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The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
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The Pale King (edition 2011)

by David Foster Wallace

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1,177276,846 (3.91)59
Member:amandafrench
Title:The Pale King
Authors:David Foster Wallace
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2011), Hardcover, 560 pages
Collections:Currently reading
Rating:****
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The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

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» See also 59 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Wonderful. Infinite Jest was an addictive book about addiction, and many have described this as an occasionally boring book about boredom ... but it never dragged for me. Disjointed, yes, but then if the author died a fraction of the way through, why wouldn't it be? A perfect paean to the office drone, read in snatches between my own fluorescently-lit shifts. Who knows how brilliant the finished article would have been? ( )
  alexrichman | Jul 8, 2014 |
Awful book. Marked it as read because, after struggling through so much pointless repetition, considering it done made about as much sense as the editor patching this junk together and calling it a novel. ( )
  marti.booker | Dec 2, 2013 |
What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said more eloquently? I can tell you that it was, at times, laugh out loud funny, deeply touching, and sometimes confounding. It's a book that was far from finished (as evidenced by the notes at the end) but reads quite smoothly and is only a bit more disjointed than some of his finished works.

For me (and many others), DFW's work explores what it means to be alive, to be human in this day and age. He raises questions about what is worth our time to think about, to entertain ourselves and the nature of the world. DFW continues to do so in The Pale King at a very high level, at times surpassing Infinite Jest.

I feel like this review is getting a bit hamfisted.

Let me just say that this book is accessible to long time fans of DFW and first time readers. The sadness and hilarity contained within should resonate with damn near everyone.

( )
  dtn620 | Sep 22, 2013 |
With Wallace's brilliant writing and the inside skinny on the inside world of the IRS, how could you go wrong with an unfinished book? Wallace just slays me, how he does what he does is amazing at times. There are so many story lines, characters, and literary styles racing around in this rather large volume that it's stunning that any editor even tried to put something together. I'm still flashing on parts of it, days latter. ( )
  jphamilton | Jul 1, 2013 |
The Pale King is a novel of the Internal Revenue Service. It is a meditation on boredom, and bureaucracy. It's a language dance. It is often profound and seriously playful. It's about taxes and tax collection and life in the prison of a large organization, in this case the IRS, or, we might just as well say, the prison of one's own mind. Sometimes it is delightful. Sometimes it made me laugh outloud.

Because it is David Foster Wallace, it takes as a subject "art." It is fascinating because it does not seem that it is possible for the IRS to be fascinating, and it is a joy to watch an artist make something from emptiness.

It takes also as its subject "the author": David Foster Wallace is the author, a character referred to as the "author" in the book, and two separate characters (a GS-9 and a GS-13) suffering from bureaucratic identity confusion at the Peoria Regional Examination Center (REC.) There may be others as well.

For the first half of the novel the reader (me in this case, you in the case that you are the reader, and any other third party in the event that the third party is the reader), waits expectantly for the novel to begin to wrap back around on itself. You (she, he) wait(s) for a character to reappear, for a story begun at one place to continue in another. This does not happen much, and then it seems to happen even less. It slowly dawns on the reader (me, you, she, he) that if closure is the thing, one of us is going to be left feeling wide open and unbounded.

This not happening of closure is what happens when we read the well edited left-behind manuscripts of an author who decided to kill himself before he completed his novel. It slowly dawns on you (if you are the reader) that there will be no connection of threads, at the level of plot. Rather, at best, such connections will emerge on other levels.

All this beautiful crazy novel will ever be is a strung together set of meditations on how people cope with the stultifying boredom of the quintessential modern situation of life in a bureaucracy. And make no mistake about it, these chapters and chapter fragments are beautifully written, and totally worth the time and effort you may spend on them. This is a novel that delights in its language, in its humor, in its insanity, and its stunning reportorial authenticity concerning arcane IRS policy, procedure, fluorescent lighting, internal politics and human agonies.

Its incompleteness is enough to make one angry at David Foster Wallace and his inability to go on living long enough to complete this vision, but what's the point? He had his demons and this is what they allowed him to produce, and no more. I lived with this book for two months of evenings, and mostly enjoyed every minute of it.

It's a novel about taxes, the IRS and tax examiners, and some version of the life of David Foster Wallace. Read it. Laugh and marvel. ( )
1 vote hereandthere | Apr 8, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Unfinished or no, it’s worth reading this long, partly shaped novel just to get at its best moments, and to ponder what Wallace, that excellent writer, would have done with the book had he had time to finish it himself.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 1, 2011)
 
'By turns breathtakingly brilliant and stupefying dull — funny, maddening and elegiac — “The Pale King” will be minutely examined by longtime fans for the reflexive light it sheds on Wallace’s oeuvre and his life.'
added by GYKM | editNew York Times, Machiko Kakutani (Mar 31, 2011)
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Foster Wallaceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pietsch, MichaelEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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We fill pre-existing forms and when we fill them we change them and are changed. - Frank Bidart, Borges and I
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Past the flannel plains and blacktop graphs and skylines of canted rust, and past the tobacco-brown river overhung with weeping trees and coins of sunlight through them on the water downriver, to the place beyond the windbreak, where untilled fields simmer shrilly in the A.M. heat: shattercane, lamb's-quarter, cutgrass, sawbrier, nut-grass, jimsonweed, wild mint, dandelion, foxtail, muscadine, spine-cabbage, goldenrod, creeping charlie, butter-print, nightshade, ragweed, wild oat, vetch, butcher grass, invaginate volunteer beans, all heads gently nodding in the morning breeze like a mother's soft hand on your cheek.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316074233, Hardcover)

The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has.

The Pale King remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace's death, but it is a deeply compelling and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions--questions of life's meaning and of the value of work and society--through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace's unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:51 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The character David Foster Wallace is introduced to the banal world of the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, and the host of strange people who work there, in a novel that was unfinished at the time of the author's death.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

Legacy Library: David Foster Wallace

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