Author Archives: reidau

Its Been Thoroughly Enjoyed

It’s over.

It’s over!

It’s over?

This is the last blog I’ll ever write, and I’ll admit, the timing couldn’t be better. At the same time, this blog has been an amazing platform for exploring personal questions Wallace has stirred up in my head, and it has considerably expanded my understanding.

At the start of the semester, we read the McCaffery interview. Throughout this course one quote has stuck with me. He claims that the distinguishing quality that separates good writing from bad writing lies in:

be[ing] willing to sort of die in order to move the reader, somehow”.

The first time I stumbled on this quote I took it to be a standard by which I could evaluate Wallace’s own writing. He writes after this:

“Even now I’m scared about how sappy this’ll look in print, saying this”

I can’t avoid the fact that Wallace’s death, the blow that it was, has undoubtedly affected my interpretation of his words. Though, when he mentions “be[ing] willing to sort of die in order to move the reader”, his death shouldn’t be thought of as a way of instilling his work with a sense of posthumous prowess. I think this quote has lasting significance in my mind because it communicates how much heart, mind, and soul Wallace strived to fill his work with.

Another memorable quote taken from the McCaffery interview, perhaps due to its thematic prevalence throughout Wallace’s work, is:

“The interesting thing is why we’re so desperate for this anesthetic against loneliness.”

This thought seems to become a fact after reading the loads of substance abuse and degrees of distance from reality present in his writings. What I find most compelling about Wallace’s body of work is how exactly frustrating it can be. This frustration likely comes from a combination of Wallace’s superior intellect and insight in respect to my own, and how his work can be either fiction or nonfiction, but no matter what, it always has room for philosophical meditation.

The feature of Wallace’s work that leaves me asking can be mind-blowing frustrating, but at the same time I know that this is one of the reasons why I like him so much. Most of the work that I currently read raises questions or offers areas of ambiguity, but in the end clarifies these areas and leaves me with a sense of satisfaction. This satisfaction though is so accurately described as an “anesthetic against loneliness” though, and that’s the problem. Wallace’s work, on the other hand, frequently leaves me unsatisfied and questioning and this seems to be the real point. In my opinion, Wallace’s work is most meaningful and provocative because of the questions it leaves unanswered. It fails to provide a quick fix, but leaves in its place a weird hung over feeling inside of you. There’s something uncomfortable about not knowing, and knowing that you might never know, but in the end it’s infinitely more gratifying knowing that something is there to be figured out.

While I’ve grumbled over my keyboard on several Sunday nights, this blog has really helped me begin to hack away at some of the questions I’ve gathered from Wallace’s work. Its been fun.

Words I Learned

I thought this was blogpost worthy:

A Matter of Preference

Lobsters? Lobsters. David Wallace sure knows how to pick them. In the namesake essay “Consider The Lobster”, Wallace’s journalistic style drifts back to land after spending sometime away on the Nadir of “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, and reaches the annual Maine Lobster Festival among feverish carnivores prepared to inhale upwards of 25,000 pounds of lobster flesh. The MLF understandably falls into opposition with PETA proponents, or those who find the ‘Being Boiled Hurts’ view of a higher ethicality. Like all of the other pieces of nonfiction Wallace has been recruited to write, “Consider The Lobster” focuses a great deal on the ethical implications of human consumption. In the end, Wallace’s journalistic endeavor turns into a discussion of personal ethics and presence/lack of thought that goes into eating another sentient life form. Though, I found “Consider The Lobster” to differ from Wallace’s previous topics. One way this piece differs is in the way he specifies his discussion. Instead of focusing solely on consumption or tourism, “Consider The Lobster” seeks to understand the ways in which awareness and thoughtfulness factor into the act of consumption.

