A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
"What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant."
Let me get my biases out in the open. I love DFW. I have to be careful somedays to not fall-down and worship his novels. Wallace's nonfiction talent also hits me as evidence that the universe is not even slightly unfair. But, I've always been just a little unsettled (and occasionally freaked out) by his short stories. 'Oblivion', like his earlier story collections ('Brief Interviews with Hideous Men' and 'Girl with Curious Hair') is one of those tortured works of fiction that both attract and repel me at the same time. It is a little spooky how some of the stories ("Mister Squishy" and "Another Pioneer") anticipate his last unfinished novel 'The Pale King' while "Good Old Neon" was hard to listen even though it has been almost four years since his suicide. Anyway, these stories are quirky, stylized, experimental, and brilliant in their beauty and their suffering.
Robert Petkoff, who also narrated DFW's 'The Broom of the System', 'The Pale King', 'Girl with the Curious Hair', enunciates a Wallace sentence like it's his JOB.
This is one of those important novels I would have probably passed over or missed if Sherwood Anderson wasn't mentioned in so many lists--and if so many authors I admire (Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck, O'Connor, McCarthy) didn't mention him as an influence or inspiration.
There is something beautiful about every single sentence that Anderson writes. Some of the stories in 'Winesburg, Ohio' (Death, Loneliness, the Strength of God, Godliness, and Adventure) were nearly perfect. Others, while they might not have hit me as hard as those five, were still almost uniformly beautiful and interesting. Like waves beating rhythmically against a wall, Anderson's stories seemed to gently deliver a message from the universe of the grotesque. Ideas of isolation, loneliness, love and the need to reach out to others (to find love or understanding) float from one story to the next and weave the various plots of the twenty-two short stories together. 'Winesburg, Ohio' is a great piece of American fiction and an amazing piece of 2oth century art.
The thing I liked most about Saunders' quirky fable is how innocent and honest his writing can be without becoming saccharine. He manages with his simple narrative and his prose ticks to walk up to the line of absurdly sentimental and overdone, but then slinks backs down.
Obvious comparisons should probably be made to David Sedaris' modern bestiary: 'Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk' and Dahl's 'Fantastic Mr Fox'. Saunders's story 'Fox 8' seems to belong to that same family group descended from the Aesopica. Not my favorite genre, but Saunders could write a phone book and I'd go out and buy it and read/listen to it.
While Saunders might consider his narration style to Leo Kottke's singing voice ("geese farts on a muggy day"), I think his voice is a perfect compliment to his writing.
St. Louis, Missouri
There are those for whom everything G. K. Chesterton said or wrote is worth quoting--especially in an argument. I know because I used to be one of them. Having let my conversion to Catholicism sink in over the course of a dozen years, I've mellowed somewhat but I still enjoy Chesterton immensely. In fact, being able to approach him with less reverence makes his work much more enjoyable.
As mystery stories these are entertaining enough--though many in this collection and others turn on double identities, so much so that after a while the listener starts expecting them. And while I always enjoy Chesterton's prose style, bristling as it does with insights that range from the merely descriptive to the deeply social, religious and psychological, it can sometimes become too noticeable and slide into apparent affectation. Finally, his characters have a bad way of slipping into his prose style whenever they attempt to describe or narrate (see the girl's bit of autobiography in "The Head of Caesar").
Chesterton's irreverent attitude toward everything his age held (and ours holds) in such high reverence--machinery, technology, psychology, science--and his quiet, persistent reminders that the truth never changes, no matter how much we believe we have, are worth the price of admission every time. While the mysteries are intriguing enough, the commentary they provoke are what really matter:
"What we all dread most," said the priest in a low voice, "is a maze with no centre. That is why atheism is only a nightmare."
"But he died penitent—he just died of being penitent. He couldn't bear what he'd done."
For the whole air was dense with the morbidity of blackmail, which is the most morbid of human things, because it is a crime concealing a crime; a black plaster on a blacker wound.
"There's a disadvantage in a stick pointing straight," answered the other. "What is it? Why, the other end of the stick always points the opposite way."
And Frederick Davidson is the perfect reader to deliver stuff like this.
Sherlock Holmes asserted a detective should never reveal his methods. But Father Brown is a detective with no method other than his grounding in ultimate truth that permits him to see things as they actually are. And that's a mystery that can be more satisfying than the best who-done-it.