The more I think about it the more I would recommend that people new to DFW start with his first short stories collection Girl with Curious Hair. His first two books (the novel/his college thesis paper (!)) The Broom of the System and the recently aforementioned short stories collection probably have a lower net level of run-on sentences and a more "accessible" style on the whole.
Starting with Infinite Jest as I did probably helped make me view the rest of his corpus through Infinite Jest-tinted glasses, which was obviously a good thing for me since I loved it so much. But for those who are apprehensive about beginning this way (or beginning with Wallace at all for that matter) I say pick up Girl with Curious Hair. Although, the final and mind-blowingly brilliant story is the rather lengthy "Westward The Course of Empire Takes Its Way" which would typically be considered not to be stylistically "accessible" at all really. It's both a barbed criticism of and heartfelt tribute to metafiction, a hilarious quasi-autobiographical look into his writing workshop days in graduate school, and much, much more. And at its heart (as with all of his work) is a sincere and emotionally resonant portrait of what it means to be a homosapien in the 20th/21st century and beyond. Great stuff.(less)
"What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch...moreFrom my favorite story, "Good Old Neon":
"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."
Oblivion is not as consistently solid as his first short stories collection Girl With Curious Hair, but hands down is amazing nonetheless.
Only slight complaint: The very first story is a bit difficult as it's loaded with corporate marketing, PR and advertising jargon, but it still unfolds eventually as being brilliant nonetheless. According to an interview Wallace spent quite a long time writing that one. My complaint is that it was not the best decision to place this story as the first in the collection. I have to wonder how many people were put off by it and then didn't get to the rest of the stories which are wonderful, top-notch DFW.
"Incarnations of Burned Children" is a mere 2.5 pages long but an example of perfectly condensed intensity.
"The Soul Is Not A Smithy" is tremendously suspenseful and melancholy. Also contains some of the most emotionally pointed descriptions of the mind of a young child playing mental games with themselves due to elementary school-daze boredom.
And the finale, "The Suffering Channel", is a wonderful example of the well-balanced surrealism, and the emotional and moral realism that is brought out when playing with the twin forces of sadness and hilarity that Wallace is widely celebrated for. It involves a man who shits perfect sculptures and the glossy magazine journalist who must cover the story and spin it appropriately.
My second favorite story is "Another Pioneer." It's just great. That's all I'll say about it for now. (less)
I started reading the first novella and became bored with it.
I moved on to the third and final one which was worthy of a three star rating. Moody's o...moreI started reading the first novella and became bored with it.
I moved on to the third and final one which was worthy of a three star rating. Moody's only attempt at working within the (loosely defined version of the) sci-fi genre. In fact, the whole reason the story came about was that McSweeny's asked him to write a sci-fi story.
NYC has been decimated in a nuclear attack, the city is gripped by desperation and chaos and millions of people seeking to forget themselves or at least their selves of the present. A fictional chemical compound begins to proliferate throughout the city's illegal drug trade/consumption networks. This substance causes the user to vividly relive past memories, like, really relive them, with no ability to differentiate the artificially induced memory from "real life."
Many confusing and interesting social, psychological and philosophical implications follow. It reminded me a little bit of the mostly cheesy but conceptually great ("on paper" so to speak) film Strange Days featuring Ralph Fiennes in which he peddles other people's recorded experiences which you can pop into a minidisc looking thing strapped to your head and vividly relive as if you are that person having that experience.
I went back to the first novella and finished it. I liked the basic underlying ideas that seemed to bubble under the surface and the drunken, eldery and increasingly delusional central character has some hilarious moments (like in the way that senility can sometimes be funny) but I continued to get the feeling that something else should happen and was merely met with more mundane descriptions of mundane things.
Moody tends to do this to me: I get the feeling something revelatory is just around the corner but it rarely ever emerges. I find myself rereading the last paragraphs of his stories over and over, squinting my eyes for something I may have missed, something redemptive or interesting or meaningful—even in an "anti-sentimentalist" kind of way—and I rarely every see it. Consequently I can't even remember how most of his stories end even a day or two after finishing them.
I didn't start the second/middle "novella" before returning it to the library.
I will have to reread this sometime. A few of my friends recommended it to me back in high school with the promise that it was "totally fucked up" (as...moreI will have to reread this sometime. A few of my friends recommended it to me back in high school with the promise that it was "totally fucked up" (as we were often times as well). I barely remember anything about the stories in it. I really liked it though, I remember that much, hence the three stars...(less)