Tag Archive | David Foster Wallace

What I Read: In the Sea There are Crocodiles

To tell you the truth, blog, I’ve been ignoring you a bit. Katie and I have been running around like chickens with our heads cut off, searching desperately for an apartment because we have to be out of the place we’re subletting in about a week. We found a place, and we put a deposit down, and now all they have to do is accept us, which hopefully will happen before work starts next Wednesday so that I can get stuff moved in before I have to worry about my internship. Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is because the subway rides we were taking multiple times a couple days in a row were a whole hour long, so I got in a lot of reading and I read In the Sea There Are Crocodiles.

Title: In the Sea There are Crocodiles

Author: Fabio Geda

This book was written by a man named Fabio, so obviously it was good. But actually, it’s the novelization of the true story of a boy named Enaiatollah Akbari who, at the age of ten, is left alone in Pakistan by his mother, who wants nothing more than to get Enaiatollah out of their home in Afghanistan and into safer areas that aren’t crawling with angry Taliban. Enaiatollah narrates to Fabio his journey from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iran to Turkey to Greece and finally to Italy where he gets political asylum.

Obviously this book is at points heartbreakingly sad, but it’s also very beautifully written. If I hadn’t been on the subway as I finished, I probably would’ve cried a bit, because the ending has some pretty cathartic moments. (I reacted similarly to the ending of The Book Thief except with that I was alone in my room so I cried like an emotional turd; will blog about that book soon.) ANYWAY, the tone and style is really great and soft and sea-like and I really really liked it. It felt like the story really was being told to the reader, as it was to Fabio. I loved the little bits of italicized conversation between Fabio and Enaiatollah, also; oftentimes these were the saddest bits.

At only 215 pages, the book is pretty short (I actually read it on my phone, so I had no idea how long it was until I looked it up just now on the interwebs; KINDLES. LIBRARIES. NOW.) but it’s excellent and worth a read right now. Go read it. Really. Apparently it was up for a pretty prestigious award in Italy, too. (It’s a translation!) Speaking of, things that are weird to me: translations. I’m pretty into the language and style in novels, and it’s difficult with translations to know what was there and what wasn’t and obviously it is impossible for a translation to be 100% faithful to the original because different languages and different cultures just have different meanings attached to different words etc., etc. So I have to wonder, was the Italian version better? Worse? I will never know because my Italian is fairly limited, but these are things I think about. (Cool kid.)

In other news, I have approximately 12 books I read before In the Sea There are Crocodiles that I intend to blog about because I’ve been blogging about every book I’ve read since January, but most of them are YA or children’s, and I hate putting only YA and children’s books on here so I decided to skip ahead and mix things up by putting a book for people my age up. I can’t help the YA thing, but I promise I’m trying. (It isn’t my fault that Wildwood just came out, but at least that one is children’s, so it’s not YA romance which is a step up, right?)

Here are some grown-up books I’ve gotten recently, in a picture edited on my phone to look special or something. Can’t really remember what vibe I was going for. Anyway, if my new reading material says anything, it says that I’m a pretentious nerd. (We already knew that.)

(P.S. Consider the Lobster is so good so far. There’s this essay in it called “Authority and American Usage” and I about peed myself it was so good. I doubt a wide audience shares my enthusiasm for it.)

(P.P.S. WordPress just told me this is my 50th post! Probably this is the best I’ve been at blogging ever. YAY BOOKS and stuff.)


What I Read: Backbone

Thanks to the internet (and a slow shift at work), I just read David Foster Wallace’s short story, “Backbone,” on the New Yorker’s website. You should, too.

Title: “Backbone”

Author: David Foster Wallace

Completed?: Yes.

Spoiler-free Opinions: I hadn’t read anything by David Foster Wallace before, but had heard great things. “Backbone” is about a young boy whose goal was to be able to “press his lips to every square inch of his own body.” The short story takes the reader through his journey to do so while exploring his relation to the world and with his father, whose story (in less detail) is presented as well. The boy seems almost monk-like and other-worldly in his meditation and dedication to stretching and increasing his flexibility, and the impossibility of the task he has put before himself, combined with the desperate search of his father (the nature of which I will not spoil), gives the story an almost magical-realism feel, despite their feats and goals not actually requiring any sort of magic or fantasy. Reality, like the boy’s spine, is stretched and made more flexible. Wallace’s way with words is lovely and at times scientific, and the movement from the boy’s story to his father’s to the outside world artfully and thoughtfully done. I would certainly recommend it and plan to read more of his short stories. From what I hear, his nonfiction is also a good read.

Favorite (spoiler-free) Quotes:

“Dr. Kathy had reading glasses on a cord around her neck and a green button-up sweater that looked as if it were made entirely of pollen.”

His place in most people’s mental albums was provisional, with something like a dotted line around it—the image of someone saying something friendly over his shoulder as he heads for an exit.”

“Insights into or conceptions of his own physical “inaccessibility” to himself (as we are all of us self-inaccessible and can, for example, touch parts of one another in ways that we could not even dream of touching our own bodies) or of his complete determination, apparently, to pierce that veil of inaccessibility—to be, in some childish way, self-contained and -sufficient—these were beyond his conscious awareness. He was, after all, just a little boy.”


Stars: 4.5. The science-y/anatomy words can be a bit much at times, but this is a great story and you should read it. Right now. Do it.