March 1st, 2013


The Pale King

November 6

February 8
Out with friends over dinner (after a George Saunders reading at Town Hall) my friend Jeff mentioned to me a different article by Wallace's friend and fellow author, Jonathan Franzen. After reading that too, I emerged with two convictions:

  1. I never again wanted to read anything by Franzen.

  2. I'd give Wallace a chance.

The other night
I finished reading the unfinished novel The Pale King and loved it. There's a lot going on. I'll just say a little.

Picture plate "The Seven Chairs" from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris van Allsburg.

This image relates to two things:

  1. An occurrence of levitation in §46 (my favorite chapter) that happens during a tête-à-tête in a dive bar in Peoria between an autotelic character named Shane Drinion and his beautiful coworker Meredith Rand.

  2. The nature of much of the novel which, like Harris Burdick, has a lot of scenes presented that can be taken as suggestive and evocative and self-contained, but which don't necessarily cohere with other chapters. Most do. Maybe.

§46 had kind of world-silencing home-movie quality… a feeling of walking away from your own gravestone perhaps. Here are obliquely-related pictures that, for me, aren't oblique:

("Megan" from issue 31 of graphic novel The Maxx)

("Shinji" from anime End of Evangelion)

And for good measure (what good is LJ still for, if not picture-embedded text), as a government employee with mystical methodology, FBI Agent Dale Cooper in the TV series Twin Peaks is relevant to the novel as a whole.

Rand relates a story to Drinion of how she met her husband, noting, "He was really good at being serious and making fun of himself at the same time—it's one reason I loved him." If you think you might love a text that's good at being serious and making fun of itself at the same time, consider this.