So I am “resuming” my “normal activities” after my short convalescence. I found that listening to the first half of David Foster Wallace’s last book The Pale King helped me understand the book better. Wallace is a sneaky dude introducing characters with first person accounts without clearly identifying the speaker. He seems to want the reader to act as a bit of a detective. His elusive writing is in itself part of the point. But with careful scrutiny one begins to discern lines of identity and make inferences between the discrete sections of the book.
I’m taking notes now.
And I love what Wallace has to say. Chapter 19 had previously caught my attention when I read it (the sections are called “subsections” in the audio versions, but are notated only with a paragraph symbol in the ebook:
But in the ebook these are also referred to as “chapters” in the ebook links. I find that nomenclature easier to think about.)
Chapter 19 begins with someone speaking: “There’s something very interesting about civics and selfishness, and we get to ride the crest of it.”
There is a conversation going on with long sections on the topic of civic understanding of the current mad situation in the USA (i.e. We the people are the democratic government and at the same time we lie to ourselves and ask our politicians to act the outsider and protect us from the dire effects and danger of the monster in our heads we call the government.)
After long passages of conversation from what are obviously several speakers, we begin to formulate the impression that the speakers are trapped in an elevator and are talking about this abstruse topic to pass the time.
It’s a beautiful metaphor for living in the USA right now. We are stuck. We are reduced to observations that can elucidate the madness of our democratic experiment which has descended into full blown consumerism as basic understanding of life. But we cannot get the situation to move. Like a stuck elevator.
Wallace uses the voices of these stuck IRS examiners (for that’s who almost everyone in the book ends up being) to make some pretty eloquent statements about this topic.
These observations are startling in the way they describe the present in the USA (even though Wallace was working on his manuscript when he committed suicide way back in 2008):
“Corporations are getting better and better at seducing us into thinking the way they think—of profits as the telos and responsibility as something to be enshrined in symbol and evaded in reality. Cleverness as opposed to wisdom. Wanting and having instead of thinking and making. We cannot stop it. I suspect what’ll happen is that there will be some sort of disaster—depression, hyperinflation—and then it’ll be showtime: We’ll either wake up and retake our freedom or we’ll fall apart utterly. Like Rome—-conqueror of its own people.” loc 1980 in Kindle book
“The government is the people, leaving aside various complications, but we split it off and pretend it’s not us; we pretend it’s some threatening Other bent on taking our freedoms, taking our money and redistributing it, legislating our morality in drugs, driving, abortion, the environment—Big Brother, the Establishment—”
“The Man.” loc 2047 in Kindle book
I also grabbed my interlibrary loan book at the library which had waiting for me for a while.
The book was C.P.E. Bach Studies edited by Annette Richards who also edited CPE’s organ. I read the intro and part of the first article which documents the correspondence between CPE and the Enlightenment philosopher Denis Diderot.
CPE was quite the cosmopolitan humanities dude. At his death his portrait gallery of famous people he was interested in included paintings of Benjamin Franklin and the wonderful French composer D’Anglebert.
I am enjoying getting back into stuff like this.
I also grabbed Irvine Welsh’s new novel I spied sitting on the shelf.
Welsh is the author of Trainspotting from which the movie was made.
He is a brutal voice.
I failed to make it through Filth by him,
but Skagboys has some characters from Trainspotting in it and looks good. Not sure if I will get to reading the library’s copy but this is definitely one of those books I want to read soon.
I find brutal writing a bit of an antidote to living both in Western Michigan (which seems to be a haven of right winger crazy puritanical Xtians) and the USA (which Le Carre has so astutely observed at the beginning of the century has basically gone “insane”).
Apparently cellphone companies are unmotivated to put existing tech into retrieving stolen phones. Why? You guessed it. They’d love to sell you another one.
I love book lists.
I also love pics of librarians.
Still trying to catch up on my reading and internet news surfing so not too many links today. But Eileen has started blogging for Herrick Library: