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198

E Pluribus Unum

Ritual, Currency, and the Embodied Values of The Pale King

16
terms
5
notes

Severs, J. (2017). E Pluribus Unum. In Severs, J. David Foster Wallace's Balancing Books: Fictions of Value. Columbia University Press, pp. 198-243

(noun; historical; law) the deliberate concealment of one's knowledge of a treasonable act or a felony; (literary) Harold Bloom's term for when strong writers misinterpret their literary predecessors so as to clear imaginative space for themselves

207

featuring several actual war veterans and always allowing for misprision in the meaning of being recruited into "the Service"

—p.207 by Jeffrey Severs
confirm
2 years, 6 months ago

featuring several actual war veterans and always allowing for misprision in the meaning of being recruited into "the Service"

—p.207 by Jeffrey Severs
confirm
2 years, 6 months ago

philosophical and metaphysical theories of divine presence in which the divine encompasses or is manifested in the material world

208

one of many moments suggesting transcendence through immanence

—p.208 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

one of many moments suggesting transcendence through immanence

—p.208 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

an originally French word that means extra (as in a theatrical production); related words "unfiguranted" and "figurantless" mean "without anonymous extras" (where everyone is a protagonist of sorts)

210

to reinforce the sense that the anonymous many (the figurants?) who make up his audience had a place in his text

—p.210 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

to reinforce the sense that the anonymous many (the figurants?) who make up his audience had a place in his text

—p.210 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago
211

[...] Part of Fogle's narrative occurs in 1977, and here Wallace plays one last time with presidential rhetoric on commonwealth themes. In one scene, Fogle's father returns home unexpectedly to find his son and friends stoned and with the heat turned up, creating another hothouse, perverting the oikos and hoarding the general benefit. Fogle scrambles "to turn the thermostat back down to sixty-eight," feeling "like a spoiled little selfish child" (PK 173). The reference is to the "energy conservation" (PK 172) policies of not just Fogle's father—who Wallace of course notes "grew up during the Depression" (PK 169)—but the United States as a whole. In one of the most enduring memes associated with his presidency (and with 1977 in particular), Jimmy Carter gave his "sweater speech" on February 2, 1977, shortly after his inauguration. In it he called for "cooperation," "mutual effort," and "modest sacrifices" from the American people, who by keeping thermostats at 65 in the daytime and 55 at night could "save half the current shortage of natural gas." The nationally televised speech (a latter-day version of FDR's fireside chats, in spirit and setting, with Carter appearing next to a roaring fire) is remembered for the president's sartorial choice: he wore a cardigan, implying it was the clothing of civic caring (especially for those without big fireplaces?). Appropriately, Fogle at the beginning of his memoir vaguely recalls "Jimmy Carter addressing the nation in a cardigan," a memory that slides in the same sentence into apathetic gossip about Carter's brother (PK 166). In a finished Pale King, revisiting 1970s energy politics might have developed into a captivating dialogue with the Iraq War, tense U.S./Middle East relations, and climate-change denial amid which Wallace worked on the novel—which Pietsch says "came alive" again for him in spring of 2005, the period of the "Author's Foreword" and a time with no shortage of chicanery from "the Decider" and his cabinet in the news. With Spackman's changes proving "attractive[] ... to the free-market conservatives of the current administration" looking to "deregulate" the IRS like any other business, Wallace may associate sweater-clad Carter with a last gasp of commonwealth values before neoliberalism took command (PK 115).

