The Suffering Channel – Story Review

The bulk of the story is just talking about shit. Literally. Brint Molke is an artist on the brink of reluctant celebrity (or infamy) for producing works of art out of his ow shit. The twist is that he doesn’t take his crap and mold it into anything or fling it paintins. Instead, his body just seems to produce shit that is aesthetically pleasing and strongly resembling other works of art/people/objects. For example, as part of authenticating his “abilities” one of the figures he is to reproduce is Marylin Monroe’s iconoclastic image of her standing over a steam vent, attempting to hold her dress down while smiling a smile of envious delight.

This special ability of Brint Moltke is being covered by a “salaryman” named Skip Atwater who writes for a feature in Style magazine called What in the World. (WITH).  He is also supposed to cover a fledgling cable channel called The Suffering Channel which broadcasts, 24/7/365, images of, yes, suffering. Skip himself is a bit of a rube who simultaneously takes pride in his work while searching for exterior buts of motivation and reassurance that his work matters.

Meanwhile, Style magazine seems to be entirely staffed and ran by interns. Which makes Skip possibly the only paid worker we encounter from Style. Whenever the office world of Style is focused on, it always seemed as if it was a less hyper-competitive version of the world in Bret Ellis’s “American Psycho.” Skirts, blouses, bikes and heels get as much page space as dialog and inner office politics. While no one whips out competing business cards, there is still a definite air of personal competition when someone wearing a pair of silk hose that is”so delicate it can only be worn once” is mentioned.

The counterweight to Brint Moltke’s reluctance to step into the spotlight and Skip Atwater’s insecurities, is Brint’s large wife, Amber Moltke. Amber Moltke’s size is continually focused upon and even made into a bizarrely sexual force, especially as she simultaneously cripples a rental car while mauling the less than socially gifted Skip Atwater.  Not only is she physically indulgent, she is fame hungry in a way that is tunnel-visioned and predatory in a way that I’ve only seen approximated by “reality show” contestants as they fight and claw to either stay on the island or in the locked compound.

Against all of this is the reality that none of this will matter and that this article will very likely not be released and the majority of the people at Style will soon be dead. Style’s headquarters are in the world trade center. The date for completing this issue of style is September 10.  We know that on September 11, the towers will be gone and nothing much will be remaining. So all of this work, this conniving, this positioning, is for nothing.

Which seems to be the central thrust of this story. In the end, everything is ultimately for nothing and that the majority of our work will not have any long lasting appeal in the face of greater, more powerful events in human history. So as Amber Moltke shoves her embarassed, near reclusive husband before the cameras, quite possibly doing great emotional harm to him, we already know that nothing will come of it. Despite her repeatedly confessing to Skip that she believes her husband was horribly abused as a child and that this abuse affects him to the present, she willfully pushes  the story forward regardless of what affects it will have on him.

Meanwhile, the Styl e Magazine office hums along with a fascination of the superficial (such as one intern’s bicycle being of competition level and weighing only 8 pounds, allowing her to heft it easily and haul it into the building rather than leaving it padlocked on the street where it would no doubt be stolen) also leaves you with little sympathy for what you know their future will be and how their efforts to churn out their magazine full of thinly disguised tabloid news will be ultimately fruitless.

Even Brint Moltke offers little reason for sympathy as he is essentially forced on a death march towards a public bowel movement to prove the artistic ability of digestive system. At some point, he is just too pathetic to care about, as he sits dumbly while his wife negotiates away his dignity.

If anyone is deserving of sympathy it might be Skip Atwater who is just as bruised by his upbringing as Brint Moltke apparently is but has still managed to carve out a bit of a life for himself while also trying to convince himself that what he does is good for anything beyond that paycheck.

In the end, Wallace seems to be saying that we need to focus our lives less on the pointless shit and find what is truly purposeful for our existence. In the end, all of the Style Magazine-esque stuff is short lived and brushed from the world by larger, more powerful forces. By forces that do have some sort of meaning and purpose behind them, regardless of whether or not we agree or condone the purpose or the force, and that only things guided by purpose leave any significant traces upon our reality.

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One Response to “The Suffering Channel – Story Review”

  1. Oblivion by David Foster Wallace – Book Review « Loose Leaf Bound Says:

    […] The Suffering Channel […]

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