In search of the elusive "pleasure-burst"

I was reminded, reading James Walcott's fairly coal-raking review in Bookforum  of the trio of new books coming out on Donald Barthelme, of this great George Saunders quote from a recent McSweeney's:

When I was a kid I had one of these Hot Wheels devices designed to look like a little gas station. Inside the gas station were two spinning rubber wheels. One's little car would weakly approach the gas station, then be sent forth by the spinning rubber wheels to take another lap around the track or, more often, fly out and hit one's sister in the face.

A story can be thought of as a series of these little gas stations. The main point is to get the reader around the track; that is, to the end of the story. Any other pleasures a story may offer (theme, character, moral uplift) are dependent on this.

Saunders is talking about a story by Donald Barthelme, and goes on to say something referred to by Walcott: "[Barthelme] knows that... the real work of the story... is to give the reader a series of pleasure-bursts. The story is just a repetition of this event: the reader leaves a little gas station at high speed, looking forward to the next one."

I was thinking about this when trying to pinpoint the elusive "extra thing" that makes good writing great. It's understood that a certain mastery of sentences, of storytelling and characterization, is part of the package, but that competence is pretty hollow if not accompanied by the pleasure-burst. When reading (or when writing, I suppose) the PB tends to come in the form of a shock---something completely unexpected yet deeply true. I can think of any number of these from fiction I've read in the past few weeks: the moment, in Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, when the eccentric Colonel Sands, standing before a group of US soldiers engaged in duty of questionable relevance to the war, recounts in strenuous detail a Notre Dame game in which Knute Rockne showed a moment of cowardice; the moment, in Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise, when a French woman who seems to have fallen in love with an occupying German soldier, betrays him to win back her cold and embittered mother in-law; the moment, in Charles Baxter's "Gryphon," when the bizarre and enchanting Ms. Firenczi scolds a boy to "stop fossicking" at his desk.

Of course, the pleasure-burst principle is the definition of subjectivity. I'd love to hear about the little gas stations that have kept you going through a recent book. Got any?