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!