Not that he needs any more post-morterm honors, but I now pronounce that David Foster Wallace has written the best short horror story. Ever.
That is addition to several other Bests of his. Best story about the porn industry. Best book review (You should probably get this book). Best tennis profile. Apparently the best book about Quebec separatism (I haven’t read it).
If only he’d gotten ahold of Mr. Rogers.
Just listened to a recent podcast of WNYC’s Soundcheck on my commute home today. The topic: what album changed your life? Falling asleep to Nirvana’s Nevermind (possible?) or looking at music in a new way after Sgt. Pepper were typical answers.
Far be it from me to say what affects someone’s life, but I think even the callers on the show would admit, if pressed, that the albums didn’t actually change their lives. Rather, the woman who moved to London and became a punk after listening to Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Love was probably thinking about radically altering her physical location and lifestyle for some time – Elvis just gave her a nudge over the edge. The point: music cannot be life-changing, but it can provide fuel for changes that have been shaped over time.
The same goes for stories I think (and the best albums have elements of storytelling). I don’t think John Steinbeck, or Tom Junod can change anyone’s life. But I do know that “East of Eden” affirmed my belief in the power of choice and “Can You Say … Hero?” pushed me further down a closer relationship to my family and friends.
A story about an unemployed single mother of five isn’t going to convince a National Review pundit that we need a greater social safety net – just as an unemployed mother of five going on to great success won’t convince someone at The Nation to embrace capitalism. But for someone who has already considered a topic, and is experiencing a change in their thinking, stories can push them over the edge.
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Tagged East of Eden, Elvis Costello, Esquire, John Steinbeck, Mr. Roger's, National Review, Nevermind, Nirvana, Sgt. Pepper, Soundcheck, The Nation, This Year's Love, Tom Junod, WNYC