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:
- I never again wanted to read anything by Franzen.
- I'd give Wallace a chance.
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:
- 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.
- 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)
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.