Monday, September 15, 2008

Incarnations of Burned Children

So, David Foster Wallace.  It's so awful to think about and so many other people are saying better things than I could hope to, so I won't go spend a lot of time talking about how David Foster Wallace was a writer I went crazy over in college, lugging Infinite Jest around sophomore year, having little to no experience with contemporary fiction, just losing my mind over how amazing it was, messy and flawed and yet so much fun to read.
Two weekends ago, I went to Atlanta to watch the Braves get hammered by the Nationals (the Nationals, for crying out loud).  My wife and child stayed with her aunt during the game and when I came by to pick them up, I found a stack of Esquire magazines from 2000 in the upstairs living room.  No other magazines in the house, just this stack of eight-year-old Esquire magazines.  I flipped through them and found DFW's "Incarnations of Burned Children" which is not a typical DFW story in terms of style, but, aside from "Lyndon", it's the one story by Wallace that I most vividly remember.  I first read the story in Esquire when it came out and was so terrified by the intensity of the story and that same feeling returned as I scanned the story.  Aside from the misstep of a single line, "If you've never wept and want to, have a child," it's perfect.  It's a ragged, exhalation of a story that is impossible to forget.
I have neglected Wallace's more recent work and aside from teaching some stories from Girl with the Curious Hair, I haven't found a way to introduce his work to my students, but he is a writer that meant a lot to me and helped shaped some of my sensibilities regarding fiction.

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