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Home News by Category Critical Analysis Nature's Nightmare - Magnificent Diagrams

Nature's Nightmare - Magnificent Diagrams

So I've been reading Greg Carlisle's, Nature's Nightmare: Analyzing David Foster Wallace's Oblivion, and it's all that I expected. What I absolutely love about it is the way it guides the reader through the nested narratives of all the stories in my favourite collection of Wallace's short-fiction.

It begins with a concise introduction that orients the reader to Oblivion's position among Wallace's fiction and then presents the structure and method of analysis. Carlisle states that subsequent chapters, "summarize and comment on each of the eight stories in Oblivion section by section. In some cases Wallace has already divided his stories; in others I infer divisions."

Like Carlisle's Elegant Complexity the structure of Nature's Nightmare is clearly defined and allows for cross-reference between sections and stories. I like it. It's accessible for new readers, easily searchable for those familiar with the stories (the sub-headings throughout are logically drawn from the text of the stories), and delivers enough theory and analysis to point readers in the direction for further study of the kinds of literary, philosophical and intertextual references we're used to finding in Wallace's writing.

Added value comes from tracking of thematic motifs, and the ongoing comparisons and "assessment of content in relation to Infinite Jest and The Pale King" that map the changes of focus, development and maturation of Wallace's writing between IJ and TPK.

All of this is supported by magnificent diagrams. These detail the meticulous reading Carlisle has undertaken for each of the stories and reveal the astounding underlying narrative structure of the stories in this collection: team organisational charts and nested test diagrams for Mister Squishy; classroom seating plans forThe Soul is Not a Smithy; nested tellings within Another Pioneer; a mind-blowing denial chart for Oblivion and, "A partial diagram of David Wallace's flash of thoughts representing nested flashes of realization and moments of significance for Neal all the way back to age 4" from The Soul is Not a Smithy [Check out the snapshot posted over at Biblioklept that I've also posted below].

If you liked Elegant Complexity (or love the Oblivion collection) I've no doubt you'll like Nature's Nightmare. If you found Elegant Complexity a little too expansive and unwieldy (it did, after all, attempt to guide readers through one of the most complicated narratives of the 20th century... without spoilers!) then I think you'll happily find this volume to be a more concise and focused distillation of Carlisle's analytical perceptiveness.

Nature's Nightmare is a more-than-worthy addition to your Wallace collection. I'm glad I own it.


Purchase it from Amazon right here. Visit the DFW Book Store.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 10:28  

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