Greetings from The Great Convexity,
I am reading the 1st edition hardcover of The Pale King. § 1 begins on page 3.
Some thoughts on § 1-9, in response to the summary by Matthew Evans, and conversations on wallace-l:
– “coins of sunlight” (p. 3) which I first remember as being in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. For me, this quickly set up the nature vs. nurture binary, and conflation of both, which Matthew discusses in terms of intelligence reacting with nature, and generally man-made vs. not man-made things, as well as Bakhtin. (Matthew, thanks again for sending as an attachment, and for your thorough notes.)
Judd Staley has pointed out previous refs.:
“On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.” (Ulysses 2.448-9)
-Language Poetry, Systems & Worlds, Worms
The style of the associative, poetic language reminded me of Language Poetry e.g. Lyn Hejinian’s My Life in which an attempt is made to refuse closure, to refuse the cause-and-effect logic for the creation of meaning, and to use instead associations that inform each other by repetition, juxtaposition, and to draw attn. to how the self is formed by and in language (so “coins of sunlight” is p. awesome) etc. Ok so.
-This happens throughout § 1 – 9.
-In §2, when Claude Sylvanshine repeats the word “illiterate” until “it became just a rhythmic sound,” I wondered how language was learnt i.e. by hearing or speaking first (I think Wittgenstein said hearing first, and Heidegger said the baby learns by speaking first… or the other way round?).
Which brings me to worms. Worms are porous creatures. As are we. Worms respire through their skin, and are essentially segmented creatures constantly in flux, informed by what’s around them, being changed by it (like forms). They are neither open nor closed. And when DFW ends §1 with “Read these,” I took it to be “read these parallel worm-like lines which refuse closure and inform each other kind of like language poetry.” So, things are porous, which also makes sense in terms of concentration, and choosing what to pay attention to (to control this porousness).
-p.15 – “Segment, significant segment, combined segment revenue” (Yep I like these worms) implies the beginnings of the dissociative self via language that appropriates segments and dissociations.
§5 (Stecyk) and §6 (Lane and Sheri)
These two subsections both start by drawing attn to particularities e.g. “It is this boy who dons the bright-orange bandolier,” (§5 Stecyk) and “They were up on a picnic table at that one park by the lake” (§6 Lane and Sheri). Why the sudden dive into the particular?
Stecyk’s subsection could be summed up as an example of “how one comes to be ‘good,'” and Lane & Sheri’s subsection develops that by exploring “what does it mean to be good?” Regardless, both these subsections are examples that prompt questions related to the nature vs. nurture debate (how are kids directly or indirectly informed by parents, religion, norms etc.)
§7 Ice-cream Truck
Help needed here. I am fairly certain that an ice-cream truck was mentioned before this chapter (mention of an ice-cream truck that is not this particular Mister Squishee truck). I’d love to see how this repetition and its variations developed to create meaning.
Dehumanization at the end of §7: “creatures just did what they did.” They are “creatures” because of their ability to assimilate and not be discerning (which also relates to akrasia/weakness of will). One example of this assimilation is on p. 50 where Tom Bondurant understands Cheryl’s gaze in terms of returns (“a person who’s about to transfer something he knows in advance he can never get sufficient return on.”)
This language of exchange (not reciprocity) was also in the passages about Orin and P.G.O.A.T in IJ (p. 295): Confusion and conflation of the emotional, spiritual, sexual, with the celebratory spectacle of sport. Ok back to…
§8 Toni Ware
“The mother’s relational skills were indifferent and did not include truthful or consistent speech.” (p. 55) changes to “the mother’s relational skills being indifferent to this degree since the period of clinical confinement in University City MO.”
§9 David Wallace
The full extent (so far) of being implicated.