David Foster Wallace, Sex Scenes, and the Wrong Kinds of Emotion

Greetings all! Check out this interesting new post from writer Daniel Wallace. Whats your take?

The Incompetent Writer

Foster Wallace

I took a remarkable fiction workshop in the autumn of last year. We didn’t just comment on each others’ work: we were also required to present an hour-long talk on a craft issue of our choice. This meant that we had to talk to each other; we had to explain ourselves. Through those craft talks, we learned how the rest of the class saw fiction, how they understood the realm in which they were attempting to work.

During our discussions, an issue that came up more than once was this: are there reader responses and emotions that a fiction writer–a serious, literary fiction writer–should not try to evoke? Are there experiences we should not try to give our readers?

This question first came up when we discussed a David Foster Wallace short-short story, “Incarnations of Burning Children.” It’s short; it’s brutal. Not only does it describe something truly…

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