One of the ways in which he specifies his discussion is in his choice to focus on the lobster as an instrument of consumption. Lobster is a delicacy, a product of the sea harvested for the human palette to enjoy. While Illinois fair junk food and cruise ship buffets are certainly interesting sites of people eating food, there’s something comparatively profounder about Wallace’s choice to focus on this particular gentrified crustacean. And so, Wallace’s personal preference in a lot of ways mirrors the preference that’s at the heart of the troubling questions that “arise amid all the laughter and saltation and community pride” at the MLF (253). Wallace writes, “the whole animal-cruelty-and-eating issue is not just complex, it’s uncomfortable. It is at any rate, uncomfortable for me, and for just about everyone I know who enjoys a variety of foods and yet does not want to see herself as cruel or unfeeling” (246). I found this passage to be really interesting because it not only acknowledges the discomfort that arises out of our preference over what we consume, but Wallace also lets us know that he himself is uncomfortable even talking about it.

Wallace continues to provide us with personal information as he talks about his approach when it comes to this whole ‘animal-cruelty-and-eating issue’. Wallace prefers to “avoid thinking about the whole unpleasant thing” (246). Moreover, he defends his own carnivorous behavior on the grounds that he has self interest in mind and has failed to work out “any sort of personal ethic system in which the belief is truly defensible instead of just selfishly convenient” (253). Wallace makes his personal preference and the reasoning behind it clear. I found that a lot of what Wallace chooses to expose complements the presence of the PETA proponents and in a way softens the details of the all the “other ways to kill your lobster on-site” (249).

The series of questions Wallace finishes with managed to summarize a lot of the questions I had in mind as I read “Consider The Lobster”. For me, he manages to turn a cultural gathering into a site of ethical debate into a platform for cerebral inquiry when he poses questions such as, “is your refusal to think about any of this the product of actual thought, or is it just that you don’t want to think about it?” (254). In the end, I felt as if Wallace manages to expose the connection between preference and the factors of conscious/unconscious thought. Though this connection isn’t one every really reconciled of fully understood, it boils down to matter of preference.

Wiki Test Run/Porousness Of Certain Borders/(Help Ad?)

I wanted to dedicate this week’s reading response to hashing out some of the ideas I plan to discuss on the Wiki. For starters, I’m immensely pleased that my group was assigned Brief Interviews With Hideous Men because despite Wallace’s extraordinary ability to write pages and pages, I’ve always tended to appreciate his work that’s comparatively concise. Besides discussing all of the stories, general themes, symbols, etc. of Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, I would also like to spend some significant time on the “Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders” series. Brief Interviews With Hideous Men includes three of these, though upon reading a little bit hear and researching a little bit there, I’ve come to find out that there are quite a few others that Wallace wrote which have gone on to be published in magazines and quarterlies including Esquire, McSweeney’s, and Harpers. Though, locating all of these, which number upwards of twenty, might be a difficult task I wanted to make it known that I want to do this, and ***if anyone knowledge of where I can find one that would be incredibly helpful****.

Apart from these logistics, when I compile all of the YAEPCB’s I’d like to examine the connections between the series as well as between Wallace’s other works. It’s hard for me to say exactly I want to look at considering it’s difficult discussing anything when you haven’t even found it, but I can at least begin with some of the YAEPCB’s found in Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. The first YAEPCB is number eleven of the series and like the others is labeled as an ‘example’, something indicated by its shortness. Number eleven is only a page and a half in length, but in that page and a half it manages to discuss a wide range of ideas surrounding issues of blindness, privilege, and lucidity. In this ‘example’, the reader is introduced to an unnamed narrator who describes a dream, “as in all those other[s]”, where he finds himself with someone he knows but is unsure of how exactly he knows this person — an explanation that might refer to the interconnectedness of human relations, or might be trying to discuss the nature of how our lives can follow similar trajectories as a matter of happenstance, with the origin being of little importance to us (35).

