Short story: “It Was a Great Marvel that He Was in the Father without Knowing Him (I)”

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“It Was a Great Marvel that He Was in the Father without Knowing Him (I),” by David Foster Wallace

First appeared in the Iowa Review 24.3 (fall 1994), online here; later part of Infinite Jest

A little less than five and a half pages in the journal; roughly 1829 words

This stands alone well despite the weird jumble of Infinite Jest plot points (including the unexplained use of Subsidized Time). The allegation that Avril is drugging Hal’s food fits in neatly with Hal’s general demeanor, though the mention of the cartridge in Himself’s head doesn’t make sense without more about his film career. It’s possible that if I were coming to this piece without any knowledge of the novel at all, the drugging would tip me off that Himself is telling the truth about everything, but in that case his ravings would remain mostly opaque.

Apparently Wallace originally put this scene at the beginning of the book. The scene that replaced it is much more apt.

“Phallectomy” is misspelled and the plural of “shaman” isn’t “shamen.” There could be some convoluted reason for these mistakes but I suspect it’s just that nobody spell-checks David Foster Wallace.

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