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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Tue February 23, 2021 11:55 pm 
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4/5 wrote:
Impressions of each story with spoilers:
Spoiler: show
Mister Squishy--This was okay. It felt like it was longer than it needed to be, but if he wanted it to be longer to really feel that soul sucking corporate job emptiness then I understand the choice and he succeeded. But about 2/3 of the way I fell asleep a couple of times trying to make it through.

The Soul is Not a Smithy--(the deranged substitute teacher story) I really enjoyed this one. It took me a little bit to get comfortable with how he was telling the story, but it was excellent. The witness to the event recounting his totally unrelated memories and filling us in on the facts that he also obtained second hand even though he was there was a nice twist.

Another Pioneer--(the ancient village wise man child) This one was a struggle. Going back to my insecurity part of me is like, okay this was the most challenging one, I wonder if that means it's the one that people like to brag about liking. But anyway, the vocabulary in this one was on a whole other level, even by DFW standards. Combined with the latin phrases and the indigenous words this was easily the most challenging story in the collection. The last 1/3 of it or so I found really interesting and quite enjoyed. There were some really good moments in this one and I felt like it rewarded me for not quitting on it. So I didn't enjoy reading it but I'm glad that I did. The perspective of the story being told like third or fourth hand was also interesting. I'm not sure what the purpose of that device was, but it worked. Maybe illustrating how fact turns to fiction to myth to legend through retelling? I'm not sure.

Good Old Neon--Hands down the best story in the collection. For my money this was masterful story telling. I think maybe his greatest talent is that super self-conscious inner dialogue and man is it powerful in this story. This reminded me of some of my favorite passages in Infinite Jest, where I think he provides the best description of depression that I've ever read. But yeah this one is worth the price of admission alone even if everything else was terrible it'd be worth it for this one. The twist at the end is phenomenal and gut wrenching at the same time.

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature--This didn't do anything for me.

Oblivion--This one was okay. Longer than it needed to be, but again I enjoyed the ending.

The Suffering Channel--This one is a weird one for me. There were scenes and exchanges that were absolutely hilarious and I enjoyed the irreverence and what I assume were critiques of art and commerce but the story didn't feel as essential as I wish it had, especially since it was by far the longest story in the book. But it was a pretty breezy and enjoyable read which makes it unique among his fiction that I've read so far.


It probably wouldn't surprise you that Neon is the story in here that's the most talked about critically. I think as the years go by that Smithy is way up there for me, and I have a soft spot for Squishy, and Neon is just obviously great even though it's not my favorite. The Suffering Channel used to be a story I would teach in an Intro to Short Story class, but over the years it's fallen down the list for me.

I don't automatically recommend The Pale King because it's an unfinished novel and can certainly be unsatisfying in that regard, but it's the text closest to Oblivion in style and tone, so you might want to think about giving it a whirl.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed February 24, 2021 1:32 am 
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Simple Torture wrote:
It probably wouldn't surprise you that Neon is the story in here that's the most talked about critically. I think as the years go by that Smithy is way up there for me, and I have a soft spot for Squishy, and Neon is just obviously great even though it's not my favorite. The Suffering Channel used to be a story I would teach in an Intro to Short Story class, but over the years it's fallen down the list for me.

I don't automatically recommend The Pale King because it's an unfinished novel and can certainly be unsatisfying in that regard, but it's the text closest to Oblivion in style and tone, so you might want to think about giving it a whirl.

Admit it, you taught The Suffering Channel because the class discussions were hilarious.

Yeah I'll probably read The Pale King at some point since there's a relative dearth of DFW. I'm sure my next DFW will be non fiction, though.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed February 24, 2021 1:48 am 
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4/5 wrote:
Simple Torture wrote:
It probably wouldn't surprise you that Neon is the story in here that's the most talked about critically. I think as the years go by that Smithy is way up there for me, and I have a soft spot for Squishy, and Neon is just obviously great even though it's not my favorite. The Suffering Channel used to be a story I would teach in an Intro to Short Story class, but over the years it's fallen down the list for me.

I don't automatically recommend The Pale King because it's an unfinished novel and can certainly be unsatisfying in that regard, but it's the text closest to Oblivion in style and tone, so you might want to think about giving it a whirl.

Admit it, you taught The Suffering Channel because the class discussions were hilarious.

