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Thoughts on The Pale King

I’ve been reading an awful lot about David Foster Wallace‘s “The Pale King” lately. The consensus seems to be that, like his other stuff, the writing is superb but at the same time somewhat disjointed and rambling.

I’ve thought about reading both “The Pale King” (560 pages) and “Infinite Jest” (1104 pages) but after having read the reviews, I’ve decided (for the moment) not to read either. From my reading of the reviews, the subject matter of “Infinite Jest” (a film “which is supposedly so addictively entertaining as to bring about a total neural meltdown in its viewer”) puts me off… my “suspension of disbelief” meter just wants to pin its needle when considering that concept.

Similarly, “The Pale King” (built around the tedium and joys of being a processor at the Internal Revenue Service processing center in Peoria, Illinois) is described as a massive riff on the boring tasks of our everyday work and lives. I’ve encountered that enough in my own life that I’m (for the moment) not interested in reading about it.

However, last night, I read his commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. There’s no doubt the man was both brilliant and profound.

I am, though, (strongly) considering ordering a copy of his first novel, “The Broom of the System” (480 pages). Assuming I order a copy and read it, I may reconsider reading “The Pale King” and “Infinite Jest” at that point.

The guy sounds like someone I would’ve loved to hang out with.

Note: My girlfriend just bought me the ebook version of “Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1” (760 pages) and in addition to the massive stack of unread books in my living room, I’ve got a raft of other books to keep me occupied (and they’ve got the nerve to expect me to produce some actual work… don’t these clients and employers realize I have reading to do?).

For comparative page count, “Cleopatra: A Life” (just completed by the Working Writers of Wisconsin Read 23 book club) clocked in at 384 pages, including a lengthy chunk of annotations that I (for the most part) skipped.

Note two: Read 23 will be reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett with our expected discussion on Saturday, June 11. The group is open to members of Working Writers of Wisconsin and possibly select others.

Note three: None of the links in this article are affiliate links. They’re provided for convenience and neither I nor Working Writers of Wisconsin earns any money if you click them.

Written by Mike Starr, an independent writer based in Pleasant Prairie.

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