SOMETHING TO DO WITH PAYING ATTENTION by David Foster Wallace
Sometimes you have to ask yourself: am I a sucker? If, like me, you tend to lap up every drop of blood squeezed from the stone of a dead artist’s oeuvre then the answer is usually yes. This little novella by David Foster Wallace, lord of the ‘90s thinking dude-bro literary explosion, might just be the exception. Though contained in its entirety in The Pale King (which always felt like a ragged patchwork quilt to me) it was viewed by DFW as a discrete, finished work. So, excised from the larger novel, what are we to make of it?
Something To Do… is the droney monologue of a self-confessed “wastoid” who, sometime in 1970s Chicago, accidentally stumbles into an Advanced Tax Law class which sets him on course for a career in the IRS. Grappling with the death of his father in a tragic (and absurd) train accident and dealing with its personal and legal fallout, he flits between hyper-descriptive horror and turgid bureaucratic banality. It’s quite the balancing act, one I struggled to get into at first, but that ultimately had me on board (so to speak). Or maybe I’m just a sucker.
Something To Do With Paying Attention by David Foster Wallace
McNally Editions, 2022