Yeah I'll probably read The Pale King at some point since there's a relative dearth of DFW. I'm sure my next DFW will be non fiction, though.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is great if you haven't read it. Both Flesh and Not is probably the least enjoyable of the non-fiction collections.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed February 24, 2021 2:08 am 
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And yeah, for The Suffering Channel, there was a shock element I was trying to illicit out of students, but most of what they wanted to talk about was the specter of 9/11 over the story. There was a weird switch around 2012 or so when students became obsessed with reading 9/11 into everything they read, which I guess makes sense, because that's when I started to get students who could remember it.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed February 24, 2021 2:38 am 
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Simple Torture wrote:
And yeah, for The Suffering Channel, there was a shock element I was trying to illicit out of students, but most of what they wanted to talk about was the specter of 9/11 over the story. There was a weird switch around 2012 or so when students became obsessed with reading 9/11 into everything they read, which I guess makes sense, because that's when I started to get students who could remember it.

Do you mean in 2012 you began to get students who could NOT remember 9/11?

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed February 24, 2021 2:56 am 
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The Argonaut wrote:
Simple Torture wrote:
And yeah, for The Suffering Channel, there was a shock element I was trying to illicit out of students, but most of what they wanted to talk about was the specter of 9/11 over the story. There was a weird switch around 2012 or so when students became obsessed with reading 9/11 into everything they read, which I guess makes sense, because that's when I started to get students who could remember it.

Do you mean in 2012 you began to get students who could NOT remember 9/11?

Oh yeah, sorry, I screwed up the timeline and made NO SENSE there. Let me rephrase that. From like 2011-2013, I was getting students for whom 9/11 was their first memory of something really big on the world stage (they would've been between 6 and 8 when it happened), and I think it had imprinted on them in a way that was different than kids who were a bit older when it happened. Like they knew it was a big, historical moment they lived through but their minds couldn't process it at the time. If that makes sense. So it was always a specter, but not something they had engaged with in a meaningful way yet.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed February 24, 2021 4:22 pm 
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Simple Torture wrote:
The Argonaut wrote:
Simple Torture wrote:
And yeah, for The Suffering Channel, there was a shock element I was trying to illicit out of students, but most of what they wanted to talk about was the specter of 9/11 over the story. There was a weird switch around 2012 or so when students became obsessed with reading 9/11 into everything they read, which I guess makes sense, because that's when I started to get students who could remember it.

Do you mean in 2012 you began to get students who could NOT remember 9/11?

Oh yeah, sorry, I screwed up the timeline and made NO SENSE there. Let me rephrase that. From like 2011-2013, I was getting students for whom 9/11 was their first memory of something really big on the world stage (they would've been between 6 and 8 when it happened), and I think it had imprinted on them in a way that was different than kids who were a bit older when it happened. Like they knew it was a big, historical moment they lived through but their minds couldn't process it at the time. If that makes sense. So it was always a specter, but not something they had engaged with in a meaningful way yet.

Interesting. The Indiana stuff kept making me think of The View from Mrs. Thompson's, his essay on experiencing 9/11 in Illinois. Idk if that was just the geographic similarity and knowing that it was the summer of '01 or what.

It's funny that you say this because as I read it I constantly had 9/11 in mind and I had certain thoughts about how that would affect the characters and the magazine and the particular story that they were working on, but I don't think I realized until you mentioned it that that's where the story derives its power. I also remember thinking that the Suffering Channel would have no shortage of content very soon, or that all channels were about to become Suffering Channels. I feel dumb right now because I took all of that as interesting little asides instead of the heart of the story.

Based on what you said, though, do you believe that group of students was overreading 9/11 into the story? Or did this story become less compelling for you to teach when younger students ceased having that 9/11 connection to the story?

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed February 24, 2021 4:29 pm 
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Simple Torture wrote:
The Argonaut wrote:
Simple Torture wrote:
And yeah, for The Suffering Channel, there was a shock element I was trying to illicit out of students, but most of what they wanted to talk about was the specter of 9/11 over the story. There was a weird switch around 2012 or so when students became obsessed with reading 9/11 into everything they read, which I guess makes sense, because that's when I started to get students who could remember it.

Do you mean in 2012 you began to get students who could NOT remember 9/11?

Oh yeah, sorry, I screwed up the timeline and made NO SENSE there. Let me rephrase that. From like 2011-2013, I was getting students for whom 9/11 was their first memory of something really big on the world stage (they would've been between 6 and 8 when it happened), and I think it had imprinted on them in a way that was different than kids who were a bit older when it happened. Like they knew it was a big, historical moment they lived through but their minds couldn't process it at the time. If that makes sense. So it was always a specter, but not something they had engaged with in a meaningful way yet.


