Thursday, July 15, 2010


If you've ever asked for a book recommendation from me, I have surely recommended Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Chabon is such a talented writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed this recent book of essays he published about some of his experience being a son, husband, and father. I read the book a few weeks ago, and haven't stopped thinking about a few of his pieces, including the one this excerpt is clipped from, briefly exploring Chabon's struggle with David Foster Wallace's suicide, and his wife's near-suicide, and how what he does comes into play. (Not all of his essays deal with such dark/weighty concerns, but they are all poignant in some respect, and usually funny as well.) I recommend.

The world, like our heads, was meant to be escaped from. They are prisons, world and head alike. "I guess a big part of serious fiction's purpose," [David Foster] Wallace once told an interviewer, "is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves." The purpose or the blessing of that kind of access-- which I have often thought of and characterized by means of the word escape-- is ultimately to increase our sense of shared experience, of shared suffering, rapture, nostalgia, or disgust with our fellow humans, whose thoughts and emotions are otherwise locked away. And yet that gift of access, for all its marvelous power to console the lonely and to dislodge the complacent, is a kind of trick, an act of Houdiniesque illusion. When the vision fades and the colored smoke disperses, we are left alone and marooned again in our skulls with nothing but our longing for connection. That longing drives writers and readers to seek the high, small window leading out, to lower the makeshift ropes of knotted bedsheet that stories and literature afford, and make a break for it. When that window can't be found, or will no longer serve, or when it inevitably turns out to be only paint on the unchanging, impenetrable backdrop of our heads, small wonder if the longing seeks another, surer means of egress."


Anonymous said...

I wish you lived in Sacramento. I am auditioning for "Crimes of the Heart" and I think you and I would make great sisters!