I am relieved to announce I have lived up to my vow to read the 2012 Pulitzer Prize trilogy of finalists who were passed over (indeed, no prize was awarded); and have with some difficulty, lived through “The Pale King,” David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel.
Certainly the most complex, the longest, of the three candidates ("Train Dreams" and "Swamplandia" the other two candidates), as an audio book it proved challenging without printed (visible) markers to identify when the story would make a first-gear leap into fifth (a continuous disorientation of ever-changing themes). The characters were really pretty unlikable, or at least unwarm-uppable to. And of course, the basic landscape, the IRS, was not a topic I really cared to learn much about; after all, I know more than I need by simply being a citizen trying to avoid getting creamed.
Beyond the opening, negative comments, Wallace’s stream-of-consciousness writing ultimately arrested me, albeit somewhat late into the read. Raised in the Midwest myself, I realized that I knew these people, that they populated my neighborhoods, my living room, as I was growing up. Aswim in details, lost in tedious jobs, jockeying for promotions, and living even more banal lives outside of work, I developed perhaps a camaraderie for these misfits and sympathy toward their compulsive, eccentric, and left-brained worlds. And, yes, I learned more about the IRS that I care to share, primarily because none of it is useful in the pay-less-tax arena.
Recommend this book? Well, I did suggest to my CPA to read it. And I have become compulsed to pick up Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” his landmark book that catapulted him to heady fame. So perhaps not a must-read, but something to consider. Bear in mind this reviewer attempted to read Ulysses 3 times and never managed to read past the toilet scene.
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