses can never adequately communicate his experience, or provide true escape- this was a conclusion that really seemed true after finishing “Good Old Neon”. This sort of acceptance shows through in Wallace’s choice to withhold certain information, an act that to me says, ” If I’m writing these words just for something, some part of me, to be lost, why not save myself some of the effort?” Though this technique ultimately annoyed me and left me unsatisfied I felt myself beginning to identify on a smaller scale with the frustration and blinding awareness that Wallace must have struggled with for a significant portion of his life. My confusion and moments of dissatisfaction were a product of language’s loss, but it was something that I only really experienced after stumbling on the disconnects in Oblivion, and so I owe thanks to this work for opening my eyes.
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12 April 2009 · 9.39 pm · by Ryan · Comments Off
“Good Old Neon” is a haunting piece, both from a personal perspective and from the perspective that knows full well what happens to its author. But what’s most interesting about the whole bit is the way that Wallace’s character compares himself to the imagined version of Neil, back in the day. He had imaged that Neil was “happy and unreflective and wholly unhaunted by voices telling him that there was something deeply wrong with him that wasn’t wrong with anybody else” (181) and found himself (by comparison) forced to impersonate a normal person to cope. Of course, this latter part is ironic when considering Neil’s own feelings of fraudulence that lead to his own self-destruction. But what interests me most is the last part of that quote – David Wallace’s sensation that what he experienced happened to nobody else, a feeling of isolation.
What makes this so interesting is that he compares this state to a kind of reverse-solipsism, in which one is a “pathetically self-conscious outline or ghost of a person” in comparison to all the real people around him. This, I think he’s trying to say, is the true face of “solipsism” as a personal state (and I wrote a paper about this, so I know the word is improperly used – I’m trying to reflect on that impropriety) – rather than existing in a world devoid of anything beyond the mind, this “solipsist” is instead nonexistent in comparison to everything else around them. Both of these positions are clearly the positions of a lonely person, and they’re both seemingly defense mechanisms – it’s hard to relate to anyone else if you, or anyone else, doesn’t exist. But the difference is that the latter is seemingly able to change, because, unlike in true solipsism, the mind is clearly capable of understanding itself in this “solipsism” – it’s just that everyone else is incapable of doing the same. Ironically, this state seems to be one of greater desperation, because there are no escapes and no ways to justify one’s state of being. It is a truly personal loneliness.
So consider the piece that comes up whenever solipsism is brought to the table – the Little Buddies passage in IJ. There, Arsalanian is clearly wrong when trying to call his status solipsism, because it’s clear that his audience exists. However, one can make a case for this reverse-solipsism being what truly afflicts the kids (correctly or otherwise, because it’s all a matter of perception). In effect, the kids are all incapable of feeling like anyone else understands them – but this is less a matter of their literal existence as their individual isolation. And the solution to this problem that Hal offers – the coaching staff giving the kids all something to gripe about – makes more sense for this reverse-solipsism. When considering literal solipsism, there are no solutions, for obvious reasons; but in reverse-solipsism, the problem is one of communication, and thus by giving the kids something to communicate about, the staff allows them all to reach out of their own holes to overcome their isolation.
So – what do you think?
Tags: reading response
12 April 2009 · 6.27 pm · by mhaley · 2 Comments
I don’t know how Wallace comes up with some of this stuff.
The passage on pages 569-574 is really funny, but I’m wondering what the deeper significance to the rest of the novel is. This is the passage where Mike Pemulis comes across a blind-folded Idris Arslanian and the two start talking about how much of the NNE waste gets catapulted up to the Great Concavity to counteract some crazy growth that occurs as a result of a lack of pollution in the area. The lack of pollution was caused by an idea of JOI’s in which two highly toxic and radioactive particles combined to create some sort of stable, non-toxic compound.
But, in a classic DFW ironic twist, this lack of pollution in the area caused everything to grow so lush and rapidly that the area became what sounds like a sci-fi planet, with “rapacial feral hamsters and insects of Volkswagen size and infantile giganticism and the unmacheteable regions of forests” (573). So now the problem is that the area needs more radioactive and toxic stuff, and this is why garbage is catapulted up there.
We can never fully predict the consequences of our actions. This little anecdote highlights the fact that in our world, everything is dependent on something else. If one problem gets solved, another one crops up in its place. Everything is “annular” (possibly DFWs favorite word.)
I think this has a lot to do with the issue of second-order vanity and the ironic loop that we are all caught in. People try to hide their vanity, but instead of eradicating vanity all this does is make the problem worse. Similarly, now that irony has become such an integral part of our culture, we can sort of ignore all the different levels of irony that we deal with every day, but this does nothing to actually solve the problem. Eliminating pollution and waste creates a need for more waste.
