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The Pale King

af David Foster Wallace

Andre forfattere: Michael Pietsch (Redaktør)

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2,230595,367 (3.91)74
The character David Foster Wallace is introduced to the banal world of the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, and the host of strange people who work there, in a novel that was unfinished at the time of the author's death.
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Engelsk (57)  Spansk (1)  Hollandsk (1)  Alle sprog (59)
Viser 1-5 af 59 (næste | vis alle)
This was the first DFW that I read, and though it took quite a while to get through, it captured my attention and led me to read other works by him, including his essays, which are much more appealing to me than his fiction. ( )
  resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
Reading David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King

Wallace fans owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Pietsch, the editor who assembled and posthumously published (at Little, Brown, and Co., in 2011) David Foster Wallace’s last, unfinished novel, The Pale King, which I just finished reading. I was introduced to Wallace’s work not at Amherst, the college we both attended, but by a student of mine during my first stint as a full-time high-school teacher in a school for people of all ages with learning differences. Wallace could have written an Infinite-Jest-length novel about the characters there, and I don’t just mean the students. Nick, an anxious Asian kid, gave me a copy of Girl with Curious Hair, which I read flinching and cringing, but unable to put it down. (I use excerpts from the title story in a creative writing assignment about diction: it features a socially-impaired young man who speaks like a CPA hanging out with a bunch of punks and druggies.)
A decade later, I was flying from San Antonio to Cincinnati to apartment hunt over Memorial Day weekend. I read quickly, about a hundred pages an hour, so when I travel, I look for big, thick books that will last the whole flight. I happened across the tenth-anniversary trade paperback edition of Infinite Jest at the airport bookstore, and bought it. It lasted me not only through the long weekend but through the subsequent move as well, so when I recall parts of that novel, they are indelibly intertwined with bits of the summer of 2008. I read it on the air mattress on the floor of my new apartment, and in the wicker chair I salvaged from the basement, while I waited for my furniture to arrive. One scene takes place in Boston Commons, where homeless men are lying on a slope, sleeping in the sun, because, according to Wallace, dogs won’t do their business on a slope. I remember scoffing, because my greyhound Bella was busy squatting on every slope her leash allowed her to in our new hilly neighborhood.
Infinite Jest marked me as a reader first with its sheer length. As I said, I usually speed through a book in a few days at most. This one took me a few weeks, the longest I’d spent reading a single book since I read Georges Perec’s La Vie Mode d’Emploi (Life a User’s Manual) in French in grad school. Wallace has in fact been compared to Perec, and there are some characters who could step comfortably from the oeuvre of one to the other and feel right at home: the unnamed boy in The Pale King who has made it his mission to press his lips to every square inch of his body, for example, would fit right into La Vie. This sort of exhaustive (and exhausting) character may be more Perec than Wallace, but the obsessive tendencies, the slow deliberate accretion of detail, can be found under the surface of any Wallace character.
Another aspect of Jest that marked me (and slowed me down) was its extensive endnotes: just shy of a hundred pages of them in the trade paperback edition I read. I believe this post-modern tic, which appears as footnotes in King, is more than just a gimmick for Wallace. In The Pale King, at least, I think he must be paying homage to one of the best and earliest post-modern works to use extensive endnotes: Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire, in which a narcissistic professor analyzes a colleague’s poem about losing a daughter, thinking the poem is about himself, the critic, and the “loss” of his country, from which he is a refugee. The critic’s obtuseness creates an ironic contrast and imbalance between the two narratives – the telling of the reader’s own tale, as it unfolds in the notes, ends up being longer than the poem. In Wallace, it’s the other way around: the notes tend to point out the obtuseness or unreliability of a narrator, or else further underline his neuroses, as he continually expands and amends his narration.
This summer, I read The Broom of the System, the novel Wallace wrote as part of his senior thesis at Amherst College. I found that all three of Wallace’s novels are about several overlapping ideas: words, language, and their power; anxiety of various kinds, sometimes producing addiction, to various substances; the problems with being both outrageously pretty and hideously unattractive; the sham that so-called “higher” education can be. All three novels overlay these issues with strange characters, weird plots, and even bizarre architecture – I’m sure students are already writing theses about the buildings in Wallace’s three novels, and if they aren’t, they should be. However, The Pale King, while sharing many commonalities with these two earlier works, is also different from them, and in my opinion, better.
First, it is set in the past. Both Broom and Jest are set in some sort of near future or alternate universe where corporations dominate the American landscape even more than now: in Broom, a corporation has turned most of my state into G.O.D., the Great Ohio Desert. In Jest, years are named for their corporate sponsors, such as the Year of the Depends Undergarment. I only noticed one such joke in King, the Self-Storage Parkway on which is located the IRS building where most of the ‘action’ takes place (by design, the book has almost no plot). This past -- the 1980s, for the most part, excepting flashbacks -- allows Wallace to discuss politics without bashing current politicians. Section 19, for example, is a dialogue between several unnamed characters stuck in an elevator theorizing about how the laid-back sixties led directly to the greedy eighties – while sounding very much as if they are discussing post-9/11 America and the current recession.
Second, The Pale King has been stripped of much of the random, cryptic, and often distracting silliness that prevailed in the other two books. No midget Quebecois separatists, as in Jest; no subversive rest-home fugitives literally living underground, as in Broom. This is not to say that The Pale King is a realist novel: it contains two ghosts and a man who can levitate. But more of the characters seem more real. Several characters are described first as unnamed children with traumatic childhoods, which experiences we are led to believe drove them for various reasons into working for the IRS, known in the novel as “the Service.” Each of these childhood profiles is as cringe-provoking as the stories in Girl with Curious Hair: you feel for the child, you want to protect him, but you know you probably would have laughed at him, just like his tormentors, real or imagined. This grounding in reality allows characters to spell out thoughts that were only hinted at in the previous two novels. The single section of King where the stunning beauty Meredith Rand recounts to a co-worker the epiphanies she had when she was committed to a mental health facility is much more touching and relatable, to me, than all the chapters in Infinite Jest featuring Joelle van Dyne, a.k.a. P.G.O.A.T., the prettiest girl of all time, who wears a veil because every man who sees her face falls in love with her (or is it because she is hideously scarred? We never know for sure.).
In brief, for me, there’s a boiled-down nakedness, a soul-baring quality to The Pale King that makes it, unfinished as it is, Wallace’s best work. He speaks about issues that should be important to all of us: the relationship between citizens and their government; the flaws of higher education; the way we interact with our peers; the way children can live painfully alone in their own little worlds. And in retrospect, these novels contain so many cries for help. So many characters are faced with the same problems Wallace struggled with – being a star student and athlete; addiction. (This summer, I also read Mary Karr’s memoir trilogy; in Lit, she writes about dating a young man named David, who wears Wallace’s trademark Timberlands and bandana. I didn’t realize until I read an interview with her that her David was the David, and that they met in Alcoholics Anonymous.) So many characters consider suicide, or commit it, like Eric Clipperton, the young tennis player in Jest who plays with a gun to his head to “psych out” his opponents, then actually follows through. In fact, I’m rather put off by the way that The Pale King’s Editor’s Note and author biography gloss over Wallace’s suicide, simply referring to his death without naming its cause. I don’t think we would be dishonoring Mr. Wallace in any way by being up front about the fact that he took his own life. I think he was moving toward a more honest and open communication of his – and our – problems in writing this book. And that openness touched me in a way that had me marking passages to return to later, passages that resonated with my own problems and struggles toward solutions. This least affected novel of Wallace’s is, to me, his most affecting. ( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
Δείτε επίσης και στο Chill and read