In this dream, the narrator is made aware by this other individual that he is blind though he seems confused as to how he knows this. This confusion brings two levels of lucidity into the mix because on one hand the narrator is distanced from reality in his dream, and on the other hand the narrator is puzzled by the reality inside his own dream. However, this distance closes up and illusion carries over to reality when the narrator becomes so psychologically distressed inside his dream that he wakes up still crying. This retreat from reality instills the narrator with an entirely new consciousness of human privilege. He spends the following day at work so “incredibly conscious” of his eye sight that he expresses an awareness of “how fragile it all is, the human eye mechanism and the ability to see, how easily it could be lost”(35). Though this awareness doesn’t completely penetrate the narrator’s discriminatory preconceptions, and this shines through as he describes viewing blind people on the street. The narrator communicates that this dream, or more appropriately nightmare, makes him conscious of blind people, “their canes and strange-looking faces”, their momentary appeal from a distanced perspective, and how it is a matter of luck that he isn’t one of the blind people that he sees in the subway. This nightmare awakens the narrator to the harsh reality of human biological privilege, but it only goes so far as to reinforce the narrator’s sense of his own privilege and results in a realization devoid of all humbling effects. All of this leaves the narrator exhausted, emotionally drained, and spurs him to retreat from work, barely able to keep his eyes open, only to return home and fall asleep in the early afternoon.

There are a considerable amount of conclusions that this piece can potentially lead to, but one theme I find pressing is the issue of reality and awareness. In this “Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders”, Wallace discusses the fragile nature of the human experience. This fragility is communicated in the way the narrator becomes overwhelmingly distraught, but its importance is disregarded after reality surfaces. Dreaming and it’s dislocation from reality is employed by Wallace in a way that seems to recognize that dreams succeed to offer a new perspective, one that is attainable only by limiting or being distant from reality. The acute awareness gained by the narrator goes to show that humans can gain a greater understanding of their identity and interconnectedness to one another, though the practice and continuation of this is seemingly infrequent. Considering this is just the start to something I’d like to pursue further in Wiki form, comments/questions would be much appreciated!

Language Loss

As we’ve witnessed in several of Wallace’s works, language is a frequently visited topic. Although, after finishing Oblivion I got the sense that Wallace altered his discussion of language. One of the issues that Wallace focuses a great deal on in Broom of The System is language as a source of definition and identity. He also emphasizes that language involves inevitable loss. With all that we’ve read by the author, I wasn’t surprised by Wallace’s return to this topic; however, I will admit I really enjoyed Wallace’s consistent use of withholding information because it provoked in me an awareness of the loss of linguistics. Literally, the word oblivion comes from the Latin for to forget, and this loss is experienced all over Oblivion, especially in a short paragraph from “Good Old Neon”:

This is another paradox, that many of the most important impressions and thoughts in a person’s life are the ones that flash through your head so fast that fast isn’t even the right word, they seem totally different from or outside of the regular sequential clock time we all live by, and they have so little relation to the sort of linear, one-word-after-another-word English we all communicate with each other with that it could easily take a whole lifetime just to spell out the contents of one split-second’s flash of thoughts and connections, etc.-and yet we all seem to go around trying to use English (or whatever language our native country happens to use, it goes without saying) to try to convey to other people what we’re thinking and to find out what they’re thinking, when in fact deep down everybody knows it’s a charade and they’re just going through the motions. 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. (150)

While Wallace’s metaphor of language as a charade is frustrating, the loss that he attributes to language recognizes that the human experience is just too “fast and huge and all interconnected” to be adequately described. Oblivion‘s structure and plot organization seem to identify this failure of language in a way that confused me greatly at first. This technique is used all over Oblivion, witnessed in the way that “Mister Squishy” withholds conclusions, in the way that “The Suffering Channel” uses the tragedy of 9/11 as a looming cloud, and in the way “Good Old Neon” literally communicates language’s inadequacy, knowledge only fully realized by someone who’s transcended language’s hegemony by entering the afterlife.

