The Pale King The Pale King discussion


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Tedious, plotless, supercilious, pointless

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Ralph Please explain why this was a Pulitzer finalist. Was it simply an attempt to honor Wallace? Or was the panel too interested in isolated passages that sound like Hemingway or Steinbeck?


Marks54 Hmmm. . . . I really liked the book, so I will take a stab at a response, although it may not be persuasive.
1) Why was it a Pulitzer finalist? I don't know and have no idea of how insider awards committees work. It is not important to me, however. I choose to read books based on overlapping recommendations from people I trust that suggest the book will be worthwhile. I received those for this book and so plunged in.
2) Was it an attempt to honor Wallace? Again, I don't know, but I doubt it. That does not seem like it would be their way. Besides, Wallace would not care one way or the other.
3) Interest in isolated passages that sound like Hemingway or Steinbeck? I did not notice such passages, although Wallace had a way with words that was outstanding (in my opinion).

Now regarding your header...

Tedious? OK, I find page-long streaming paragraphs a chore to read and feared that the style/ and incompleteness of the book would make it a slog. Since I wanted to get through the book, I decided to listen to a recording of it while I read. The audio book reader is outstanding and listening to it helped me get through the tedious part of the book. I guess I agree with you up to a point.

Plotless? I think you are spot on here too, but isn't that part of the point of the book? He is writing about working life at arguably the most boring job on earth, so why would plotless be a negative here?

Supercilious? I must note the high syllable count here although I guess whether DFW is condescending, supercilious, patronizing, arrogant, or any other related term is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? If you did not have a high opinion of yourself, I doubt you would enter onto such a task. For me, the issue is not his self-image, but what I think of the book - and of him - after reading it. If I thought the book was effective - and that his attitude was justified - I might even give the book five stars.

Pointless? It is a story about work life -- very boring work life -- and spoke very eloquently to me about the issues facing people in such a position, as well as how they dealt with those issues. I thought his intention was to convey the pointlessness of this situation.

As to whether he needs to fully specify his points to you so that you understand it in a clear and straightforward manner, I did not expect that in this book, given his other work. I guess I had caught his act before and so had some expectations. I find it rewarding to work through his material and find that there is a point to be had. I suspect, however, that there is room for reasonable difference here so I do not disparage your frustration with the book. I found the book accessible and meaningful, even though I lack even a rudimentary took kit in literary criticism.

Anyway, those are my reactions to your post. I am sorry you did not like the book.


message 3: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken Brimhall I read Wallace for the insights. I don't care about plot. He has helped me tremendously, especially with depression.


Crash Sorry Ralph, gotta go with Marks and Ken - it is a wonderful book! (Although unfinished.) Outstanding portrayal of the most boring and regulated career field on the planet and DFW makes use of style, metaphor, pacing, and characters to hammer home this point...and NO ONE since Dostoevsky can rival DFW on depression and psychoses/neuroses of the mind. The character who sweats just worrying about sweating...amazing!


message 5: by ぎゆう (new) - added it

ぎゆう Ralph, one need to be bored to meditate, in order to be cured of anxiety/depression. Entertainment is just a placebo.

In a way, our lives are also tedious, plotless, and sometimes our approach to it is supercilious, when we take it to be pointless.

The Pale King, in my humble opinion, could be a landmark on meditative transcendental fiction.


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