What do you think?
Rate this book
548 pages, Hardcover
First published April 15, 2011
"The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day."
"Tastes a Hostess cupcake. Knows where it was made; knows who ran the machine that sprayed a light coating of chocolate frosting on top; knows that persons weight, shoe size, bowling average, American Legion career batting average; he knows the dimensions of the room that person is in right now. Overwhelming." (p. 121)
"Corporations aren't citizens or neighbors or parents. They can't vote or serve in combat. They don't learn the Pledge of Allegiance. They don't have souls. They're revenue machines. I don't have any problem with that. I think it's absurd to lay moral or civic obligations on them. Their only obligations are strategic, and while they can get very complex, at root they're not civic entities. With corporations, I have no problem with government enforcement of statutes and regulatory policy serving a conscience function. What my problem is is the way it seems that we as individual citizens have adopted a corporate attitude. That our ultimate obligation is to ourselves." (p. 137)
'This is supposed to be news to us. News flash: We're going to die.'
'Why do you think people buy health insurance?'
'Let him finish.'
'Now this is depressing instead of just boring.'
Qué raro se me hace el tener todo esto dentro y que para vosotros no sean más que palabras.
We fill pre-existing forms and when we
fill them we change them and are changed.
—Frank Bidart,“Borges and I”
a pale king
what follows is, in reality, not fiction at all, but substantially true and accurate. That — The Pale King is, in point of fact, more like a memoir than any kind of made-up story.
Plus there’s the autobiographical fact that, like so many other nerdy, disaffected young people of that time, I dreamed of becoming an ‘artist,’ i.e., somebody whose adult job was original and creative instead of tedious and dronelike. My specific dream was of becoming an immortally great fiction writer la Gaddis or Anderson, Balzac or Perec, & c.; and many of the notebook entries on which parts of this memoir are based were themselves literarily jazzed up and fractured; it’s just the way I saw myself at the time.
To me, at least in retrospect, the really interesting question is why dullness proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention. Why we recoil from the dull. Maybe it’s because dullness is intrinsically painful; maybe that’s where phrases like ‘deadly dull’ or ‘excruciatingly dull’ come from. But there might be more to it. Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient low-level way, and which most of us spend nearly all our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from feeling, or at least from feeling directly or with our full attention. Admittedly, the whole thing’s pretty confusing, and hard to talk about abstractly...but surely something must lie behind not just Muzak in dull or tedious places anymore but now also actual TV in waiting rooms, supermarkets’ checkouts, airports’ gates, SUVs’ backseats. Walkmen, iPods, BlackBerries, cell phones that attach to your head. This terror of silence with nothing diverting to do. I can’t think anyone really believes that today’s so-called ‘information society’ is just about information. Everyone knows it’s about something else, way down.