about Chris Fogle's chapter in TPK

—p.211 by Jeffrey Severs 2 years, 6 months ago

[...] Part of Fogle's narrative occurs in 1977, and here Wallace plays one last time with presidential rhetoric on commonwealth themes. In one scene, Fogle's father returns home unexpectedly to find his son and friends stoned and with the heat turned up, creating another hothouse, perverting the oikos and hoarding the general benefit. Fogle scrambles "to turn the thermostat back down to sixty-eight," feeling "like a spoiled little selfish child" (PK 173). The reference is to the "energy conservation" (PK 172) policies of not just Fogle's father—who Wallace of course notes "grew up during the Depression" (PK 169)—but the United States as a whole. In one of the most enduring memes associated with his presidency (and with 1977 in particular), Jimmy Carter gave his "sweater speech" on February 2, 1977, shortly after his inauguration. In it he called for "cooperation," "mutual effort," and "modest sacrifices" from the American people, who by keeping thermostats at 65 in the daytime and 55 at night could "save half the current shortage of natural gas." The nationally televised speech (a latter-day version of FDR's fireside chats, in spirit and setting, with Carter appearing next to a roaring fire) is remembered for the president's sartorial choice: he wore a cardigan, implying it was the clothing of civic caring (especially for those without big fireplaces?). Appropriately, Fogle at the beginning of his memoir vaguely recalls "Jimmy Carter addressing the nation in a cardigan," a memory that slides in the same sentence into apathetic gossip about Carter's brother (PK 166). In a finished Pale King, revisiting 1970s energy politics might have developed into a captivating dialogue with the Iraq War, tense U.S./Middle East relations, and climate-change denial amid which Wallace worked on the novel—which Pietsch says "came alive" again for him in spring of 2005, the period of the "Author's Foreword" and a time with no shortage of chicanery from "the Decider" and his cabinet in the news. With Spackman's changes proving "attractive[] ... to the free-market conservatives of the current administration" looking to "deregulate" the IRS like any other business, Wallace may associate sweater-clad Carter with a last gasp of commonwealth values before neoliberalism took command (PK 115).

about Chris Fogle's chapter in TPK

—p.211 by Jeffrey Severs 2 years, 6 months ago
216

[...] It is in The Circle, though, that Eggers finally writes his Infinite Jest, the book he had the honor of introducing in its 2006 edition. [...]

In a country that builds endless opportunities for "connection" but no longer makes anything, The Circle's endorsement of essentially Thoreauvian economic values comes through Mercer Medeiros, the protagonist Mae's Luddite ex-boyfriend, who stands for inefficient artisanship (he makes antler chandeliers) and rants about what The Circle does to in-person interactions. [...]

The Circle is among the first Pale King-influenced novels as well, applying Wallace's insights into mechanized labor to the fully digital era. While there are no "Tingle tables" here (PK 276), Eggers satirizes the endless streams of stressful, pointless, and self-obliterating work in a supposedly hyperefficient age [...] A feckless and Fogle-like character, Mae-as-May embodies the perverse new liberty implied by the word neoliberal: applied to technological formations, liberal now essentially refers not to citizens' rights but to the freedom they grant corporate systems to instrumentalize their tastes and habits. Crime prevention and many other civic domains are soon to fall as well under The Circle's corporate control. If Infinite Jest told us in 1996 where digital entertainment "choices" would lead us, The Circle predicts the neoliberal dystopia to which today's wave of (social) media saturation is headed. It also offers a far more detailed account of the technocorporate methods by which the American social contract is being sundered, a subject The Pale King addresses in much more mysterious terms.

  • the shark-feeding scene: see DFW's essay on lobsters being eaten + DFW's own fear of sharks revealed in the Max biography, which Eggers blurbed
  • Mercer as a stand-in for DFW
  • the Circle campus similar to ETA
  • the data-gathering procedures influenced by Mister Squishy (which Eggers edited for McSweeney's)
—p.216 by Jeffrey Severs 2 years, 6 months ago

[...] It is in The Circle, though, that Eggers finally writes his Infinite Jest, the book he had the honor of introducing in its 2006 edition. [...]

In a country that builds endless opportunities for "connection" but no longer makes anything, The Circle's endorsement of essentially Thoreauvian economic values comes through Mercer Medeiros, the protagonist Mae's Luddite ex-boyfriend, who stands for inefficient artisanship (he makes antler chandeliers) and rants about what The Circle does to in-person interactions. [...]

The Circle is among the first Pale King-influenced novels as well, applying Wallace's insights into mechanized labor to the fully digital era. While there are no "Tingle tables" here (PK 276), Eggers satirizes the endless streams of stressful, pointless, and self-obliterating work in a supposedly hyperefficient age [...] A feckless and Fogle-like character, Mae-as-May embodies the perverse new liberty implied by the word neoliberal: applied to technological formations, liberal now essentially refers not to citizens' rights but to the freedom they grant corporate systems to instrumentalize their tastes and habits. Crime prevention and many other civic domains are soon to fall as well under The Circle's corporate control. If Infinite Jest told us in 1996 where digital entertainment "choices" would lead us, The Circle predicts the neoliberal dystopia to which today's wave of (social) media saturation is headed. It also offers a far more detailed account of the technocorporate methods by which the American social contract is being sundered, a subject The Pale King addresses in much more mysterious terms.

