David Foster Wallace, "The Suffering Channel"

Style magazine plans a 400-word article on a guy who poops masterpieces.

(from Oblivion)

Wow. It took several days to read — this 91 pager is an I Read A Short Story Today record (for length, not pages per day) — but that’s more a comment on my distractions than how alluring the pages were. “The Suffering Channel” is explicit in its details, mesmerizing in its observations. The action comes slow, but the pace is quick, if that makes sense. New ideas, and wells of sharp, sad comedy, trickle in from every sentence. (Sometime you just got to kick a metaphor in the shin.)
This story has a satirical bone to pick with frivolous, pre-9/11 silliness, but it’s sort of gentle about it. I like these people, even though they misuse “literally.” I see doom coming to them before the story lets you know one way or the other, and it’s mean and pathetic and hilarious. So much time, energy and empty soul-searching is spent on a mere 400 word puff piece — about an outsider artist who has no idea how he does the remarkable (and gross) thing he does so well — for an issue of a feathery nothing magazine run by overprivileged interns due out September 10, 2001. Oh yeah, the office is in the World Trade Center, NYC. You just know, the shit is about to really go down. So to speak.
Loved this story.

It came recommended by I Read A Short Story Today benefactor Maura Johnston (of Maura.com), whose review of Oblivion is quoted among the press accolades within my softcover edition. Famous!

Yo La Tengo, “Tom Courtenay”

One thought on “David Foster Wallace, "The Suffering Channel"

  1. HH

    My experience with reading Wallace has shown me that his sublime metaphors unveil the truth. I’ve just started reading this story but perhaps it will uncover what really happened that day.


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