Archive for the ‘dfw’ Category
From (what was chosen to be) the first page of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King:
Past the flannel plains and blacktop graphs and skylines of canted rust, and past the tobacco-brown river overhung with weeping trees and coins of sunlight through them on the water downriver, to the place beyond the windbreak, where untilled fields simmer shrilly in the A.M. heat: shattercane, lamb’s-quarter, cutgrass, sawbrier, nutgrass, jimsonweed, wild mint, dandelion, foxtail, muscadine, spinecabbage, goldenrod, creeping charlie, butter-print, nightshade, ragweed, wild oat, vetch, butcher grass, invaginate volunteer beans, all heads gently nodding in a morning breeze like a mother’s soft hand on your cheek. An arrow of starlings fired from the windbreak’s thatch. The glitter of dew that stays where it is and steams all day. A sunflower, four more, one bowed, and horses in the distance standing rigid and still as toys. All nodding. Electric sounds of insects at their business. Ale-colored sunshine and pale sky and whorls of cirrus so high they cast no shadow. Insects all business all the time. Quartz and chert and schist and chondrite iron scabs in granite. Very old land. Look around you. The horizon trembling, shapeless. We are all of us brothers.
“Insects all business all the time.” The line breaks – in its brilliance, but a brilliance that comes of its impersonation of a cliché – the lyrically chanting list of “stuff in a field.” (One can almost see an inspirational poster made of the phrase, the drone ants lifting improbably [if relatively] enormous items in their eternal effort to keep calm and carry it on. A horrific poster in an Amazon fulfilment centre?) It’s as if one part of realism (that Barthian effet de réel that comes of the mentioning of objects that serve no role in the plotward establishment of meaning) intersects with another notion of realism, the one mentioned in the post to which this one is an addendum – the deflationary mode, that which operates through the undercutting of lyricism, the bringing of things down to earth.
It’s an intersection like a minor car accident is an intersection, a comedic if jarring one. That’s what we sometimes forget about realism, perhaps, just how funny it is, is often meant to be. A higher form of comedy.
Here’s a review of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King by, well, you can figure it out… Lots about bureaucracy in there, no? Really like the image (above) they put with it…
I don’t really understand the point of this piece at The New Statesman about DFW. Basically, Aime Williams a) doesn’t seem to have read much Wallace, and hasn’t yet finished The Pale King but b) offers the incredibly insightful point that he has some serious fans who may have trouble evaluating his work while c) calling him silly for having some strange orthographical habits, d) didn’t really like Oblivion because other people did (do you see any other explanation?) and e) seemed to think that the title of one of his essay collections was a sign of some sort of childishness.
Overall, the argument of the piece seems to be I haven’t liked DFW but a few of the quotes from the new book that I’ve seen in reviews look interesting. Still, his fans are irrational and make me want not to like him… Not quite the stuff of riveting literary journalism, no…
Huh. To my mind better practice to a) read the books, at least more than one of them b) decide why you do or don’t like them and then, and only then, c) write up something about why. Guess I’m just old school like that…
From a footnote in John Jeremiah Sullivan’s GQ review of David Foster Wallace’s forthcomign The Pale King,
Early in 2008, GQ asked him to write about Obama’s speeches or, more largely, about American political rhetoric. It was still a somewhat gassy idea as presented to him, but Wallace saw the possibilities, so we started making inquiries to the Obama campaign, and even made reservations for him to be in Denver during the convention. Our thought was to get him as close to the head speechwriters (and so as close to Obama) as possible. But Wallace said, very politely, that this wasn’t what interested him. He wanted to be with a worker bee on the speechwriting team—to find out how the language was used by, as he put it, “the ninth guy on the bench.” It also seemed like maybe a temperament thing, that he would be more comfortable reporting away from the glare.
More, I’m sure, to come on The Pale King. Going to walk across the street now to Waterstones and check if they have any in stock yet….