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Bloody Shambles

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Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos by John Shade
Vladimir Nabokov, Brian Boyd
Pale Fire
Vladimir Nabokov
Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground New Edition
Michael Moynihan, Didrik Søderlind
Under Stones
Bob Franklin
The Erotic Potential of My Wife
David Foenkinos, Yasmine Gaspard
A Corner of White
Jaclyn Moriarty
Winter's Bone
Daniel Woodrell
Progress: 99 %
Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
Neil Gaiman
The Beetle
Richard Marsh
Wreck This Journal
Keri Smith
The Pale King - David Foster Wallace How do you review an unfinished book? How do you even start to review an unfinished DFW book about magical tax agents and boredom?I think I start by saying that the book I read is quite a different book to the book that DFW apparently wanted to write, if you believe the endnotes. The eight pages at the end tell a far more interesting story than do the 540 pages of actual text. You can't review an author's intentions, though, so all I can really do is to try to review the book that was published.What makes this even more difficult is that one of the most central themes to the book, appears to hinge on the premise that tax administration is inherently boring. While many people may have no trouble with that assumption, I spent many years in a not dissimilar role in social security administration. I would argue that this kind of work is only boring from the outside. When you're in the middle of it, when you understand the context and the huge implications this has for an entire nation of real people and their lives... it really is exciting and something most of us were highly passionate about. There was a point in the text that referenced, "the pointless complexity of bureaucracy", but there is always a point. Someone somewhere at some point in time has always been trying to achieve something with that complexity, even if the end result is ineffectual, perverse, or the point is no longer relevant. If you know the corporate history, you'll know what the point is (or was). Even the "tingle tables" (above) are something I would have killed for back in the day. My workplace had a "clean desk policy" to prevent confidential documents being leaked, so everything had to be locked up at the end of the day. This did not stop me from cobbling together bits & pieces of shelving and constructing my own version, however..This leads me to another issue. I found it really unlikely that a federal government department in any country, particularly in the 1980s, would be so highly organised and self-aware. I mean we're talking about disseminating brochures to potential recruits with hidden information which were really complex psychological experiments to see who would read to the end through all the dry wording, and a range of similar baroque plots and schemes. [This makes more sense when viewed in light of the end-notes, where we find out that DFW intended a central plot whereby someone was gathering together agents with particular skills, talents and magical abilities, however I don't believe this comes through clearly in the book as published]Don't get me wrong, there were flashes of brilliance in this book. Chapter 8 is the story of a young girl who's the third generation of a family of broken women. This is one of the most wonderful pieces of fiction I've ever read, and works beautifully as a standalone short story. If you read nothing else in this book, you need to read Chapter 8! Likewise some of the ideas DFW was experimenting with are fascinating. For example, putting us in the role of "wiggler", wading our way through 100 pages of mostly dry text and footnotes, for the odd hidden gem of information - just like the brochures. Or the idea that is referenced quite early in the book about boredom really being fear of something far, far darker. Great idea - but never really fleshed out. [Or the idea in the endnotes about having things *almost* happen, and then not happening - but again, this doesn't really come through in the book] And here's the thing: As much as I struggled to plough through this, as much as I found myself saying "What. The. Actual. Fuck?" with some of the latter chapters, the endnotes point to something that could have been truly wonderful, as well as making some sense out of the text that actually is there. This really tips the balance for me, and makes it a book that I do enjoy, if mostly for the ideas it raises.At the end of the day though, I think the wee Leo hit it on the head with his five-word review, "Man is this ever unfinished".***************************************************It's not that I mind my cat sharing my books with me, I just wish she wasn't so far ahead of me.