Friday, March 10, 2006

Someone else on DFW

Moments after posting my meandering DFW-related item below, I happen upon this excellent post about DFW's fiction, from Ocracoke Post, a blog that is new to me (link via MetaxuCafé). Two tastes:
I want there to be fiction about focus groups and marketing jargon. I want the aspect of human nature brought out by hyper-capitalism in America to be detailed. I want there to be literature about late night cable infomercials, telemarketers, pitchmen, talk-show hosts, pornographic satellite television, tennis stars, cruise ships, strip malls, and the like. In short, shouldn't we write about the world we live in, one that didn't exist in classical Athens or Christian Rome or Renaissance London? Why not? I'd like to see it all noted by someone and put down. DFW, I would say, is the best chronicler of that aspect of the world. I have no idea how his stuff will age but God, it's great to be alive to read it now.
I noticed that two of my favorite DFW short stories, "The Depressed Person" in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and "Good Old Neon" in Oblivion, are structurally similar. Both involve the involutions of a consciousness at war with itself, in which the mazelike wandering of thought bends back upon itself, deepening the distress without offering any hint of resolution. More specifically, both stories relate a facet of self-consciousness - what is now called "major depression" in one case, a feeling of hollowness and fraudulence in the other - that itself defeats resolution and feeds a bad feedback loop in which thinking does not help the character think. Another way to put this is that self-knowledge is sometimes worse than useless to a DFW character. This could be related back to his narrative technique, which not only mirrors the endless involution of thought, but also avoids the "epiphany moments" that rule the aesthetics of the contemporary MFA workshop short story.

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