Fact: The normally astute Jonathan Raban shows himself to be on his game in this review/essay of The Pale King, enough so to get me looking at PK reviewage once again.
Unfortunately, an otherwise fine piece of work is marred by two pretty boneheaded errors in the second paragraph:
Most importantly, Infinite Jest (1996) showed Wallace as a walking encyclopedia on everything he touched—tennis, drugs, burglary, AA, halfway houses, hospital procedures, gang life in the streets of greater Boston, and much more. He seemed to know stuff beyond the ken of most novelists, and his knowledge spilled over into ninety-six close-printed pages of endnotes. It was said that the variously patterned doo-rags in which he habitually wrapped his temples when he appeared in public were there to stop his prodigious brains from breaking out of his skull.
First of all, while it is true that Wallace displays prodigious amounts of knowledge throughout Infinite Jest, the footnotes are not the best place to see that. Those footnotes are largely inventions on things like the filmography of made-up individuals and the details of eschatological games that don’t really exist.
Second, Wallace did not wear doo-rags. He wore bandannas. Here’s Wallace in a bandanna:
And here’s 50 Cent in a doo-rag:
See the difference?