The Pale King is an unfinished novel by David Foster Wallace. Wallace had been working on this book for a decade (or so they say) when he committed suicide. His widow found the manuscript and associated computer files and notes and gave them to Wallace’s friend and editor to morph them into a publishable book.
I could easily give you a tweet review and cover it all.
“A book about the inner workings of the IRS in the 80’s and I loved it. Things I’d thought I’d never say.”
We follow agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois. Yes that is the setting. This book is a turns about boredom, weird afflictions, routine, sadness, loss, humor, answering your calling, happy accidents (and sad ones too), attractiveness (and the lack of) and so much more. That is why I loved it. I bought the book as soon as it came out but I was holding off reading it as I knew it would be the last DFW novel. I wanted to, I don’t know, savor his the verbal wizardry mentally before I dove into the book. Silly, yes but that is me. Chris Bro silly man.
A few passages to give you an idea:
The next suitable person you’re i light conversation with. you stop suddenly in the middle of the conversation look at the person closely and say, “What’s wrong”” You say it in a concerned way he’ll say, “What do you mean?” You say, “Something’s wrong. I can tell. What is ti?” And he’ll look stunned and say, “how did you know?” he doesn’t realize something’s always wrong, with everybody. Often more than one thing. he doesn’t know everybody’s always going around all the time with something wrong and believing they’re exerting great willpower and control to keep other people, for whom they think nothing’s every wrong, from seeing it. This is the way of people. Suddenly ask what’s wrong, and whether they open up and spill their guys or deny it and pretend you’re off, they’ll think you’re perceptive and understanding . They’ll either be grateful, or they’ll be frightened and avoid you from then on. Both reactions have their uses, as we’ll get. You can play it either way. This works over 90 percent of the time.”
Some day I’ll try this. You’ve been warned. Or this gem of a conversation (well just a bit of the conversation).
“De Tocqueville’s thrust is that it’s in the democratic citizen’s nature to be like a leaf that doesn’t believe in the tree it’s part of.”
“What’s interesting in a depressing way is is that tacit hypocrisy–I, the citizen, will keep buying bi gas-guzzlers that kill trees and tickets for The Exorcist until the government passes a law, but then when the government does pass a law I’ll bitch about Big Brother and getting the government off our back.”
“You’re still underestimating the taxpayers’ need for the lie, for the surface rhetoric they can keep telling themselves while deep down they can rest assured that Daddy’s in control and everyon’s still safe,. The way adolescents make a big deal of rebelling against parental authority while they borrow the keys to Daddy’s car and use Daddy’s credit card to fill it with gas. The new leader won’t lie to the people; hell do what corporate pioneers have discovered works far better: He’ll adopt the persona and and rhetoric that let the people lie to themselves.”
as a music person I must include this gem:
I remember feeling the actual physical feeling of hatred of most commercial rock-suc as fro disco, which if you were cool you pretty mush had to hate, and all rock groups with one-word place names. Boston, Kansas, Chicago, America – I can still feel an almost bodily hatred. And believing that I and maybe one or two friends were among the very, very few people who truly understood what Pink Floyd was trying to say.
One more ok?
“A baker wears a hat.” he said, “but it is not our hat. Gentlemen prepare to war the hat. You have wondered, perhaps, why all real accountants wear hat? They are today’s cowboys. As will you be.
or a good reminder:
I learned that the world of en as it exists today is a bureaucracy. This is an obvious truth, of course, though it is also on the ignorance of which causes great suffering.
I think that gives a pretty good idea of what you’re in for.
“Sweetness”. Almost done. Yet another reason I don’t what to meet my heroes and/or find out about their demons. We all have them.
Another book I’m reading that addresses a hero’s demons is “And So It Goes”.
And believe it or not I just started one more which as a stay at home dad (but not a Minivan owner) will make sense. It’s “Dan Gets a Minivan.” A humorous look at giving up on your dreams and staying at home with your kids.
What are you reading? I could use a new fiction book.