The Pale Spring

Let's Read

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The truth is that the heroism of your childhood entertainments was not true valor. It was theater. The grand gesture, the moment of choice, the mortal danger, the external foe, the climactic battle whose outcome resolves all—all designed to appear heroic, to excite and gratify an audience. An audience.” He made a gesture I can’t describe: “Gentlemen, welcome to the world of reality—there is no audience. No one to applaud, to admire. No one to see you. Do you understand? Here is the truth—actual heroism receives no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it. No one is interested.

basically The Pale King’s whole thing, on p. 229, by D.F.W. (I’m really enjoying this book, btw.)

Did the “You have been called to account” chapter make anyone else go look up their local IRS recruiting center?

(Source: erikonymous)

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Oh…. hi, and don’t give up

They made it look so easy, didn’t they?

Those brilliant jerks who ran Infinite Summer so smoothly and so thoughtfully made running a public reading group look like a seamless, simple activity. As you may have guessed, it isn’t… I’m so far behind I’m practically un-reading pages, and N is so busy (yet somehow ahead of schedule!) that she’s lost track of the milestones entirely. As for all our other grandiose ideas? Let’s not even talk about it.

But as David Foster Wallace tried so hard to teach us: thoughts, activities, and tasks that are truly worthwhile demand more of our time. 

I read a graduation speech of sorts, recently. It’s oldish, from 2009, and is for graduation from West Point military academy of all places. But the speaker’s stance on silence, reading, hard work, and thinking are things I imagine DFW would appreciate. If you need a bit of courage to continue reading, check out "Solitude and Leadership" by William Deresiewicz.

The point us: Keep it up, Pale Springers. Whatever “it” is, keep doing it. Even it means going slow.


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Submitted website

I’m really loving the perspective shared over at, a blog devoted entirely to chapter-by-chapter thoughts on The Pale King. Says blogger David Kloepfer (on the “Author Here” chapter):

The author’s forward presents some central concepts for the novel: the IRS’s mid-1980’s ideological shift from bureaucratic entity to for-profit concern, vis a vis the Spackman Initiative; also, tedium, dullness, boredom, attention span and its association with “psychic pain”.

Wallace on dullness:

Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there

This is clearly a theme that will carry through the novel, as we’ve already encountered characters bearing a great deal of psychic pain (Sylvanshine, Ware). So we’ve got dullness associated with psychic pain in a bunch of character’s working at possibly the dullest place one could possibly attention(sic).  Well, I’m excited.

David, thanks for alerting us to your blog!

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Author here

Only David Foster Wallace could start a chapter with those words, 66 pages in, and have it feel like “Oh, of course.”

Today is the last day of week 2, and I am desperately behind. If any of you wonderful Tumblr followers want to share your thoughts, please do! This is a classic book club, where all parties are encouraged to share.

If you haven’t already discovered it, there is another reading group of the same name. Check out our friends over at Pale Spring for even more The Pale King content. 


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It's the reason most of us can't write great or even good fiction. You have to let a lot of other consciousnesses into your own. That's bad for equilibrium.

Another recommendation for John Jeremiah Sullivan’s GQ piece on The Pale King from Zan, who has already finished the book (jealous)!


If you have finished The Pale King, I highly highly recommend this piece, which says pretty much everything I have to say about the book & DFW in general. Also about why, without hating on memoir/personal essay writing as a genre, it worries me that my friend & I write so much and yet produce so little intentional fiction.

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The Teacher’s Perspective [submitted post]

Let me first say that before these 60 some pages I have never read anything written by the late DFW. I joined this book club as a way to challenge myself to read subject matter and writing styles with which I am unaccustomed and even a little uncomfortable. I’ve never read a book where I repeatedly find myself searching for periods and verbs/predicates.

I of course related to Sylvanshine’s inner thoughts/turmoil about the plane ride and exam but even more so to the images of drawers and air ducts filled with forms. I am currently in the “paperwork season” of my job (a school based speech and language specialist aka speech teacher) and I admit that I have hidden forms and documents instead of dealing with them.

