Backbone

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.

I’m guessing this is from The Pale King, but greedily hope that it’s not.
UPDATE: I think it is. DFW read an early version of it back in 2000- here’s the differences between that version and the New Yorker story- interesting, in terms of the emphasis added to the holy figures. http://bit.ly/i8iajY
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: