RMSYL 17: Incarnations of Burned Children by David Foster Wallace (read by Alex Preston)

Whenever I meet flesh-encased authors, I need to be careful not to refer to them by the book-embedded appelations I hold of them in my head.

Alex Preston is of course Alex ‘TBC’ Preston. Not because he is forever awaiting confirmation, but because his name is, for me, synonymous with This Bleeding City.

So how annoying when these livingbreathing writing folk then go and produce further novels, requiring redrafts of psychic categories. It’s a bit like someone you’ve always comfortably imagoed as Julia Collins suddenly calling herself Julia Bhattacharya just because some bloke’s put a wedding ring on her finger.

So Alex ‘TBC’ Preston should now go by the name Alex ‘The Revelations’ Preston, which the baptism aggrandisement monitor in my head seems to be having problems letting through.

Until that is, we got together to read and talk about David Foster Wallace’s ‘Incarnations of Burned Children’. Everything in this discussion felt revelatory: from Alex’s incantatory, almost keening reading of the story, to the way in which we locked into our deciphering duties like two wild-eyed talmudic scholars or Ismaili Shi’a Imams in training.

DFW repays this very detail-oriented, personalised, whole-hearted reading of his work. But don’t all texts, and people too, for that matter?

To slightly misquote the medieval Sufi writer Abu Hafs Umar al-Suhrawardi: “To listen to the text means to listen to God; hearing becomes seeing, seeing becomes hearing, knowing turns into action, action turns into knowing – that is ‘fine hearing’.” And reading.

Revelations indeed.

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