03 March 2011

David Foster Wallace, "Backbone"

Everyone can play along at Wallaceblogging this week because an excerpt from THE PALE KING is in this week's New Yorker. "Backbone" is even available for free online, so if you want to go read it now, I'll wait.

(drums fingers on my desk) 

Well, excerpts sure are frustrating. Without knowing anything else about THE PALE KING I'm feeling sort of a forest/trees disconnect with this piece. Nevertheless, even in short form we see some of the familiar DFW themes popping, like social isolation, and commitment to an impossible task. "Arcane medical conditions" isn't a theme, but a six-year-old seeing a chiropractor would qualify under some similar header. (The McWhirters, I had to Google. There just isn't much of a market for contortionists these days.)

The further I get away from "Backbone" the more I want to know what follows it, because late in the story we shift from the boy (whose predicament, while real, is also painfully symbolic) to his father and his father's problems. What did you think? Do we speculate that THE PALE KING will return to them, or are they just an anecdote?

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