Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Something high and untouchable and miraculously beautiful

Or maybe that even the mere possibility of expressing any of this childish heartbreak to someone else seemed impossible except in the context of the mystery of true marriage, meaning not just a ceremony and financial merger but a true communion of souls, and Schmidt now lately felt he was coming to understand why the Church all through his childhood catechism and pre-Con referred to it as the Holy Sacrament of Marriage, for it seemed every bit as miraculous and transrational and remote from the possibilities of actual lived life as the crucifixion and resurrection and transubstantiation did, which is to say it appeared not as a goal to expect ever to really reach or achieve but as a kind of navigational star, as in in the sky, something high and untouchable and miraculously beautiful in the sort of distant way that reminded you always of how ordinary and unbeautiful and incapable of miracles you your own self were, which was another reason why Schmidt had stopped looking at the sky or going out at night or even usually ever opening the lightproof curtains of his condominium's picture window when he got home at night [...]


— from "Mister Squishy," in Oblivion, by David Foster Wallace.

So. I managed only to read a mere fraction of that brick he wrote, kind of hating it while admiring it, resenting it for not quite getting it, but had (still have) every intention of reading the whole damn thing before the year is out, chalking up my relationship with that book as a matter of wrong time, wrong place, and choosing to reserve judgement for after a better time and place could be had with it, and it sits uncomfortably with me to pay attention to the man's work just because he's gone and died, but I loved (loved!) that commencement address of his, and I pressed it upon tens of people who didn't know who the hell he was (and most of them were in agreement with me in finding it a pretty beautiful thing), and that lobster essay was pretty interesting too, so I found it unsettling but serendipitous that on my lunch break yesterday, on a quick jaunt over to the bookstore across the street, I should find Oblivion in the bargain stacks, so I bought it, even while I wanted to chastise the checkout clerk (on whose face there was no sign of recognition of the book, or the author's name, no sign that the material substance of our transaction had registered in any way other than that of the electronic scanning of barcode and resulting financial exchange), or the management, that this was somehow wrong, wanted to wake them up, "Don't you know he just killed himself? And you put him in the bargain stacks?" just as similarly, but different, when I found Doris Lessing on that same table I wondered, "Don't you know she was just awarded the Nobel prize?" but hey, the guy's dead, and the book was cheap, why not read it now? I managed to read a story (at random, from the middle) while waiting in line and found it, well, devastating.
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