The students are still on vacation, in those brief moments it’s still possible to read in the library’s cafe with a view of snow melting up into fog, prospective students and their parents on guided tours, and those of us left on campus meandering about as if we’re confused by the lack of people.
This afternoon, I finally read “All That” by David Foster Wallace, published in Dec. 14, 2009 issue of the New Yorker. After finishing Infinite Jest recently, it was good to read something else by Wallace. In this short story, the narrator reflects on his childhood and the lie his parents told him. It wasn’t malicious, but it ended up being an obsession for the small boy, and the memory of that time stayed with him into adulthood. The story centers on perception, magic (as experienced by children), mental illness, religion, and memory. What I respected in this story is the mood that is created. It has a sort of ethereal feel, as if you are viewing the scenes through some kind of gauze. Perhaps, it is just the dreamy quality of the narrator’s voice and his fondness of these memories. Some of the topics are touched on briefly, and it leaves the reader knowing that there is more going on with the narrator that we are not being shown. Does that matter?
Sometimes, details can kill a story. Everything does not need to be wrapped up tightly with the reader knowing all that has happened or been alluded to. People have come to expect that, but that’s just because most of our stories are delivered that way. David Foster Wallace doesn’t tell us everything that happens with the narrator, or fill us in on the particulars of his life. Instead, he allows us to inhabit a character for a few pages and shift our perspective, if only for a time.