And so this is my problem with Wallace’s proposed cure for cancer: giving the cancer cells cancer. Let’s believe for a second that it is possible to give cancer cells cancer by “getting force-fed micromassive quantities of overdone beef and diet soda, forced to chain-smoke microsized Marlboros near tiny little cellular phones” (572). Giving the cancer cells cancer may kill the cancer cells, but there are still tinier cancer cells within the cancer cells within the human body. Shouldn’t this be just another endless loop that humanity will probably be caught in forever? Or is Wallace attempting to provide an example here of how a cycle can end?
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12 April 2009 · 3.58 pm · by tammy · Comments Off
What is Steeply describing when he says, “â€˜Stuck. Fixed. Held. Trapped. As in trapped in some sort of middle. Between two things. Pulled apart in different directions’” (IJ 647)? In context, Steeply is describing the expression of his old man’s eyes, glued to the television screen. His words, however, also seem to describe precisely the existential traps that multiple characters in Wallace’s writing find themselves stuck in.
In the pre-fight scene, as Lenz dashes behind Gately to use Gately as a shield, Gately literally stands between Lenz and the Nucks, “as in trapped in some sort of middle. Between two things” (IJ 647). But more than being physically positioned between two forces or groups, Wallace reveals Gately’s psychological positioning as being similarly stuck between two seemingly conflicting forces. Wallace writes, “Late in Gately’s Substance and burglary careers, when he’d felt so low about himself, he’d had sick little fantasies of saving somebody from harm, some innocent party, and getting killed in the process and getting eulogized at great length in bold-faced Globe print” (IJ 611). The text portrays Gately as a character who is “stuck, fixed, held, trapped” in a state of contradiction. Gately wants to perform an act that simultaneously captures both selflessness and selfishness.
The writing highlights the two opposing forces combating inside his head. On the one hand, by sacrificing his own life, his act would ultimately save somebody from harm (this half of the fantasy seems to be at least partially performed within the next few pages, even though we do not know if Gately actually gets killed). On the other side of the hand (as Lenz often says), the text reveals his effectively selfless act as ultimately stemming from selfishness, from the desire of “getting eulogized at great length in bold-faced Globe print” (IJ 611). Apropos, after being shot, Gately imagines: “SHOT IN SOBRIETY in bold headline caps goes across his mind’s eye like a slow train” (IJ 613), which reiterates the voice of self-interest chugging through his head. Moreover, the text flops back and forth in the characterization of this act. First, the text labels this act with negativity-”sick little fantasies” (IJ 611)-but later, in portraying Gately as “a big animal that’s hurt” (IJ 615), the text wipes away all stains of negativity and instills a blanket of sympathy, for Gately and his selfless act. Thus, Gately, much like the expression of the eyes on Steeply’s old man’s face, exists or lives in the trap of being “pulled apart in different directions” (IJ 647)-these directions seem diametrically opposite and incompatible, yet coexisting for Gately.
Orin Incandenza faces an analogous trap. Wallace writes, “Orin can only give, not receive, pleasure” (IJ 596). In this line, Wallace depicts Orin as not only compassionate, but also tragically compassionate-to the point that he can “only give,” but not receive any pleasure. The following sentences, however, unveils the other side of the view: “But he cannot show the contempt, since this would pretty clearly detract from the Subject’s pleasure. / Because the Subject’s pleasure in him has become his food….It gave him real pleasure to give the impression of care and intimacy” (IJ 596). Thus, like Gately, Orin also seems trapped in the loop of simultaneously giving selflessly and taking selfishly, unable to do one without the other. On the one hand, Orin does give others pleasure, making women believe “he is a wonderful lover, almost a dream-type lover” (IJ 596), but on the other hand, Orin feeds off of and consumes the pleasure he gives to others, a description that renders he himself contemptible.
A similar symptom manifests in the speaker of “Good Old Neon,” but there, with a heightened sense of self-awareness created by the first person narration, that symptom becomes paralyzing. From the age of four, Neal begins to experience the “Stuck. Fixed. Held. Trapped” (IJ 647) feeling of “trying to create a certain impression of me in other people…to be liked or admired” (Oblivion 141) and actually making others feel good-for instance, by pretending to tell the truth to his stepparents or playing dumb with Dr. Gustafson so as to “let him feel like he was explaining to me a contradiction I couldn’t understand without his help” (Oblivion 155)-a feeling, or “problem” as he calls it, that he “couldn’t seem to stop” (Oblivion 143) and ultimately takes his life away. I wonder, to what extent is this feeling a problem? Is this feeling universal? Selflessness and selfishness seem mutually exclusive, but are they in fact inescapably intertwined? And to what extent does the selfishness matter, if the impression or effect of the act helps another-even if fraudulent, insincere, or self-interested?
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12 April 2009 · 3.44 pm · by ag1646 · Comments Off
It turns out that Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature is also the title of a groundbreaking philosophical treatise written by Richard Rorty in 1979. Rorty’s work was concerned with dissolving “the notion that epistemology is the arbiter of what is rational in Western cultures.” A very basic encapsulation is that Rorty is trying to argue that philosophy should have a more practical use, opposed just attacking the “pseudo-problems that only exist in the language-game [Wittgenstein!] of Analytic philosophy.”