When I was teaching 10th grade in 2016-2017 my students did not even remotely give a shit about 9/11.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Thu February 25, 2021 6:19 pm 
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Simple Torture wrote:
Mickey wrote:
ST, what'd you think of the Melchor book? I'm thinking of throwing it on a world lit syllabus for the spring.

Hey, I saw this before your PM and was going to respond, I promise! This book was wild, and it's got a bit of everything--it's about gender, sex, violence, class, race, etc. etc.--so I definitely recommend it.


Just had our first class session on this and I was worried because it's so graphic, but they *loved* it. Looking forward to Tuesday's class.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Thu February 25, 2021 6:20 pm 
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Mickey wrote:
Simple Torture wrote:
Mickey wrote:
ST, what'd you think of the Melchor book? I'm thinking of throwing it on a world lit syllabus for the spring.

Hey, I saw this before your PM and was going to respond, I promise! This book was wild, and it's got a bit of everything--it's about gender, sex, violence, class, race, etc. etc.--so I definitely recommend it.


Just had our first class session on this and I was worried because it's so graphic, but they *loved* it. Looking forward to Tuesday's class.

Nice!

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Thu February 25, 2021 7:30 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Thu February 25, 2021 7:34 pm 
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Simple Torture wrote:
Mickey wrote:
Simple Torture wrote:
Mickey wrote:
ST, what'd you think of the Melchor book? I'm thinking of throwing it on a world lit syllabus for the spring.

Hey, I saw this before your PM and was going to respond, I promise! This book was wild, and it's got a bit of everything--it's about gender, sex, violence, class, race, etc. etc.--so I definitely recommend it.


Just had our first class session on this and I was worried because it's so graphic, but they *loved* it. Looking forward to Tuesday's class.

Nice!


I will say, the thought occurred to me that if we were having in-person classes, one very fucked up thing to do would be to bring in some meat tamales.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri February 26, 2021 3:16 am 
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4/5 wrote:
It's funny that you say this because as I read it I constantly had 9/11 in mind and I had certain thoughts about how that would affect the characters and the magazine and the particular story that they were working on, but I don't think I realized until you mentioned it that that's where the story derives its power. I also remember thinking that the Suffering Channel would have no shortage of content very soon, or that all channels were about to become Suffering Channels. I feel dumb right now because I took all of that as interesting little asides instead of the heart of the story.

Based on what you said, though, do you believe that group of students was overreading 9/11 into the story? Or did this story become less compelling for you to teach when younger students ceased having that 9/11 connection to the story?


I don't think they were overreading 9/11 in that particular story, no, because, as you say, it pulls a lot of power from the references to 9/11, even the very small ones. I have a great big list of notes somewhere, and it includes little bits like how the floor that the magazine's offices are located on are mentioned, and it's for sure above where the plane hit, stuff like that. There's that line that always hits like a ton of bricks, where about halfway through the story, as two characters are working literally through the intricacies about how another character takes a shit, and the text says, "She had ten weeks to live." I was referencing my students' tendency to relate everything and anything tragic in a fictional text to 9/11, whether it was written before or after; their response papers and even their lengthier work was full of it. For them, tragedy = 9/11. I saw, for the longest time, a similar thing where every character who was unquestionably evil was compared to Hitler--a myopic historical reading like this would invariably arise even when a story was clearly foregrounded with colonialism, or 21st century geopolitics, etc.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Sat February 27, 2021 12:26 am 
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Simple Torture wrote:
4/5 wrote:
It's funny that you say this because as I read it I constantly had 9/11 in mind and I had certain thoughts about how that would affect the characters and the magazine and the particular story that they were working on, but I don't think I realized until you mentioned it that that's where the story derives its power. I also remember thinking that the Suffering Channel would have no shortage of content very soon, or that all channels were about to become Suffering Channels. I feel dumb right now because I took all of that as interesting little asides instead of the heart of the story.

Based on what you said, though, do you believe that group of students was overreading 9/11 into the story? Or did this story become less compelling for you to teach when younger students ceased having that 9/11 connection to the story?


