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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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