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Home News by Category Critical Analysis Studies in the Novel Wallace Special Part 2

Studies in the Novel Wallace Special Part 2

Ever since the publication of the Marshall Boswell edited Studies in the Novel David Foster Wallace special Part 1, I've been waiting for The Pale King themed Part 2.

With essays from Marshall Boswell, Stephen Burn (IJ Reader's guide and Conversations with DFW), Toon Staes and Conley Wouters (to name a few) it is an excellent collection of Wallace criticism.

I have access to Project Muse, and thus Studies in the Novel, via my (free for Australians) National Library of Australia membership which links to numerous e-resources for free. Many universities and public libraries provide access to Project Muse, so it won't be too hard to read these if you're keen.

Here's a paragraph from Boswell's introduction to Part 2 that, I hope, gives you a taste for the quality of the content within:

What is most remarkable about The Pale King, as the essays in this issue amply confirm, is how rich it is, even in its unfinished state. Part of this richness, I submit, can be attributed both to Wallace’s method of composition and to his approach to novelistic structure writ large, particularly as regards his attitude toward plot. Wallace’s longer work achieves its effect through accumulation and collage. For instance, Infinite Jest does not proceed in a linear fashion; rather, Wallace arranged the book’s various set pieces out of sequence in keeping with his desire, as he explained in 1993 to Larry McCaffery (in reference to an earlier story), “to prohibit the reader from forgetting that she’s receiving heavily mediated data, that his process is a relationship between the writer’s consciousness and her own, and that in order for it to be anything like a real full human relationship, she’s going to have to put in her own share of the linguistic work” (Wallace, Conversations 34). Similarly, Mark Nechtr, the novelist-to-be hero of Wallace’s 1989 novella Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, hopes one day to write a novel whose narrative momentum would invoke “both the dreamer’s unmoving sprint and the disco-moonwalker’s glide”; to compensate for this static forward-and-backward movement, Nechtr will make sure that “the stuff the [novel] is made of would make it Fun” (Wallace, Girl 332). On more than one occasion, Wallace revealed that he structured Infinite Jest like a Sierpinski gasket, which Max describes as “a geometrical figure that can be subdivided into an infinite number of identical geometrical figures” (183). The finished version of The Pale King was to possess a similarly unorthodox, nonlinear structure. Pietsch reports that Wallace repeatedly referred to the book’s design as “‘tornadic’ or having a ‘tornado feeling,’” while in the “Notes and Asides” included as an appendix to The Pale King, Wallace describes the plot as “a series of set-ups for stuff happening, but nothing actually happens” (viii, 546). So although The Pale King never reaches a conclusion per se, it is clear that Wallace always intended to deny his readers any such satisfying sense of closure in any case.



Probably also a good time to mention that Stephen Burn and Marshall Boswell's highly anticipated (for me at least) A Companion to David Foster Wallace Studies, is due next month, and now has a cover.

It's looking to be another fine year for Wallace criticism.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 February 2013 00:51  

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