I am excited to be in this space over the next ten weeks and see what y’all are diving into. I find that we have such a unique array of readers and their respective readings, it’s always a good time. I’m going to finish 2,023 pages if the gods are willing — I’ve been reading The Pale King by David Foster Wallace for the last couple of weeks and it’s a long one over 500 pages. I’m about 300 pages in. I have always loved listening to DFW — there are lots of his talks posted on the internet — but I’ve never read any of his works. The Pale King is the last book that was published, though posthumously after his death in 2008 (he died by suicide and we are all worse for it). A few things I love about this book is his unapologetic use of really long sentences and complex application of vocabulary. I also enjoy that the author’s foreword comes in at about page 90 and is over 40 pages long. The editor’s note that starts the book explains how the manuscript was tied together for publication, acknowledging that DFW would have changed many things — he uses the phrase ‘squeezing your shoes’ frequently, for example, which likely would have been changed up. While this book is published as fiction, the author continues to remind us that it’s actually a memoir, which was a surprise to me. I find myself deeply listening to DFW and rereading some of this long sentences to make sure I’m on the same page. I picked this up at a little library in Maywood, NJ when I was there over the fall.
Reading this makes me lament his death even more than I did before I had picked up this novel/memoir.
As a writer, reading this book helps me feel freer to speak with my true voice, which I believe the author is doing here with great authenticity. His use of footnotes is extensive in some parts, where he identifies that ‘this is the true real life DFW speaking here’ and it grabs me, keeps me with him.
What are some of the reads you’ll be digging into this winter? I know that I’ve got some good books to choose from my teen kid, who got a stack of Ocean Vuong and Danez Smith as a gift — I’ll mark some pages for her to make it easier for her to access and then we’ll probably have some readings aloud to shepherd us through the winter evenings.
2 comments on “Welcome to Winter Reading!”
Thanks for the welcome, Borkali! I’m so jazzed that you’re reading The Pale King. I just adore it. It rings my bells, all this tax stuff. Tax filled much of my time before I retired, but I had never had a look inside an IRS service center. Now that probably sounds like looking at paint drying to other people, but not to me. I laughed out loud when an accounting professor said, “Gentlemen, we are called to account!” & that spurs our protagonist, who has just wandered into the class by accident, to answer the call! DFW left us far too soon.
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I’m so glad to learn that you’ve read this book! I agree — I am totally immersed in the IRS and I’m better for it. I find that his prose give us the sense of the drudgery very well 🙂 I agree — I love how he stumbles into this whole career move and his parallels to the Evangelical girl with the floral cowboy boots helped me understand his thinking in a deep way.
Makes sense that you’d dig this book for sure 😉