Ο David Foster Wallace είναι αναμφισβήτητα ένας από τους μεγαλύτερους Αμερικανούς συγγραφείς της γενιάς του. Σαν καλλιτέχνης που ήταν, ήταν και ευαίσθητη ψυχή, μία που φυτοζωούσε μέσα στην κατάθλιψη. Αυτή ήταν και η κατάσταση που τον οδήγησε να δώσει τέλος στη ζωή του και να αφήσει πίσω του το μεγάλο έργο που δούλευε τα τελευταία χρόνια. Μετά το θάνατό του, η γυναίκα του, έχοντας βρει κάπου διακόσιες σελίδες σε σειρά πάνω στο γραφείο του, επικοινώνησε με τον επιμελητή του και του ζήτησε να ολοκληρώσει το βιβλίο, ώστε να εκδοθεί και να διαβάσουν όλοι το δημιούργημά του. Ο επιμελητής δέχθηκε, αλλά η δουλειά του δεν ήταν καθόλου εύκολη.

Μαζί με τις ολοκληρωμένες σελίδες, υπήρχε άπειρο υλικό σελίδων και σημειώσεων που ο Wallace είχε δουλέψει για το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο. Δεν υπήρχε ορθή σειρά ή κάποιο προσχέδιο ώστε να καταλάβει κάποιος πως θα έπρεπε να είναι δομημένο το βιβλίο. Ο συγγραφέας είχε γράψει πολλά κεφάλαια που φαίνονταν ασύνδετα μεταξύ τους. Αυτή τη δύσκολη δουλειά ανέλαβε ο επιμελητής με τα αποτελέσματα που βλέπουμε στο τελικό κείμενο και με την υπενθύμιση ότι πρόκειται για ανολοκλήρωτο έργο.

