Wallace, David Foster. Oblivion: Stories. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2004.
Reason read: June is short story month
The complexity of “Mr. Squishy” has been compared to a Magic Eye poster. Reading and rereading will yield varying results. Getting up close will show you something different than if you backed away or circled it, growling like a battle-ready rabid dog. As readers, we step into the scene as it is already underway, a focus group talking about an initially unnamed product. Then we discover we are focused on a chocolate dessert food product under the brand name of Mr. Squishy. The company is trying to market a chocolate dessert with the name “Felonies!” At the same time, unrelated to the scene on the inside is an individual climbing the outside glass wall. The duality of scenes implies an inside looking out/outside looking in desire.
“The Suffering Channel”
There are more ironies in this story than I know what to do with. when faced with writing a review for “The Suffering Channel” I soon found that I was suffering. How do I even begin to describe this short story? Having said all that, here is my feeble attempt:
Brint Molke is an artist. His medium is not oils or watercolor. He specializes in his own excrement. Not to say he is a sculpture in sh!t. He just happens to defecate art. This astonishing feat caught the attention of Skip Atwater, writer for Style magazine. The title of Wallace’s short story comes from Skip’s coverage of a cable channel called…wait for it…the suffering channel. A 24/7/365 channel where, you guessed it, one can watch images of all kinds of suffering. There is more to the story than this, but the overlaying detail that shrouds everything is Style magazine is located in one of the World Trade Center Towers and it’s September 10th, 2001. In other words, nothing in the story matters because in a day’s time everything will change.
Author fact: Wallace wrote “Mr Squishy” under the name Elizabeth Klemm.
Book trivia: there are six other stories in Oblivion that I did not read.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).