To go back to Wallace’s notion of language as a process of ‘going through the motions’, his writing style seems to gain a new self-consciousness in Oblivion. I got the sense after reading the collection that Wallace reached a point of exasperation, a final acceptance that the words he uses can never adequately communicate his experience, or provide true escape- this was a conclusion that really seemed true after finishing “Good Old Neon”. This sort of acceptance shows through in Wallace’s choice to withhold certain information, an act that to me says, ” If I’m writing these words just for something, some part of me, to be lost, why not save myself some of the effort?” Though this technique ultimately annoyed me and left me unsatisfied I felt myself beginning to identify on a smaller scale with the frustration and blinding awareness that Wallace must have struggled with for a significant portion of his life. My confusion and moments of dissatisfaction were a product of language’s loss, but it was something that I only really experienced after stumbling on the disconnects in Oblivion, and so I owe thanks to this work for opening my eyes.

Hal Incandenza’s Confused Identity

This response may be a bit scatterbrained and refer back to a passage from previous week’s readings but last week’s conversation spurred me to write this post. As a couple people may have mentioned, last week’s conversation regarding Infinite Jest understandably left out a fair amount of information considering the huge amount it covered. Previously we’ve discussed and witnessed the intersection of fiction/non-fiction in Wallace’s writings and this theme seems to keep popping up throughout Infinite Jest in the lives of Wallace’s characters. So I’d like to discuss the back-story of Hal Incandeza’s life in which this intersection seems apparent.

Around page 250 we are told of Mr. Incandenza’s horrific suicide and the manner in which Hal found his father dead at the age of “thirteen going on really old” (248). And so, we become aware of Hal’s tragic and potentially scarring past. This in combination with the family’s unique dynamic sets up Hal Incandenza as an intriguingly fictional character. To combat the tragedy of Mr. Incandenza’s suicide we learn that Hal’s mom begins sending him to a grief-counselor, the real reason being “so she wouldn’t have to feel guilty about practically sawing the hole in the microwave door herself” (252). As Hal begins seeing this grief counselor he describes him as “unsatisfiable and scary”(252). This counseling period is described as “brutal” and “nightmarish” because the entire time Hal finds himself face to face with a professional examining and probing at inner emotions that seem like Hal hasn’t even had time to understand (252). Hal appears to approach this with the same air of mischief that seems to be bred in kids at the Enfield Tennis Academy. He immediately tries to research and educate himself on how to seem depressed, angry, in denial, and depressed, without actually having the emotions to back it up. At first the grief therapist buys none of it. Later on Hal learns from Lyle how to put forward the allusion of despair without actually having it. He acquaints himself more with the “cutting-edge professional grief- and trauma-therapy section” at the library and educates himself so well that he succeeds to put on a show of virtuoso talent. He manages to “griev[e] to everybody’s satisfaction”, by “subtly inserting certain loaded professional-grief-therapy terms like validate, process, as a transitive verb, and toxic guilt. There were library derived” (255). All of this concentrated energy and drive is exploded upon the pleasantly surprised counselor and Hal leaves barely able to make it to the men’s room, he’s so full of laughter.

Hal’s experience with the grief-counselor has a huge amount of psychological complexities to it, but one thing seems clear to me- the relationship of fiction and non-fiction has a definitive role in his identification. Hal is forced into a situation in which a professional person is firing answers hoping that Hal will be able to construct an identity through his confused emotions, emotions that don’t really seem to really exist. On a more fundamental level, we are told that Hal is meeting with this counselor because of his mother’s underlying guilt. In this way, The Moms is forcing Hal into a false process of identification that seems to facilitate Hal’s confusion as manifested in his mischievous production of emotional outcry. Additionally, Hal becomes able to put on this production by depending on books written by authors that are either attempting to come to terms with their identity, or enable other’s to come to terms with their identity in a format whose very purpose is to achieve a solid sense of emotional and personal identity. Hal takes from these writings knowledge and is able to put up the façade of one who is extremely troubled in order to fulfill another’s expectations of identity. Hal’s explicit use of the word ‘fiction’ when describing his performance in front of the counselor also makes it seem like in some way Hal’s identity is defined by his demeanor and selfness as it is defined by the expectations that other’s push on him (252). So, in one way it seems like Hal creates an identity for himself, while on the other hand it seems as if the expectations overshadow his true identity and force him to make his reactions his identity.

