Reading The Pale King and – specifically the interviews with (the wigglers) – and pondering the parallels between designing and writing. DFW’s writing is so … ummm… “constructed” … it’s designed (well). From the word structure to the underlying theme all the way to the concepts in a larger paragraph/chapter. It’s not so much that the fiction is written, but the entire (fragmented) narrative is designed. I cannot think of another way to describe the technique.
This is the core idea that encapsulates the entire book. Picking apart the structure of this passage, we have the narrator telling the story of a contrived story (the play **) that has no “action”.
Imagine designing something that had absolutely no utility (or no use that anyone could determine). Is it art? Or is it an object that has no utility other than to delight? Isn’t this the best kind of design? (I think so).
The book is about boredom. Holding the concept of boredom in your hands and investigating it, exploring it’s nuances – trying to understand this “thing” that we take every measure in every action of our lives – to avoid.
Sometimes when I’m telling my daughters bedtime stories, I’ll play a game and begin to tell a story within a story within a story etc. and then back my way out of the stories to end exactly where we started. “A totally real, true-to-life play.”
**DFW used the same technique in Infinite Jest. It was a film that Himself created. The point was to make all the theatergoers leave in disgust.