  • the shark-feeding scene: see DFW's essay on lobsters being eaten + DFW's own fear of sharks revealed in the Max biography, which Eggers blurbed
  • Mercer as a stand-in for DFW
  • the Circle campus similar to ETA
  • the data-gathering procedures influenced by Mister Squishy (which Eggers edited for McSweeney's)
—p.216 by Jeffrey Severs 2 years, 6 months ago

refering to Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American writer and philosopher, or his writings; his best known book is "Walden," which praised nature, simplicity, and the importance of living an authentic, deliberate life

216

endorsement of essentially Thoreauvian economic values

—p.216 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

endorsement of essentially Thoreauvian economic values

—p.216 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

(verb) to break apart or in two; separate by or as if by violence or by intervening time or space / (verb) to become parted, disunited, or severed

218

the American social contract is being sundered

—p.218 by Jeffrey Severs
confirm
2 years, 6 months ago

the American social contract is being sundered

—p.218 by Jeffrey Severs
confirm
2 years, 6 months ago

an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation

218

Fogle endures a legal imbroglio after his father's death

—p.218 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

Fogle endures a legal imbroglio after his father's death

—p.218 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

(adjective) of, relating to, or affecting the body especially as distinguished from the germplasm or the psyche / (adjective) of or relating to the wall of the body; parietal / (noun) one of the cells of the body that compose the tissues, organs, and parts of that individual other than the germ cells

219

another suggestion that somatic costs and monetary compensation do not balance

referring to a quote of DFW's dismissing the idea of being paid to undergo pain (i.e., taking an advance on a book)

—p.219 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

another suggestion that somatic costs and monetary compensation do not balance

referring to a quote of DFW's dismissing the idea of being paid to undergo pain (i.e., taking an advance on a book)

—p.219 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

a grammatical mistake in speech or writing

224

Solecisms are always meaningful in Wallace

forgot what it meant

—p.224 by Jeffrey Severs
uncertain
2 years, 6 months ago

Solecisms are always meaningful in Wallace

forgot what it meant

—p.224 by Jeffrey Severs
uncertain
2 years, 6 months ago

a hero in Greek mythology whose greatest feat was killing the Chimera

226

a print of the seal [...] shows "the mythic hero Bellerophon slaying the Chimera [...]"

quoted from TPK

—p.226 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

a print of the seal [...] shows "the mythic hero Bellerophon slaying the Chimera [...]"

quoted from TPK

—p.226 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

hew (en)

(verb) to cut with blows of a heavy cutting instrument / (verb) to fell by blows of an ax / (verb) to give form or shape to with or as if with heavy cutting blows / (verb) to make cutting blows / (verb) conform adhere / (abbreviation) Department of Health, Education, and Welfare / (verb) to hew (as timber) coarsely without smoothing or finishing / (verb) to form crudely

226

Wallace's IRS heroes hew toward transcendence through immanence, down in their holes

—p.226 by Jeffrey Severs
uncertain
2 years, 6 months ago

Wallace's IRS heroes hew toward transcendence through immanence, down in their holes

—p.226 by Jeffrey Severs
uncertain
2 years, 6 months ago

philosophical and metaphysical theories of divine presence in which the divine encompasses or is manifested in the material world

226

Wallace's IRS heroes hew toward transcendence through immanence, down in their holes

—p.226 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

Wallace's IRS heroes hew toward transcendence through immanence, down in their holes

—p.226 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

the telling of a story by a narrator who summarizes events in the plot and comments on the conversations, thoughts, etc., of the characters

226

the reader and the diegetic viewers of the seal work toward synchrony

forgot this meaning too

—p.226 by Jeffrey Severs
uncertain
2 years, 6 months ago

the reader and the diegetic viewers of the seal work toward synchrony

forgot this meaning too

—p.226 by Jeffrey Severs
uncertain
2 years, 6 months ago

the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion

228

But in the syncretic ritual context

forgot the meaning ...

—p.228 by Jeffrey Severs
uncertain
2 years, 6 months ago

But in the syncretic ritual context

forgot the meaning ...

—p.228 by Jeffrey Severs
uncertain
2 years, 6 months ago

pertaining to Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 -1882), American essayist, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century

229

Sylvanshine, a failed Emersonian at the end

something to do with Emerson's view on self-reliance?

—p.229 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

Sylvanshine, a failed Emersonian at the end

something to do with Emerson's view on self-reliance?

