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David Foster Wallace's Balancing BooksFictions of Value$
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Jeffrey Severs

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780231179447

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231179447.001.0001

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His Capital Flush

His Capital Flush

Despairing Over Work and Value in Oblivion

(p.167) 5 His Capital Flush
David Foster Wallace's Balancing Books

Jeffrey Severs

Columbia University Press

This chapter treats Oblivion as a transitional work and Wallace’s most despairing book – despairing because it is the first fiction collection written entirely after Infinite Jest’s success, but also because he largely abandons certain features of “payoff” for a reader’s “work” that have dictated his maneuvers from Broom forward. I show Wallace fine-tuning this new aesthetic in a reading of moral, aesthetic, and informational values in the important late essay “Deciderization.” In addition to finding new dimensions in his representation of coins and social values, particularly in “Mister Squishy” and “The Soul is Not a Smithy,” this chapter connects Wallace’s new skepticism about work to his increasingly intricate readings of social institutions within a neoliberal universe: I extend chapter 2’s reading of the New Deal into the twenty-first century by revealing Wallace’s critiques of the health insurance industry in “Smithy,” “Oblivion,” and, in a brief flash-forward appropriate to the porous borders between late Wallace works, The Pale King. The chapter concludes with an extended reading of the workless and weightless of “The Suffering Channel.”

Keywords:   Oblivion, Information, insurance industry, neoliberalism

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