Couches and TV’s and Machines

In David Foster Wallace‘s The Pale King, the character becomes aware of how bad his nihilism is when he becomes aware that he is sitting on a couch, watching “As the World Turns,” and on every commercial, which happen quite frequently, the television man announces “You are watching ‘As the World Turns.'” The multiple layers of rich irony are too rich as Wallace himself points out. I was reading and realized that’s how I sit too, but I am such a nihilist, I don’t even make the choice to be a nihilist – Someone who truly doesn’t exist in a world that doesn’t exist.

I don’t watch soap operas. I love to watch race cars go round and round or wind their way here and there on road courses and rather than admit I’m doing nothing, I pretend and feel as though I am spectating great human drama and am gaining great insight into the nature of man and his machines. I never get to use this insight, so I presume I am doing nothing.

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  1. #1 by Marian on April 22, 2011 - 10:45 pm

    am i gonna read that damn book or not, carl? help me out here.

    • #2 by Carl on April 22, 2011 - 11:17 pm

      HAHA! I am too biased to help. I am not sure, but a requirement for enjoyment of the book might be that the reader is a complete crackpot. I qualify.

      I identify so closely with DFW’s perspective on modernity, I wish he had written a 100 more books, so I am savoring it while reading a few other books. For me, it’s not the architecture of the book – it is after all unfinished – but it is almost every sentence, and there is one chapter in that book that is my favorite passage of writing ever.

      Read the book, damn it! Slowly!

  2. #3 by Find an Outlet on April 23, 2011 - 12:20 am

    “You are watching As the World Turns” is firmly planted in my mind now, lousy with imagery and absurdity. Very clever and sad.

    Do you like animals? The highlight of an adopted dog or cat’s life is when they can join you in nothingness. Then you realize you really do exist when you have to clean the litterbox. Whether I succeed or fail or live or die doesn’t really matter, but it matters to them.

    I think you use your insight in everything you write.

    • #4 by Carl on April 23, 2011 - 10:51 am

      Thank you for your comment. Leaving you with the images of “As the World Turns” is not a very nice gift.

      I have five dogs at home, and they are the root for me. They keep me going. They keep me in the present. They are grateful and they are loving no matter what condition I am in. They work hard to teach me how to live. Four of them are adoptees from the no-kill shelter and the fifth was a boy who spent too long in a pet store window because he was accused of being a runt. My wife felt sorry for him and he has been a wonderful creature for us. The dogs are more real and more right than the soap operas and the race cars. 🙂

      • #5 by Find an Outlet on April 23, 2011 - 12:55 pm

        Five! That I did not expect (I have six). I don’t talk about my number of misfit cats because I prefer to remain in denial.

        You can’t imagine how you just spiked on my scale of worth. Is that wrong? I’m sawry. But 9 out of 10 dogs agree that watching cars drive around in a circle is preferable to watching the cinderblocks down at the shelter.

  3. #6 by carldagostino on April 23, 2011 - 11:16 am

    Nihilism. I thought this was about farming the delta in Egypt. Sheesh was I off target there, eh ” The denial of existence, nothingness. Well, if a typewriter and pontificaters
    do not exist how would they tell us about non-existence?These guys have nothingness alright. In their heads. On the other hand , there may be a degree of validity to this. When I got divorced and paid child support and lost my house there “existed” a great deal of nothingness.

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