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Guests, Guides

Colin Meloy: Thoughts at pg. 750; or, Staying at Pace

09.02.09 | 29 Comments

Colin Meloy is the lead singer and songwriter for the band The Decemberists. Their most recent album is The Hazards of Love.

First thing: Apparently summer is not infinite. It’s September 2nd and it’s cold in the mornings here and the leaves are just starting to turn and our tomatoes are dying.

Second thing: I’m keeping at pace.89 That’s my stand. And it’s not like I’ve had to hold myself back or anything – I’ve had kind of a busy summer and I’m not really a fast reader. However: I think another guest commenter may have mentioned, flying a lot lends itself to marathon reading sessions. The most traction I’ve had on the book has been achieved at 30K feet. So early on I actually had some breathing room and I managed to get a few other books read during my infinite summer.90 Initially I thought it’d be easy; that I’d get my 12 pages in IJ done and I’d be able to take on some light auxiliary reading. Things got a little crazy; I went on rock tour and I’ve had to abandon that plan. And while I’m sure there were folks who were pretty chuffed with themselves to be able to tweet “Finished. Think I’ll start in on 2666” in mid-July, I think that keeping to the schedule91 is the proper way to do this thing. For one thing, 12 pages a day is a reasonable amount, especially considering that I end up reading at least 3 of those pages more than once. And, more importantly, I’ve really loved reading all of the supplementary blogging that everyone has been doing92 Rushing ahead would somehow lessen the experience, don’t you think? So I’ve kept to pace.

Third thing: Okay: I’d like to just state that David Foster Wallace’s greatest achievement with this novel, in my estimation, is that he has managed to create a book whose key plot components are an elite tennis academy, a batty avant-garde film director, a dystopic future in which time is subsidized by corporations, a vast addiction-recovery complex, a group of wheelchair-bound Quebecois separatists/assassins, a film that is so compelling to its viewers that it will literally reduce them to a vegetable state, and a rampaging horde of feral hamsters and yet nothing has really happened. That’s the genius of this novel. It’s like Wallace is pushing the very limit of what plot elements a story can reasonably sustain, letting those elements wildly orbit one another until a kind of big bang occurs. One hopes. When describing this book to others (my baffled tour-mates, for one, sitting in their bus-bunks with their wrists unbent, blithely reading some slim novel or other) I’ve said that I’m well over ¾ of the way through this 1000 page book and I think I’m still getting exposition. I’d become really accustomed to the structure of the book and started to learn not to expect too much from the little plot pointers that DFW would throw at me – I grew closer to the characters in the understanding that these disparate worlds may never meet. And all of a sudden, things are changing: it was like witnessing the meeting of two old friends, you know, like one from college and one from high school. When Steeply was watching Hal play tennis. When one of the assassin roulants scoops up the unsuspecting engineer. When – holy shit – Marathe infiltrates the Ennet house! These perilous orbits are crashing closer and closer together, I think. We’re moving out of exposition, dear readers! The pages are starting to turn a little faster – though I’ll still be keeping at pace, thanks very much.

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