Monday, April 14, 2014

Relatively Recently Read (sort of)

I used to be someone who had to finish a book once I started it. Then I realized life is too short to spend my precious free time reading something I don't want to be reading. I am really glad I had this epiphany before picking up David Foster Wallace's The Pale King.

I knew nothing about the book before I started it, and as I began reading I thought, "hmmmm, this is really kind of dull." Then I started thinking, "Okay, it's clear this guy is writing a dull book on purpose. Interesting in a conceptual way, I suppose, but I hope this picks up, because reading a dull book isn't really that much fun." Then I got pissed off because it started feeling hostile to me that someone would write over 500 pages of dullness for readers to have to slog through. Then I said "fuck this" and put the book down.

Shortly after my attempted slog, I watched a video made from part of a commencement speech Wallace gave at Kenyon College in 2005, and realized I was right in thinking Wallace inflicted this boredom on us on purpose. As he (quite engagingly, I must say) lays out in the speech, life is generally one long, hard, boring slog, and how we respond to those moments of dullness and disconnection is what's going to save us (or not, in Wallace's case). But the thing is, I don't want a novel to be a boring object lesson. I get enough tedium in my real life, not to want to invite more of it in. I don't need the books I read to serve as an escape, necessarily, but I also don't want them to be a needlessly difficult struggle, simply so I can say I made it through to the other side and some sort of artificial grace.

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