Thursday, August 25, 2011

David Foster Wallace - The Pale King

I took David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel The Pale King with me on my big recent plane journey. The book was as beautiful, infuriating, intelligent, lyrical and annoying as its first paragraph, below:

Past the flannel plains and blacktop graphs and skylines of canted rust, and past the tobacco-brown river overhung with weeping trees and coins of sunlight through them on the water downriver, to the place beyond the windbreak, where untilled fields shimmer shrilly in the A.M. heat: shattercane, lamb’s quarter, cutgrass, sawbrier, nutgrass, goldenrod, creeping charlie, butter print, nightshade, ragweed, wild oat, vetch, butcher grass, invaginate volunteer beans, all heads gently noddding in a morning breeze like a mother’s soft hand on your cheek. An arrow of starlings fired from the windbreaks sunflower, four more, one bowed and horses in the distance standing rigid as still as toys. All nodding. Electric sounds of insects at their business. Ale colored sunshine and pale sky and whorls of cirrus so high they cast no shadow. Insects all business all the time. Quartz and chert and schist and chondrite  iron scabs in granite. Very old land. Look around you. The horizon trembling, shapeless. We are all of us brothers.