Week 1

Cheery Slo-Mo

04.27.11 | | Comment?

It goes without saying the difficulty in discussing a book that the author had not the opportunity to edit, or finish. Reading §9 was harrowing – he seems so optimistic, over-explaining what he considers a finished text, on the shelves, bought (he hopes) and enjoyed. But what a joy it was to read this chapter and hear DFW’s voice clear and straight.

Much of the book so far appears to have been aligned with Oblivion, both in terms of style and of content. Before The Pale King was published there were discussions about how the story The Soul Is Not A Smithy described a world with similar considerations to this novel. I think this is especially true after reading what we have read so far – besides the obvious content comparisons, §5 (‘this boy who dons the bright-orange bandolier’; pp. 29) carried the tone of this story quite closely, Leonard and Cuffie the dog appearing to face similar destinys.

To keep on with the Oblivion theme, Good Old Neon and §9 certainly appear to share the same voice, the David Wallace character, speaking of memories we can’t be sure of, motivations that break away from our immediate impressions (‘I, like so many other Americans, have suffered reverses in the volatile economy of the last few years’; pp. 81) and, considering how personal Good Old Neon felt at the time and the subsequent passing of DFW, it feels very significant that he would risk ‘cute, self-referential paradoxes’ and ‘some kind of clever metafictional titty-pincher’ [pp. 67] to have his voice resound in the novel in this way.

It must be said just how much of a joy it has been to read the first §9 and feel the exhilaration of DFW’s prose again – the beautiful nature references,

‘the panoramic vista…old-coin gray and so remarkably flat that it was as if the earth here had been stamped on with some cosmic boot’ (pp. 24)

‘the sun overhead like a peephole into hell’s own self-consuming heart’ (pp. 56)

the post-traumatic moments of being human,

‘the child’s mouth wide open and eyes looking up at the man with the camera in trust that this made sense, this was how right life occurred’ (pp.62)

‘going home to a woman who treated him like an uninteresting stranger’ (pp.45)

and the fun that can occur when language meets life

‘ – a BLOWOUT BASH – in balloon-shaped font as the caption to an illustrated explosion of good cheer and -will and no-holds-barred-let-out-all-stops FUN’ (pp. 33)

And how.

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