On His Deathbed as a Sort of Present

It has become a habitual practice of mine to think of what I don’t understand and frame it in terms of experience so that I can better make sense of it. This is a practice that I’ve grown to acknowledge as necessary when reading any of Wallace’s work, and while it is a mechanism that helps to understand his writings it also allows a great deal of self reflexivity. While I tend to approach everything I read in this way, I found two pieces from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men to be so complementary that the questions that one generated were answered by another. And so, the overlaps that I found in ” On His Deathbed, Holding Your Hand, the New Young Off-Broadway Playwright’s Father Begs a Boon,” and “Suicide as a Sort of Present,” saved me (sort of) from resorting to this mode of understanding, which in turn brought to mind a couple of questions.

First, the placement of these two seemed to indicate that these two works were to be read one after another. If this was intended then possibly my understanding of these two works as complementary is correct. On the other hand these two stories could be next to one another as a result of happenstance- something that once one reads both works, appears as having little significance. Both works definitely struck me as having parallels, but what interests me more is how the fuzzy details and areas of ambiguity in “On His Deathbed, Holding Your Hand, the New Young Off-Broadway Playwright’s Father Begs a Boon,” were answered or at least explicated figuratively through “Suicide as a Sort of Present”.

As I was reading “On His Deathbed…,” I grew frustrated by the lack of details explaining why the father really hates his child. Throughout the work the narrator describes his hatred for his son, and though it goes on for about twenty-six pages, he doesn’t really explain what the child has done to warrant such hatred. I felt as if the first line, “Listen: I did despise him. Do.,” (256) adequately described everything he tries to convey. The father’s description of ordinarily childish or infantile traits and lines like “she had ceased to be the girl I’d — she was now The Mother, playing a part, a fairy story,”(272) show evidence for why he hates his son,(or wife?), but these aren’t especially different from the experience of any ordinary father or mother. However, the father does give a reason behind his resentment, but not to the extent of his described hatred. He states ” I despised him for forcing me to hide the fact that I despised him” (271). The socially constructed obligatory nature of a parent’s life seems to be the real reason for the father’s hatred. It’s as if he hates his child because he feels obliged/forced into loving him (‘love’ in no shape appears in the Oxford American Dictionary’s definition of father).

I felt relieved after having read “Suicide as a Sort of Present” because it appeared to me as if the mother-son relationship was the opposite of the father-son relationship in “On His Deathbed…”. While in “On His Deathbed…,” the son is hated for things outside his control, the son in “Suicide as a Sort of Present” is hated only as a result of the mother’s self hatred. In this way, I though that “Suicide as a Sort of Present” served to create possible explanations, and complementarily brings up additional questions pertaining to “On His Deathbed…”. One such question that I wondered about was if the father in “On His Deathbed” actually hates his son for the very reasons that he states, which seems irrational and unjustified, or if this hatred is a result of missing background information that’s supplied in “Suicide as a Sort of Present”. Also, I wondered whether the end of “Suicide as a Sort of Present”, where the son, unlike the son in “On His Deathbed, is seen as liberating his mother from this hatred in committing suicide is meant to seem better or more optimistic than the life long hatred as seen in “On His Deathbed”. In the end I was left questioning both works, and was unsure which I felt showed a ‘better’ or more ‘healthy’ relationship.

Duality of Violence

I generally like Wallace’s candidness when it comes to titles and “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” doesn’t disappoint. While ‘hideousness’ is definitely something that fills its pages, it doesn’t seem to be entirely appropriate.   The men ‘interviewed’ succeed in presenting a picture of male chauvinism and manipulation; however, the Victor Frankl proponent, provides a break from this overarching theme, and this break seem as important, if not more, as the grotesque characterization of Wallace’s hideous men.

