I will post with greater frequency, on a more diverse range of topics. As of now, if I’m not reading and writing and studying for school, I’m reading authors with whom I’m already familiar and know that I love — it helps provide an effective respite from school. Not too adventurous, I know, but I need it.
My initial compulsion would be to group this among my favorite Saunders stories, but some temporal distance, reflection, and re-reading will solidify this. “Spiderhead” is certainly impressive from a technical perspective. Here’s the narrator, Jeff, describes the effects of an experimental drug while the drug begins coursing through his veins:
He added some Verbaluce™ to the drip, and soon I was feeling the same things but saying them better. The garden still looked nice. It was like the bushes were so tight-seeming and the sun made everything stand out? It was like any moment you expected some Victorians to wander in with their cups of tea. It was as if the garden had become a sort of embodiment of the domestic dreams forever intrinsic to human consciousness. It was as if I could suddenly discern, in this contemporary vignette, the ancient corollary through which Plato and some of his contemporaries might have strolled; to wit, I was sensing the eternal in the ephemeral.
Similar explosions of verbal acuity occur as Jeff participates in (and bears witness to) other experiments throughout the story. The effect is striking every time, whether it’s employed to comedic or devastating effect.
Of course, clever compositional devices are only amusing for a short time unless they’re deployed in a compelling framework, which is thankfully the case with “Spiderhead.” The profound empathy with which Saunders writes is what initially earned him my admiration, and this trait is on display in this story (and the others in Tenth of December). The author gradually unveils details about Jeff’s troubled past while detailing his (unbelievably traumatic) present experience, and the denouement is nearly as affecting as that of “Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz.” I can’t recommend this story enough.
You can pick up Tenth of December Here.
From Joel Lovell’s George Saunders profile in the New York Times.
Sabrina Orah Mark, “Walter B. Needs Some Time.”
I know very little about poetry. While I was a lost, confused creative writing major at Florida State University, I completed an introductory poetry course, at which time I realized that I was neither good at writing poetry, nor was I readily receptive to a lot of it. I love prose, specifically ornate, embellished prose, but for whatever reason, most of the poetry with which I was introduced during that course left me indifferent.
All this to say that my friend Michael Shea introduced me to this poem (click the link to read the other two in the series), and I was floored. It’s so surreal, evocative, and affecting.
Excerpt from “Lyndon,” by David Foster Wallace
Found in Girl With Curious Hair
Another goosebump-eliciting passage from DFW, and an excellent demonstration of a literary device for which I don’t know the name. A similar technique is employed in “Good Old Neon.” The author abruptly abandons an established perspective (in both cases, that of a first person narrator) for some sort of omniscient second person point of view through which a really profound message is (almost literally) breathtakingly conveyed. The seeming difference between this and “Neon” is that the latter involves DFW desperately interjecting himself ashimself into the work, but the identity of the narrator here feels sort of nebulous.
Perhaps somebody more well-informed than myself could help explain this. Regardless, this was a great piece.