I am very grateful for the characters we were introduced to beginning in chapter 5. I wasn’t sure how much more plane ride, bus ride, and CPA talk I could handle. Leonard is what the Professors of my education courses call a pariah. I have had to deal with students like him, not anywhere near to that degree, but I for sure identify with his teacher’s “brandishing blunt scissors” reaction. I cannot relate to The Girl (Did I miss her name?) at all but she seems like such a survivalist and I am eager to know more of her story. What made me think the most about her story was when “her mother was released to the girl’s care”.

Here are some terms and phrases I have enjoyed thinking about- blamestorming, black week, nightmares’ ragged edges, and tornadic.


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Links, Reviews, and Resources

When (for whatever reason — exhaustion, overwhelm-ment, a bad case of the howling fantods at the fact that this is last Wallace book we’ll ever have) you can’t read another page of TPK, consider reading some of these to get re-motivated. I’ve split them into sections for the spoiler-averse.

Did I miss anything? Do let us know!

Articles about DFW
The Unfinished: David Foster Wallace’s struggle to surpass Infinite Jest

From the Mixed-Up Files of David Foster Wallace: Newsweek’s Seth Colter Walls tours the DFW archives at the University of Texas at Austin.

Inside David Foster Wallace’s Private Self-Help Library: Maria Bustillos’ incredible article on DFW’s private papers for The Awl.

"David Foster Wallace’s suicide turned him into a ‘celebrity writer dude,’ which would have made him wince": An interview with Karen Green, Wallace’s widow.

Farther Away: You have to buy it on the New Yorker’s website, but here is Jonathan Franzen’s article on mourning DFW’s death.

Articles about and Reviews of The Pale King (beware of spoiler-ing!)
Too Much Information: The always-excellent John Jeremiah Sullivan reviews the book for GQ.

Maximized Revenue, Minimized Existence: Michiko Kakutani’s review for the New York Times.

The Last Audit: Tom McCarthy chimes in on the book for the NYT as well.

David Foster Wallace Wrote Two Novels, and The Pale King is Not One of Them: A post from Tom Scocca’s Slate blog on the unfinished nature of TPK.

The David Foster Wallace Generation: A roundtable discussion of TPK, headed by Seth Colter Walls.

Divine Drudgery: A long piece in the New York Review of Books that ties together several of DFW’s books.

From Boing Boing, a footnoted review.

And for all the book reviews you could ever want, The Howling Fantods! website has you covered.

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Sixty pages in…

Today is the end of week 1, so let us apologize for being a bit behind with the links and Kindle schedule. I started the book club (locally) weeks ago, but the website idea happened on a whim and we’ve been working hard to catch up. 

How is everyone feeling about the book? I have some thoughts that I’ll share tomorrow, when we’re officially 60 pages in. 


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Started Reading Last Night [submitted post]

I feel like this last part of the end sentence at the end of the first section of Chapter 2 (i.e., the plane’s landing) really captures well what I like to think as DFW in David Lynch mode: “… a flash of bourbon-colored river that was not the previous body of water but might have been connected to it, nothing like the stately and befrothed stretch of Potomac that obtruded through Systems’ windows on Antietam’s hallowed site, noting that the stewardess in her fold-down seat had her head down and arms about her own legs where at year’s end the aggregate fair value of Brown’s salable securities exceeds the aggregate carrying amount at the beginning of the year as out of nowhere appeared an expanse of pale cement rising to meet them with no warning bell or announcement and his soda can wedged in the seat pocket as the gray death’s-head beside whipped right and left and the propellers’ shimmering sound shifted either pitch or timbre, and the older lady stiffening in her seat and raising her pleated chin in fear and repeating what sounded to Sylvanshine like the word *chump* as veins stood bluely in the fist before her, in which was enclosed the crushed and bulbous but still unopened foil pack of off-brand nuts.”