The worst part of Wallace’s fictional interviews with hideous men is the fact that while reading through them, you get the sense that you actually know one of these hideous men, and if not that, then you get the sense that there are people like this, somewhere. The clincher for this piece of Wallace’s nonfiction is that he manages to describe men who are all too scarily familiar. His selection of characters is poignantly representative of male stereotypes, and I’d bet that almost everyone knows a form of the pathetically exploitive ‘player’-type, or his counterpart the “played”. Fortunately the last interview takes a different direction and manages to discuss the degradation that covers the preceding pages.

The interview begins with a slightly weird defense of violence. The unnamed man uses Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning to show violence/degradation as character-building processes. This interview is definitely a divergence from previous interviews in that it goes on to defend women, pathetically targeted, “where it adds up to this very limited condescending thing of saying they’re fragile or breakable things” (116). A point of confusion arises in the disparity between the man’s several descriptions of ways violence can happen, and the “knee-jerk attitude” that so many people have towards any form of degradation (116). On one hand, I think the interviewee presents a worthwhile point in his attempt to convey the ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’-mindset, and yet I was a bit weary of the man’s intentions when he begins to describe the extent to which a woman could be raped with a Jack Daniel’s bottle. The man’s horrific description of violence and his recognition of the positive in it manages to put him at a distance that’s unlike the other interviewees, who seem pretty straightforward and justifiably despicable (save the bathroom attendant).

I think that my feelings of strangeness are in part a product of the sense of experience and proximity to violence that the interviewee has. The line, “to know that another human being, these guys, can look at you lying there in the totally deepest way understand you as a thing”(120) was one of those moments where I wasn’t entirely sure of what the man means. It seems clear that any obstacle, no matter violence’s part, is character building; however, when he describes the connection between the abused and the abuser on page 120, he makes a point of saying that the abuser “understand[s] you as a thing, not a person a thing” (120). The difference between ‘person’ and ‘thing’ in this paragraph seems really crucial, and yet I’m a bit unclear still. It seems to me that he’s trying to say that there is a deeper beneficial nature to being the subject of any type of degradation, and that objectification in particular, is something that helps constitute a sense of self. Throughout this interview, the man has an air of authority when it comes to all of this violence, and it’s as if his last line “you don’t know shit” is meant to imply that he’s somehow experienced degradation, objectification, or abuse, and that this knowledge is, in a way, both self identifying and freeing.  

Above It All

Before starting Wallace’s essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” I was extremely excited and filled with anticipation. His other essay for Harpers, “Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All”, made be appreciated his journalistic commentary and I enjoyed the opportunity to experience this new perspective. However, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” had me experience a sort of foreign animosity towards Wallace. Let me preface this: in no way is this a defense of cruise liners. I felt like this essay was saturated with hypocritical remarks, and characterizations that left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

I acknowledge the fact that Wallace’s characterization of cruise life is entirely satiric, humorous, and aimed to entertain (after all this was paid in full by Harpers). It isn’t the intent of Wallace, nor is it the platform on which Wallace extends his perspective that I find irritating. His characterization, rather, is what irks me.   His descriptions of the Nadir itself and the culture surrounding it is very much in keeping with my one experience on a cruise ship, however he consistently describes these situations in a negative light that go well past touching upon condescension. This absurdity is more than possibly inherent in the nature of his journalistic observation, but I still think they are worth taking a look at for the sake of meta-observation.