—p.229 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago
230

[...] Like "Mister Squishy," §16 is one of Wallace's many multitrack narratives in which an oral discourse describes one thing while a wandering mind (despite being engaged by the external talk) explores something else entirely; our mission as readers--reconciling incompatible ideas, as in Freud's unconscious--is to ferret out the connection between the two tracks. [...]

definitely a motif to be used in my story

on the dialogue during Lane Dean's break, listening to the other examiners talk about dinner and mosquitos

—p.230 by Jeffrey Severs 2 years, 6 months ago

[...] Like "Mister Squishy," §16 is one of Wallace's many multitrack narratives in which an oral discourse describes one thing while a wandering mind (despite being engaged by the external talk) explores something else entirely; our mission as readers--reconciling incompatible ideas, as in Freud's unconscious--is to ferret out the connection between the two tracks. [...]

definitely a motif to be used in my story

on the dialogue during Lane Dean's break, listening to the other examiners talk about dinner and mosquitos

—p.230 by Jeffrey Severs 2 years, 6 months ago

(noun) material wealth or possessions especially as having a debasing influence (from the New Testament)

230

a "hobby" Dean, a Christian, perhaps invoking biblical maxims about God and mammon, finds "debased and distorted"

Lane Dean's views on coin-collecting

—p.230 by Jeffrey Severs
unknown
2 years, 6 months ago

a "hobby" Dean, a Christian, perhaps invoking biblical maxims about God and mammon, finds "debased and distorted"

Lane Dean's views on coin-collecting

—p.230 by Jeffrey Severs
unknown
2 years, 6 months ago
235

[...] Wallace gave his characters new names "constantly," writes Pietsch (PK xiii), but other REC names--the forest (sylvan) in Sylvanshine, the land and river valleys (glen) in Glendenning, the bloom in Blumquist, the fish in Fisher, the deer (hind) in Hindle, the bus in Bussy, and the bond (to pay for public works) in Bondurant--suggest that a finished Pale King might have had much to say about many different public resources, natural and infrastructural. [...]

idk if I agree with the intrepretations of all these names but it's an interesting theory

—p.235 by Jeffrey Severs 2 years, 6 months ago

[...] Wallace gave his characters new names "constantly," writes Pietsch (PK xiii), but other REC names--the forest (sylvan) in Sylvanshine, the land and river valleys (glen) in Glendenning, the bloom in Blumquist, the fish in Fisher, the deer (hind) in Hindle, the bus in Bussy, and the bond (to pay for public works) in Bondurant--suggest that a finished Pale King might have had much to say about many different public resources, natural and infrastructural. [...]

idk if I agree with the intrepretations of all these names but it's an interesting theory

—p.235 by Jeffrey Severs 2 years, 6 months ago

a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned arguments

235

Drinion represents a key synthesis in the novel's man/machine dialectic

—p.235 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago

Drinion represents a key synthesis in the novel's man/machine dialectic

—p.235 by Jeffrey Severs
notable
2 years, 6 months ago
238

[...] Consider David Cusk, the compulsively sweaty accountant: as he seeks release from self-obsession through what is essentially an inner thermostat to regulate his temperature, he replies to all those solipsistic hoarders of energy who have preceded him, from Lenore Sr. (who lacks such an inner thermostat) to Fogle (who keeps an external one on high). Cusk knows that paying attention to things outside him, things other than his fear of an "attack," can stem his sweat's flow but also that such outward attention is heavy lifting: "Paying attention to anything but the fear was like hoisting something heavy with a pulley and rope--you could do it, but it took effort, and you got tired, and the minute you slipped you were back paying attention to the last thing you wanted to" (PK 320). Cusk is learning here the concluding lesson of This Is Water: the willed choice to pay attention is the "job of a lifetime, and it commences--now," taking up every minute of every day, the call to real American work (TW 136).

—p.238 by Jeffrey Severs 2 years, 6 months ago

[...] Consider David Cusk, the compulsively sweaty accountant: as he seeks release from self-obsession through what is essentially an inner thermostat to regulate his temperature, he replies to all those solipsistic hoarders of energy who have preceded him, from Lenore Sr. (who lacks such an inner thermostat) to Fogle (who keeps an external one on high). Cusk knows that paying attention to things outside him, things other than his fear of an "attack," can stem his sweat's flow but also that such outward attention is heavy lifting: "Paying attention to anything but the fear was like hoisting something heavy with a pulley and rope--you could do it, but it took effort, and you got tired, and the minute you slipped you were back paying attention to the last thing you wanted to" (PK 320). Cusk is learning here the concluding lesson of This Is Water: the willed choice to pay attention is the "job of a lifetime, and it commences--now," taking up every minute of every day, the call to real American work (TW 136).

—p.238 by Jeffrey Severs 2 years, 6 months ago