The Author's style is wonderful. The book was left unfinished. The editors assembled the enormous amount of material in such a way as to avoid losing a single drop of DFW's writing. I felt like I was looking at a slideshow (the creation of synesthesias is one of DFW's great abilities) with slides often breathtaking but arranged in a baffling way.
(anobii software messed-up again - this comment was written around 2012 but I did a 'save' after minor changes and now the date is WRONG)
Benché sia contrario alla mia religione, ho deciso di abbandonare questo romanzo (e premetto di aver letto altri libri di Wallace) perchè davvero, malgrado sforzi reiterati, non ci capivo davvero un ca**o...del resto, se è rimasto incompiuto, ci sarà un motivo!...Continua
<blockquote>Wallace had been mulling the possibilities for a third novel since the mid-1990s, even as he began the stories that would form the heart of Brief Interviews. The setting had come early, possibly even before the publication of Infinite Jest: he knew he wanted to write about the IRS. The agency fit well with Wallace’s Pynchonian appetite for clandestine organizations and hidden conspiracies. And like the tennis academy and recovery house in Infinite Jest, it was a world unto itself, where characters would be in charged apposition to one another. Wallace himself had had numerous small brushes with the agency over the years, usually involving trivial errors on Form 1099s that he or his accountant had to get corrected. These encounters touched off the same anxiety within him as communications from lawyers and fact-checkers. He had an idea as well of the IRS as a secular church, a counterpart to Alcoholics Anonymous in Infinite Jest.14 But, finally, he probably settled on the IRS for the most obvious reason: it was the dullest possible venue he could think of and he had decided to write about boredom.</blockquote>
It's hard to review anything by David Foster Wallace to me, so far. His books are life-changers in a way that they skewer your mind and, at the least, force yourself into questioning your own ways but also those of others. It's a bit like listening to how Bill Hicks started reacting at the end of his life, when he received word that he would die from cancer: everything's tinged with timelessness, written passionately, carefully and with love. It's a very berth that doesn't really have anything to do with throwaway culture (which is funny, considering how much Wallace immersed himself in popular culture, especially TV) but with human emotions and the intellectual.
"The Pale King" was published posthumously. Having said that, the book had to be published. I think even Wallace wanted that, considering how he left the book just before committing suicide. And it's not only the best posthumous book I have ever read, but reading 10-20 pages into it, it was clear to me that the form and content was a clear, bested leap from "Infinite Jest".
<blockquote>Wallace in his final hours had "tidied up [his] manuscript so that his wife could find it. Below it, around it, inside his two computers, on old floppy disks in his drawers were hundreds of other pages—drafts, character sketches, notes to himself, fragments that had evaded his attempt to integrate them into the novel." On her blog, Kathleen Fitzpatrick reported that the Pale King manuscript edited by Michael Pietsch began with "more than 1000 pages ... in 150 unique chapters". The published version is 540 pages and 50 chapters.</blockquote> -- From the Wikipedia article on "The Pale King"
Still, it's extremely good form. And I can't imagine how tough it must have been to edit the book. Pietsch, a long-time editor with Wallace, must have done a terrific job. Wallace's notebooks from writing "The Pale King" are available online, thanks to the Harry Ransom Center, to help the reader see what was there.
<blockquote>In the process of writing the novel he came to call The Pale King, he laid out its central tenet in one of his notebooks: Bliss—a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious—lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.</blockquote> --From D. T. Max's biography on David Foster Wallace, titelled "Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story"
To paraphrase Bill Hicks again: it's a ride.
You get the intimate feel from people inside the IRS, people brought there by a life-long drive towards the bureaucratic, presenting them as humans rather than something out of a Kafka book. You get luck, love, death, life, music, and details that made me cry. The first pages of this book made me want to laud Wallace above and beyond.
And the people. Always the people. While reading the book, I often felt "I wouldn't want to be any of these", but at the same time, I could definitely relate to the mundane and be touched by how Wallace made it feel beautiful. Filing copies and making copies and going through the same routine over and over, while looking at the clock trying to think of ways to make time go faster, or thinking about home, night and the day after, when you will, no doubt, clatter forward in despair, tediousness and silence around you while there are people scattered only an arm's length from you.
Wallace's inclusion of himself as a character who made it into the IRS by chance is better than imagined. The footnotes - oh yes, there are footnotes, and not endnotes - are here as explanations, comments, another world looking in and at the same time anything but pretentious garbage.
Who other than Wallace, in modern times, had/has the ability to write something this complex without making the reading boring and the financial aspects of being an IRS worker utterly uninteresting?
Just read this. Don't give a toss about this review, really. His words excel most I've ever read. This is basically human, touching and moving beyond my feeble attempts at explaining what "The Pale King" is about....Continua
To read my review in Spanish, click here: http://lunairereadings.blogspot.com/2012/05/pale-king-david-foster-wallace.html
This is a great work of art. I think it is one of the best books I have ever read. However, a note of caution I have to put here: it is tremendously boring. It has endless transcriptions of heavy meetings within the IRS workers in Peoria, Il; chapter after chapter of the IRS code of conduct and taxpayer’s instructions. It contains painfully detailed descriptions of things that don’t have any interest whatsoever; pages and pages of stuff that the reader can surely do without.
So, why is it so good? I don’t know. Maybe because of that: the endless nonsense in it. There is a very interesting introduction in chapter 9, where the author explains why he wrote what he wrote. And in spite of all the junk, there is a clear picture of the principal characters and their particular lives.
Unfortunately, this is a very raw work, very unfinished and unpolished. The author died of severe depression (took his own life) before he could finish the work. It is very painful to read the last chapter because it is a clear example of how unfinished the novel was. But I can assure that reading this book is really worth the pain. I loved the time I spent with it, and I may do it some other time. I will even give a second try to Infinite Jest, which I abandoned too soon, without knowing the brilliance of the mind behind the novel....Continua
A guard working security outside a credit union. Standing at parade rest all day. Can't read or chat. Simply watching people come in and out, nodding when nodded at. In Midstate Security faux-police uniform. There in case of any trouble. Stecyk walks in and out several times, an occasion to watch guard. What's impressive is that the guard pays closer attention to him each time, meaning the guard registers the fact that Stecyek is coming in and out more than is normal. He's able to pay attention even in what has to be a staggeringly dull job....Continua