Το τελικό αποτέλεσμα είναι ένα σύνολο 50 περίπου κεφαλαίων που μιλούν για τη γραφειοκρατεία στην Φορολογική Υπηρεσία των ΗΠΑ και το που μπορεί να οδηγηθούν οι υπάλληλοί της. Μιλά για την άπειρη γραφειοκρατεία, τις ατέρμονες σελίδες που γυρνούν η μία μετά την άλλη, τη βαρεμάρα και την ανία που μπορεί να νιώσει ο φορολογικός υπάλληλος σε σημείο που να έχει φαντασιώσεις ή οράματα. Ο ίδιος υποστηρίζει ότι έχει δουλέψει στη Φορολογική Υπηρεσία και ότι όλο αυτό δεν είναι ένα μυθιστόρημα παρά ένα χρονικό, όπου παρατίθενται συνεντεύξεις, εκμυστηρεύσεις και μαρτυρίες αληθινών υπαλλήλων. Όσων δηλαδή δέχθηκαν να τις παραχωρήσουν στο συγγραφέα. Φυσικά έχει αλλάξει ονόματα ώστε να μην εκτεθεί κανένας, όμως πως μπορεί κανείς να πιστέψει ότι το μεγάλο έργο του Wallace θα ήταν ένα χρονικό των όσων έζησε για λίγους μήνες σε μια δημόσια υπηρεσία;

Πιο πολύ μοιάζει σαν μια απεικόνιση του εαυτού του. Ούτε λίγο ούτε πολύ, θα έλεγε κανείς ότι η κατάθλιψη με την οποία πάλευε για χρόνια, πέρασε στην πένα του όπου είτε προσπάθησε να την πολεμήσει είτε απλά τον νίκησε. Ο Wallace γράφει για την πραγματικότητα στην οποία ζει μέσα από την πάθησή του. Είναι ανιαρά, βαρετά και χωρίς νόημα κι όμως έτσι πρέπει να είναι γιατί κάποιος άλλος το έχει αποφασίσει. Μήπως τελικά «Ο χλομός βασιλιάς» δεν είναι τίποτε άλλο από μια προσπάθεια του Wallace να μας μεταφέρει στον κόσμο στον οποίο ζούσε και ο ίδιος τα τελευταία χρόνια; Ανάμεσα σε απίστευτης διάρκειας μονολόγους που στο χαρτί πιάνουν πάνω από τριάντα σελίδες; Ή σε διαλόγους ανούσιους, χωρίς αρχή και τέλος. Ένας πραγματικά περίεργος και αχανής κόσμος…
  GeorgiaKo | Dec 1, 2020 |
Sublieme taal en intelligentie. Emoties tuss de regels.De leegte en de verpletterende verveling druipt van elke pagina (603 p) en sleept de lezer helemaal mee. De personages zijn kafkaësk... ( )
  Heistaanzee83 | Sep 11, 2020 |
There are parts of this that are hilarious such as the introduction that starts well into the book where the author disclaims the boilerplate legal disclaimer on the back side of the frontispiece the states that any similarity to a real person living or dead is purely coincidental. Or when the narrator explains why he was expelled from college. But overall this is a book that examines the life of being an accountant and a study of boredom. I suppose he was trying to be new and innovative; this book was pieced together from his papers after his suicide. ( )
  JoeHamilton | Jul 21, 2020 |
Viser 1-5 af 59 (næste | vis alle)
Unfinished or no, it’s worth reading this long, partly shaped novel just to get at its best moments, and to ponder what Wallace, that excellent writer, would have done with the book had he had time to finish it himself.
tilføjet af Shortride | RedigerKirkus Reviews (Apr 1, 2011)
 
'By turns breathtakingly brilliant and stupefying dull — funny, maddening and elegiac — “The Pale King” will be minutely examined by longtime fans for the reflexive light it sheds on Wallace’s oeuvre and his life.'
tilføjet af GYKM | RedigerNew York Times, Machiko Kakutani (Mar 31, 2011)
 

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David Foster Wallaceprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Pietsch, MichaelRedaktørmedforfatteralle udgaverbekræftet

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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, nut-grass, jimsonweed, wild mint, dandelion, foxtail, muscadine, spine-cabbage, goldenrod, creeping charlie, butter-print, nightshade, ragweed, wild oat, vetch, butcher grass, invaginate volunteer beans, all heads gently nodding in the morning breeze like a mother's soft hand on your cheek.
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The character David Foster Wallace is introduced to the banal world of the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, and the host of strange people who work there, in a novel that was unfinished at the time of the author's death.

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