Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders

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Back to David Foster Wallace or Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

This is a series of stories, three of which (XI,VI,XXIV) are featured in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and one of which (VIII) was featured in McSweeney's.

VI

Plot

The plot of this short piece is present in the two way dialogue that comprises the entire 'example'. Prior to this dialogue a heading makes it understood that this is an extract from "A reconstructed transcript of Mr. Walter D. ("Walt") DeLasandro Jr.'s parents' marriage's end, in May 1956". This dialogue follows a husband and wife though the speaker of each line of dialogue is indistinguishable. The dialogue follows the couple as they discuss a mutually desired divorce. The decision to get a divorce launches the two speakers into a discussion concerning how they should divide their possessions, namely their double wide trailer, truck, and their son, Walter. The couple deems it appropriate to flip a quarter for the boy and the dialogue ends before the reader becomes aware of the end result.

Characters

Themes

  • Neglect: The two parents' value their son less than they value their material possessions

XI

Plot

“Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (XI)” begins with the explanation of a dream. In this dream, the narrator finds himself with another person;however, he cannot recollect how he knows this exact person. The mysterious individual notifies the narrator that he is blind. After he becomes aware of his own blindness, he subsequently becomes downcast. He notes, “It makes me incredibly sad that I’m blind” (35). The person in the dream then tells the narrator that crying only worsens blindness. The narrator begins crying uncontrollably to the extent that he wakes up still crying. This crying awakens the narrator’s girlfriend who speaks to the narrator and establishes that he is in reality. After the narrator touches back to reality, he becomes fully aware that the preceding events involving blindness were dreamt up and he, in fact, can see. The narrator then goes on with his day, and while at work experiences a heightened sense of awareness of his ability to see. The remainder of the piece discusses the narrator’s attitude towards other blind people, sight as a matter of fortune, and concern over oneself and others as the narrator retreats home, so tired he is barely capable of keeping his eyes open only to “crawl in bed at like 4:00 in the afternoon and more or less pass out”(36).

Characters

  • Unidentified Narrator
  • Girlfriend
  • Unidentified Individual (In Dream)

Themes

  • Awareness. Having "experienced" blindness, the man is now poignantly aware of his ability to see. Though, even after experiencing blindness the narrator fails to reach full awareness of his ability to see. This is understood by the manner in which he addresses the blind people he sees on the subway and their "strange-looking faces"(35). While the narrator experiences a transformative dream, he remains only partially transformed in his awareness.

Voice

First Person narrative

XXIV

Plot

The narrator's mother is cutting his hair, while his father tries to get reception on the radio. His identical twin pokes his head out of the pantry in front of him and cruelly mimics his every facial expression. The narrator gets increasingly frustrated and disturbed by his brother's mockery, and reacts accordingly, but this only gives his brother more facial expressions to make fun of. The narrator eventually finds refuge in mindlessly staring at his brother.

Characters

  • The Narrator
  • The Narrator's twin brother
  • Mum
  • Da

Themes & Motifs

  • Self-Consciousness. The brother's caricature of the narrator makes him painfully self-conscious about his facial expressions.

VIII

Published originally as "Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (VIII)" in McSweeney's #1 in 1998; appeared later, in slightly edited form, as "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature" in Oblivion: Stories.

Criticism

Marshall Boswell in Understanding David Foster Wallace discusses "Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Border (XXIV)." He takes specific note of a line at the end of the story in which the narrator describes that the younger brother's cruel mimicry represents what "lolly-smeared hand-held brats must see in the funhouse mirror--the gross and pitiless sameness, the distortion in which there is, tiny, at the center, something cruelly true about the we who leer" (Brief Interviews 320). Boswell posits that the line makes a reference to Barth's "funhouse" (see also Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way). Such a reference, he says, "confirms that this sketch, and the situation it sets up, should be read as 'yet another' metaphor for Wallace's art, which uses distortions and funhouse mirrors to locate, 'tiny, at the center,' something cruel and true about the watcher/reader" (Understanding David Foster Wallace 199). He also notes that "the title, moreover, functions as a reminder that Wallace's work, as early as The Broom of the System, has always sought to stave off exhaustion by puncturing holes in its own structure, holes that lead back to the world outside the text" (Understanding David Foster Wallace 199).