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Story Review: Incarnations of Burned Children by David Foster Wallace


When I think of flash fiction, I guessed it to be quick, direct, and seamless on the first go. And I believe David Foster Wallace made use of flash fiction very meaningfully, significant up to the last letter. The urgency of the message is immensely felt on how he wrote this in one paragraph –a snapshot meant to transform.

The story is anything but pleasant. I was horrified, in fact. It was like reliving a memory buried down since infancy. I was unfortunate enough to have suffered the same fate when I was one-year old, accidentally bumping my walker into a stool where a pot of boiled water was perched. Apparently, a nanny placed it there to prepare for my bath. Good thing that my mother had not left for work yet. It was her clear head and first aid that saved my skin. The doctors said I was literally steaming when I was brought in. But that’s a story for next time.

…the Daddy moving quickly and well and his man’s mind empty of everything but purpose, not yet aware of how smoothly he moved or that he’d ceased to hear the high screams because to hear them would freeze him and make impossible what had to be done to help his child…

Incarnations of Burned Children is about parenthood, that’s why I brought my story here. Every time my mother tells that story, I could feel how scared she was then. And so, I deeply understand how the father felt during the whole event. Using a ‘stream of consciousness’ style for the narrative solidifies the disturbing imagery Wallace provided. He clearly described not only the physical and emotional pain of the toddler, but also the parallel feelings of helplessness and panic the father is going through.

If you’ve never wept and want to, have a child.



Being afraid accompanies parenthood most of the times; which is not such a bad thing, because being afraid means being ready too. Oh, there is bliss in being a parent, no doubt about that. But bringing up a child comes with pain, and we cannot protect our children from all the pain, all the time. They will experience it one way or another. We, as parents, should always be ready instead.

Published, 3rd story from Oblivion: Stories

Rating: 5/5 stars


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