“Entering The Pale King Is Like Entering a Familiar Room, Now Stripped Bare”

At Seven Steps Back, there’s a marvelous series of posts—a long essay, really, broken down into digestible blog chunks—about David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. The piece is easily one of the better analyses I’ve read about Wallace’s last book, well researched and well written through an intertextual lens. A taste, a riff on Wallace’s names—

Entering The Pale King is like entering a familiar room, now stripped bare, but with the footprints of its former occupant, your departed friend, still visible in the dust on the floor. For example, the good old names are back, strange and unharmonious, vaguely Germanic, Latinate, French, at root un-American; names like Lotwis and Glendenning and Bondurant and Henzke, not zany and humorous like Pynchon’s (it seems to me that the names and the scope of his books are the only reasons he has been called an epigone to Pynchon, nothing else), but rather like clothes one cannot find it in himself to feel at ease in, even though they aren’t tight or loose, but just right. They also seem like they were once normal, everyday names –names like George Smith and Janet Cooper– but at some point were taken apart and reconstructed by a neurotic tinkerer, in order to establish how long they can go on working before exploding.

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