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The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

The Pale King (edition 2011)

by David Foster Wallace

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Title:The Pale King
Authors:David Foster Wallace
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2011), Hardcover, 560 pages
Collections:Currently reading

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The Pale King by David Foster Wallace



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The audio version of PK doesn’t have the Footnotes, which in a DFW novel is tantamount to a kind of neutering. But whatever. The real draw is the audio format. DFW may appear to be a “word” kind of guy, because he uses all kinds of three- and four-dollar words. But he’s really more verbal. What’s missing from PK the printed word novel is the gloss that DFW puts on everything he publishes. You get that gloss in the audio book. So, to get the full PK effect, you really need to both read the book and listen to the audio.
( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
July 2014: This is the third time I've read this through. The elevator scene where three main characters discuss the path America's taken in the last 50 years was the real stand out. What I saw clearest this read-through (better at least than before) was the narrative direction Wallace seemed to be heading. The novel is a failure only when compared to the author's vision for it. The writing, of course, is superb. And the novel we have, the novel qua novel, all speculations about auctorial vision aside, is (for my money) a fantastic, eminently readable work. It haunts me.

In Jan 2008, an excerpt from the novel appeared in Harper’s. The excerpt was about an infant with “a fierce and level gaze” who confronts one of the novel's narrators about his (= narrator's) performance at work. I've been waiting eagerly to read the book ever since. Thus, when I finally got my trembling mitts on the thing back in April, I just about couldn't contain myself. Pale King (PK) did not disappoint -- it thrilled. Figuring out how the Harper's excerpt fit into Pale King the novel has been a joy to figure out. As it turns out, PK is a lot more cohesive than one might at first imagine it to be. For instance, who is the Pale King? Mr. Glendenning, he of the mosquito fear ("they are basically just needles with wings"), bluff bearing, and 50s diction? Perhaps. Doctor Merrill Errol Lehrl? Also, perhaps. The US Citizen, fed on bread, entertained by circuses, a solipsistic ruler of his or her own tiny skull-sized kingdom? Yes. Here's why: "Everybody looks pale in the dark, man."

I can't say that I was blown away the first time I read it, but the Pale King has subsequently grown to seriously large dimensions in my mind's readerly warehouse. Open your bay door, give it a shot. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
I'm not entirely sure how he did it, but Wallace created a collage of beautifully banal bureaucracy and the repulsing, strangely intriguing characters that make up the world.

It's definitely a little strange to read about a fictionalized version of my hometown (Peoria, IL). There were bits of fact (Bradley University and Zeller) mixed in with a lot of fiction (Self-Storage Parkway, Carousel Mall, the main industries in town).

PopSugar Reading Challenge 2015 | Task 43: Takes place in your hometown ( )
  Bodagirl | Dec 16, 2015 |
I don't know how I feel about this book. It was mind numbingly, dull but thats also kind of the point of the book. So i hate it for being so fucking boring, but the author did a good job for what he set out for it to be, a long, drawn out and mundane tale of IRS workers. It does provoke some deep thoughts about life in general, but its still painfully dull, but it is also unfinished so maybe if it was completed the payoff from the book would of felt better. ( )
  GrlIntrrptdRdng | May 14, 2015 |
Moments of great insight and expressions around boredom and attention. But as a novel it was just too unfinished. ( )
1 vote DavidCLDriedger | Apr 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (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 editionscalculated
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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Le roi pâle est le plus beau roman de D.F Wallace .
"Profondément triste , profondément philosophique , à couper le souffle..." New York Times
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:32 -0400)

(see all 4 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)

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Legacy Library: David Foster Wallace

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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