The Pale King – Chapter 15


Dear Dave,

After reading and rereading §15, I was curious if there is actually such a thing a Random Fact Intuition, the ESP-like “disability”[1] that afflicts Claude Sylvanshine.  A quick Google search yielded nothing but a few reviews of The Pale King.  I also tried “fact psychic” and “data mystic,” for which a number of websites came up, but none had anything to do with the condition described in this section.[2]

So you made it up, huh?

Well real or fictitious, I can think of very few maladies that could possibly be worse.  It would be like constantly having the television on with the channel changing every three seconds.  Constant distraction.  No control.  No filter.  No way to stop the flow or meaningless and useless information.

Or in your words:

“Perhaps one in every four thousand such facts is relevant or helpful.  Most are like having someone sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ in your ear while trying to recite a poem for a prize” (120).

“The fact psychic lives part-time in the world of fractious, boiling minutiae that no one knows or could be bothered to know even if they had the chance to know” (120).

“Impossible to predict what facts will intrude.  Constant headaches.  The data sometimes visual and queerly backlit, as by an infinitely bright light an infinite distance away” (121).

“Overwhelming” (121).

Though no such condition exists, I can’t help but think that we have artificially created the next closest thing.  We live in a world of perpetual distraction.  Even as I try to write this Letter, I pause to check my email.  I like a friend’s status on Facebook.  I take my turn in Words with Friends.  I glance over at the television.[3]  My wife asks for help in her game of Draw Something.  I go tell my girls to go to sleep for the fourth time.  I’m back to Facebook.  I click on a link to read an article.  I check my email again.  I laugh at a funny line coming from the TV.  It’s my turn to play on Words with Friends.

It goes on and on and on.

And yet we are both victim and complicit to the crime.  We demanded and created the technology, and then bitch and complain about how we can never get any work done.

In the make-believe world of The Pale King, there is a name for Claude’s disorder.  He is the victim; it’s out of his control.

But we have no excuses.  Nothing in the DSM-IV.  No one to blame but ourselves.


[1] Your word, not mine.

[2] For readers of this post who have not read TPK, Random Fact Intuition (RFI) is a psychic condition in which the afflicted receive “sudden flashes of insight or awareness [that] are structurally similar to but usually far more tedious and quotidian than the dramatically relevant foreknowledge we normally conceive as ESP or precognition” (118).  In other words, the victims of this disorder are psychically inundated with random and trivial facts that have absolutely no relevance or meaning to the person receiving this knowledge.

[3] There is nothing good on television, so we’re watching one of my favorite films, City Slickers.

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