I don't think they were overreading 9/11 in that particular story, no, because, as you say, it pulls a lot of power from the references to 9/11, even the very small ones. I have a great big list of notes somewhere, and it includes little bits like how the floor that the magazine's offices are located on are mentioned, and it's for sure above where the plane hit, stuff like that. There's that line that always hits like a ton of bricks, where about halfway through the story, as two characters are working literally through the intricacies about how another character takes a shit, and the text says, "She had ten weeks to live." I was referencing my students' tendency to relate everything and anything tragic in a fictional text to 9/11, whether it was written before or after; their response papers and even their lengthier work was full of it. For them, tragedy = 9/11. I saw, for the longest time, a similar thing where every character who was unquestionably evil was compared to Hitler--a myopic historical reading like this would invariably arise even when a story was clearly foregrounded with colonialism, or 21st century geopolitics, etc.

I definitely didn't catch the floor thing when I read it. I'm not sure if I missed it the first time but I only remember one specific reference to them being in WTC in the scene you mentioned. If he mentions it explicitly before then I somehow missed it. If it was more subtle then I just missed it. I knew that they were in lower Manhattan and like I said I was constantly aware of 9/11 looming over it but until the gym scene I wasn't thinking "This office isn't going to exist two months from now" I was thinking about how they were going to be affected and changed forever by being so close to it, how everything they were taking so seriously was going to become irrelevant and meaningless. Obviously that interpretation changed for me when he tells us where the gym is, but that was the first time I realized they were actually in WTC. Your post makes me want to read it again.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Sat February 27, 2021 12:39 am 
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I did a quick search and it seems like my memory was a little hazy, but on this glance I think DFW may have made a mistake. The story mentions three times that the executive offices for the magazine are on the 82nd floor--seemingly meaningful because the South Tower was struck "between the 77th and 85th floors" (per Wikipedia). But there's a reference to the editorial offices being on the 16th floor of 1 WTC--which would've been the North Tower. I can't imagine he would've mentioned the floor specifically three times without meaning to imply that it was in the direct line of one of the planes.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Sat February 27, 2021 3:22 am 
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Not sure what to expect from this one; picked it based on the translator:

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Quote:
The Wind That Lays Waste begins in the great pause before a storm. Reverend Pearson is evangelizing across the Argentinian countryside with Leni, his teenage daughter, when their car breaks down. This act of God or fate leads them to the workshop and home of an aging mechanic called Gringo Brauer and a young boy named Tapioca.

As a long day passes, curiosity and intrigue transform into an unexpected intimacy between four people: one man who believes deeply in God, morality, and his own righteousness, and another whose life experiences have only entrenched his moral relativism and mild apathy; a quietly earnest and idealistic mechanic’s assistant, and a restless, skeptical preacher’s daughter. As tensions between these characters ebb and flow, beliefs are questioned and allegiances are tested, until finally the growing storm breaks over the plains.

Selva Almada’s exquisitely crafted debut, with its limpid and confident prose, is profound and poetic, a tactile experience of the mountain, the sun, the squat trees, the broken cars, the sweat-stained shirts, and the destroyed lives. The Wind That Lays Waste is a philosophical, beautiful, and powerfully distinctive novel that marks the arrival in English of an author whose talent and poise is undeniable.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Sat February 27, 2021 3:32 am 
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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Sun February 28, 2021 11:15 pm 
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I had to get this. Heard the author talk about it and this guy had some life.

Few people rode the popular wave of the sixties quite like Tara Browne. One of Swinging London's most popular faces, he lived fast, died young and was immortalized for ever in the opening lines of 'A Day in the Life', a song that many critics regard as The Beatles' finest. But who was John Lennon's lucky man who made the grade and then blew his mind out in a car?

Author Paul Howard has pieced together the extraordinary story of a young Irishman who epitomized the spirit of the times: racing car driver, Vogue model, friend of The Rolling Stones, style icon, son of a peer, heir to a Guinness fortune and the man who turned Paul McCartney on to LSD.

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy is the story of a child born into Ireland's dwindling aristocracy, who spent his early years in an ancient castle in County Mayo, and who arrived in London just as it was becoming the most exciting city on the planet.

The Beatles and the Stones were about to conquer America, Carnaby Street was setting the style template for the world and rich and poor were rubbing shoulders in the West End in a new spirit of classlessness. Among young people, there was a growing sense that they could change the world. And no one embodied the ephemeral promise of London's sixties better than Tara Browne.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Tue March 02, 2021 2:53 pm 
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lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
jesus' son

this was so good

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Tue March 02, 2021 10:00 pm 
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lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
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this was so good


it saves lives


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