In “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, Wallace assumes the position of a journalist, constantly scanning his surroundings and succeeding in taking a significant amount of detail. The preceding sentence was what I was thinking prior to his description of the transformation of cruisers into tourists as they board the dock of Cozumel, Mexico. He writes, “As each person’s sandal hits the pier, a sociolinguistic transformation from cruiser to tourists is effected” (308).   He then goes on show what seemed to me as feigned empathy, saying “Looking down from a great height at your countrymen waddling in expensive sandals into poverty-stricken ports is not one of the funner moments of a 7NC Luxury cruise.” (310). Ok, so he manages to point out the disgustingly exploitative relationship that is tourism, but still be is writing all of this as he participates within the system that he mocks. His negativity offers criticism that’s on point, but I felt that Wallace described all of this with an air of detachedness, as he metaphorically looks down on the sea of tourists.

He continues on to describe the interaction between the cruisers and Mexicans, saying, “I cannot help imagining us as we appear to them” (310). This line in particular, appears as if Wallace is actually being genuinely empathetic and denouncing the Americanness that he finds unpleasant. However, his consistently sardonic commentary tainted by perception of these moments where Wallace is actually breaking free past the faux-wood confines of the Nadir, and is seen touching upon significant problems in human relations. As he starts to empathize, I couldn’t help but think of how the relationship of tourism mirrors the job that paid Wallace to board this cruiser and led him to exploit his fellow participants. These participants who are actually paying their own way to give into a harmless act of self-indulgence. Both the tourists and Wallace share in the act of approaching an Other and using its resources in order to inform, and essentially further the Self. Though these end goals are different, Wallace and the tourists share in this exploitative practice. In the end though, Wallacet is seen as above it all.

Anxiety taken from Appearance

Moving past postmodernism’s self-reflexivity is a task that Wallace seems to wrestle with throughout his body of work. Girl with Curious Hair’s “Appearance” continues this theme by parodying Late Night with David Letterman. Wallace does this in a manner that attempts to rip apart the notion that the absurdity and irony of metafiction is a simple means of examining and exposing reality. Moreover, “Appearance” dismisses this notion as naive, and works to solve deeper underlying issues of anxiety and connectedness.

Edilyn’s constant urges to take Xanax, Rudy’s tendency to micromanage, and the build up before Edilyns’ appearance on David Letterman’s talk show is enough to establish a story full of anxiety. As a man well versed in the ways of entertainment industry politics, it’s not shocking to see Rudy nervous as he is about to watch his wife be interviewed by Letterman, who’s hokey appreciation for the postmodern game and freckles seem to only further his image as a ‘savage misogynist’. The irony is clear as we see Edilyn seeking to escape her profession as an actress by asserting herself free of illusions, while all the while Edilyn’s husband tries to coach and alter her behavior to effectively play the postmodernism’s game. The only actress in “Appearance” is paradoxically also the only character that is concerned with sincerity and fighting to break past appearance.

This anxiety is clearly seen literally, but it is in the figurative symbolism that its true extent is experienced. As Edilyn sits backstage, light imagery works to intensify the atmosphere. After Rudy lights a cigarette, a patch of sunlight falls on the couch with the smoke trailing upwards in a way that makes the light seem distantly “bright and cold”(182). The cigarette is seen as “gushing smoke into the lit air”. The bright and cold light paired with the adjective ‘lit’, bring to mind both literal and figurative meanings, however it is the figurative that captures the tenseness of the story. Describing the air as ‘lit’ also has the connotation of having the potential for explosive destruction. Inside this same room sits Ron, whose distinctively small mouth is mentioned several times. The significance of Ron’s mouth provides a humorous break from the text in which his small mouth and small drinks match his equally small advice. Size is a quality later mentioned in Letterman’s interview in which he discusses salary and Edilyn’s work as an actress. In this scene, “Big dollars” are mentioned as the sort of thing that one discusses only in “low tones”.  This statement has a range of symbolic meanings, one of which could be to introduce shame as an underlying theme. Another possible intent of Wallace was to show support of Edilyn’s concern with genuine reality, highlighting appearance and it’s relation to the superficial.

                      Wallace’s “Appearance” brings to question where we locate the root of our own personal anxiety. Is it a product of trying to combine the two opposing worlds of appearance and reality? Or does it come about in our struggle to find a distinction, if any, between the two?