I’m struggling in tying this to Wallace’s homonymous fiction piece. I think that Wallace has slipped in what an aforementioned pseudo-problem might look like: “the first surgery’s bandages came off then one could at first not ascertain whether the face’s expression was a reaction to what she saw in the mirror or if itself was what she saw and this was the stimulus causing the noises” (185). The way reality is represented (mirrored) the mind has been at the center of philosophical debate since Descartes. This scene, although somewhat comically, seems to be addressing one aspect of this big question. In P.A.T.M.O.N Rorty seems to be arguing that this shouldn’t be the focus of what philosophers argue over.
This parallels the narrator’s view in the story, which doesn’t seem to be about caring for his mother’s disfiguration, but more about taking care of her. Ultimately, he seems to care for his spider husbandry more than anything, but regarding his mother the narrator is protecting her against “some young duo of punks or hostile organisms” (189). This is reminiscent of the AA outlook in Infinite Jest: it doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as the program achieves positive results. In this case, the positive/pragmatic result seems to be making sure his mother isn’t harassed anymore than she already is.
Still there are tons of unexplained things. Why does the narrator grow black widows in his garage? What’s the deal with the lawsuit over the child who fell through his garage roof and released all the spiders? How does it relate to Rorty’s philosophy?
Wikipedia: Rorty’s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
Tags: reading response
12 April 2009 · 1.29 pm · by lrose · Comments Off
Over the course of reading Infinite Jest, we’ve all pretty much come to the conclusion that Mario holds a unique place in the novel. He stands apart from all the other characters in the novel, both physically and emotionally. In the last section of reading, we learned a little bit more about Mario and about what exactly makes him so different.
In a society where irony, cynicism, and sarcasm prevail, Mario doesn’t fit in. His seeming ignorance and his inability to understand the language of irony around him causes him to be largely ignored by most of the characters in the novel. Ignored might be too harsh; maybe it would be better to say Mario is not exactly listened to. His words and ideas don’t seem to be taken for their full worth by the other characters. But, to the reader, (or at least to me), Mario’s naÃ¯vetÃ© serves as a refreshing reminder of what it would be like to view the world unironically.
We learn that “the older Mario gets, the more confused he gets about the fact that everyone at E.T.A. over the age of about Kent Blott finds stuff that’s really real uncomfortable and they get embarrassed. It’s like there’s some rule that real stuff can only get mentioned if everybody rolls their eyes or laughs in a way that isn’t happy” (592). While everyone else in the novel is trapped in the cage of cynicism, unable to express true emotion and instead hiding behind a veil of irony, Mario is left outside of the cage. He can only understand the truth in its purity. Therefore, he fails to grasp the significance of the winks and the nudges that normally accompany any truth.
This is why Mario likes visiting the Ennet house. The Ennet House residents are all learning how to rid themselves of Substance addictions. But, the foundational principle of the AA program is not to rid the alcoholics of their addictions first and foremost, but instead to release their members from the cage of irony so that they may then be open enough and truthful enough to slowly work their way to sobriety. The escape from irony comes first (through the meaningful work of doing clichÃ©s, etc.), and only then can one escape addiction. “â€¦Mario’s felt good both times in Ennet’s House because it’s very real; people are crying and making noise and getting less unhappy, and once he heard somebody say God with a straight face and nobody looked at them or looked down or smiled in any sort of way where you could tell they were worried inside” (591). Mario, in his attraction to pure truth, enjoys being at the Ennet House because all of the residents are in the process of stepping out from the cover of cynicism and becoming truthful themselves.
But the most important question to address when it comes to Mario is what does it mean that Mario, the only truly unironic character, is also the only extremely physically disabled and deformed character? Near the beginning of the book, we learn that “Mario is basically a born listener. One of the positives to being visibly damaged is that people can sometimes forget you’re there, even when they’re interfacing with youâ€¦That’s why bullshit often tends to drop away around damaged listeners, deep beliefs revealed, diary-type private reveries indulged out loud; and, listening the beaming and brady-kinetic boy gets to forge an interpersonal connection he knows only he can truly feelâ€¦” (80). Here, it is implied that the only reason Mario is able to be so truthful and irony-free is because of his damaged quality. It is only because he is ignored and becomes invisible that other characters can drop the “bullshit” when talking to him.
This is my bone to pick with DFW. If all of Wallace’s work is about the cage of irony and how we need to get out of it and get to someplace free and open and truthful, why create the physically-impaired Mario as the only example of someone who has escaped the cage? In so doing, Wallace seems to be implying that it is only those who are abnormal, those who are flawed, and those who are ignored by the majority of the society that are able to escape from under the cover of the veil of irony. Yes, Wallace introduces us to the problem of irony in our society, but he himself doesn’t seem to be able to do more than diagnose the problem. Where is the solution?
Tags: reading response