There’s a new David Foster Wallace story in the latest New Yorker. It begins
Every whole person has ambitions, objectives, initiatives, goals. This one particular boy’s goal was to be able to press his lips to every square inch of his own body.
The story has a plain, dry descriptive tone in places, as it lists muscle groups and bones, that then switches to one of direct emotional appeal. After only one reading, I hesistate to draw conclusions, but there was a wonderful openness to the way that the boy’s painful attempt of the impossible is put alongside holy equivalents from history (or ‘facts’ that are presented as such) without any direct linkage. The boy, for some unspecified reason, seems more contained and focusessed than his father who makes a living out of selling motivational material of his own devising. The boy seems to have no capacity for boredom- he pays attention to everything, and functions well socially, but is also wholly detatched. The first line’s mention of the ‘whole person’ can be taken to mean that what the boy’s father, and many of us have, are not ‘ambitions, objectives, initiatives, goals’ but something more twisted by doubt and fear. These are what push us through life, not the clear synonyms mentioned.