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Meaghan's Project Details

Page history last edited by Meaghan Skahan 10 years, 3 months ago

The Pale King Excerpt Chapter 14

The above link is the text of the fourteenth chapter, on which I will be working this quarter.


The Pale King is a chaotic book, and under the circumstances it's hard to tell how much of the chaos is deliberate. "He talks about a 'tornadic' structure in some of the notebooks," Pietsch says. "I took it as part of his intention — that this novel come at you like a tornado, with shards flying at you."


Lev Grossman, Unfinished Business, March 31 2011


The Pale King is David Foster Wallace’s final work, published in unfinished form on tax day in April, 2011. The text defies conventional plot and characterization, and loosely focuses on a disparate group of tax professionals at the IRS center in Peoria Illinois in 1985. Cut into fifty chapters, most of which stand capably alone, the book is comprised of conversations between “wigglers” (tax checkers), stories of the dramatic and sordid childhoods of the same group of character, disembodied conversations of economic philosophy, and long faux-authorial interventions. The ten pages this project will examine are taken from the fourteenth chapter, in which a number of employees are interviewed and videotaped by the IRS. The excerpt begins with a physical description of the room, and the taping process which includes a prebriefing that encourages certain responses with an introductory video. The chapter then switches to transcriptions of the interviews, in which the questions are notably absent and the interviewees are not identified by name, but by social security number (DFW claims in the text that all IRS employees are given new SS numbers when they join the service. This isn’t true.). The interviews vary in length, tone, and topic. It is possible to posit links between the interviewees and the named characters of the rest of the book, but not easy.


Our initial challenge to ourselves was to produce a number of visualizations of our respective texts, in an effort to create one visual that could be considered useful, and one visual we considered visually appealing. Fully cognizant of the instability of notions of use and beauty, our initial forays into various software programs brought forth fruitful discussions of methodology and ideology behind visualizing information. While we each produced multiple original visualizations, in the forms of word trees, word clouds, Photoshop images, History Flows, and Excel Spreadsheets, these products mark nodes within a productive dialogue about work production, aesthetics, intentionality, art, and critical analysis. This dialogic process is documented on our blog, Ludic Analytics, which demonstrates our disparate motivations, interests, academic backgrounds, and choice of texts.


A number of different images were produced within the course of the academic quarter. Here are a few that are also posted on the blog.

(An Excel Deformance)

(Another Excel Deformance, made to resemble a typical bar graph)


(Highly pixelated Pixelmator deformation of the Excel Deformance)


(Pixelmator "collage" of the fourteenth chapter of The Pale King, which makes use of Karen Green's cover art work for the novel, as well as critical excerpts from reviews of the novel)

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