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The Pale King

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,352 Ratings  ·  1,421 Reviews
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 mom ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 712 pages
Published April 2011 by Little,Brown and Company
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
As most of the people in my corner of a corner of a corner of Goodreads know—just as well as they know about my rabid, undying affection for David Foster Wallace—I tend to use Occam's razor to slash through supernaturalistic irrationality on a pretty regular basis. Despite this reflexive skepticism, I couldn't help feeling like this book was somehow written for me while reading it. Working the graveyard shift at a residential treatment facility for "at-risk youth" (the second such facility I'd c ...more
Paul Bryant
Dec 22, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
THE MONEY I DID NOT WANT


3 years ago I noticed mysterious amounts were appearing in my current account. Regularly. Every week! They came from the tax office and they were tax credits. I hadn't applied for any tax credits. So I phoned them up. They said "We can't stop it unless we know what account these monies SHOULD be paid into and we won't know that until someone complains." I said well, what are you going to do? they said, we'll be in touch. So - last month I got a letter through the post say
...more
RandomAnthony
Jun 21, 2011 RandomAnthony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Pale King is a skyscraping achievement. Separating Wallace's backstory from the novel might be impossible, but the edited text, however incomplete, astonishes. The Pale King doesn't need a sympathy vote; the book soars on its own merits.

I should also point out that, after two attempts, I never finished Infinite Jest. A couple years back I recommended IJ to my friend James because he plays tennis and I remembered something in that doorstop about a tennis camp. James is still mad. So I didn't
...more
Franco  Santos
Qué raro se me hace el tener todo esto dentro y que para vosotros no sean más que palabras.
David Foster Wallace ya no se encuentra entre nosotros. Las heridas todavía están abiertas. Solo nos queda su obra, las historias en las que se refugiaba y a su vez sangraba. Es lo único que nos mantiene en contacto con esa alma nacida en Ithaca pero que vivió siempre en el dolor. Perseguido por la anhedonia y atormentado por su inteligencia, este incomprendido revolucionario de las letras luchó lo más q
...more
Ian GalaDali
Original review: May 10, 2011


100 Words in Search of a Precis (For Those of Us Who Prefer the Short Form of Stimulation)

DFW is calling on us to become Heroes or Pale Kings.

There is something Proustian at work in “The Pale King”.

DFW isn’t so much in search of lost time or even perceptions; he is in search of a lost ability to “perceive” or to “sense” or to make things “interesting”.

In a time when there is so much boredom, DFW is offering us a way of seeing and engaging with the parts of the wor
...more
Greg
Apr 27, 2012 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
What renders a truth meaningful, worthwhile, & c. is its relevance, which in turn requires extraordinary discernment and sensitivity to context, questions of value, and overall point-otherwise we might as well all just be computers downloading raw data to one another.

In the interest of full disclosure as a 'novel' this work is not five-stars. As a collection of chapters, stories, asides and footnotes it is quite close to being five stars.

I have no idea how to review this.

I'm more than a li
...more
Mariel
Nov 25, 2011 Mariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: tea dee dum
Recommended to Mariel by: boardum
When someone says something is "universal" I don't always feel like it quite applies to me, or it is some big cliche to describe just what people are used to. The big stuff like young love, birth, taking a crap, death. Sure, that's all universal and it happens to everyone (maybe not young love). Still, I don't think it's a word that I hop to and use to describe stuff like we're all gonna nod and be in the know. Yeah, I get that. Now I say but damn if The Pale King didn't feel something like this ...more
Kemper
Jan 01, 2012 Kemper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, 2011
Upon hearing that David Foster Wallace’s unfinished last novel was going to be published, my first thought was, “How do they know it wasn‘t done?” Because it’s not like Infinite Jest was a model of story resolution.

My question was answered in the introduction of The Pale King by editor Michael Pietsch that gives a concise breakdown of what Wallace left behind and how he put it together. He makes it very clear that this is not the book that Wallace was envisioning before his suicide. As Pietsch
...more
B0nnie
Sep 10, 2012 B0nnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite-books
We fill pre-existing forms and when we 
fill them we change them and are changed.
—Frank Bidart,“Borges and I”

The above epigraph to The Pale King is a pun - but a sincere one.
§ The Forms. (view spoiler)
...more
Lee
Aug 26, 2011 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As good as all his other stuff. No less finished-seeming than anything else he ever did. No plot, but thematic balls are always in the air and bouncing around, plus the prose is always so readable -- often easier, more mature, steadier, less trying to impress than his earlier stuff? Only had to look up two or three vocab words. Awarded the fifth star to encourage the writer to one day finish it properly -- for now, this collection of 540+ bound pages of DFW's writing, whether it's an unfinished ...more
MJ Nicholls
Well, wow. What an epic, wondrous book. I felt a breathless clarity, exhaustive elation, and all-over giddiness reading The Pale King—a feeling unsurpassed in the overlong Infinite Jest (which could lose 300+ pages easily), the often wilfully opaque stories in Oblivion, or the CPU-on-speed attack of his “floating eye” essays. Might this have been (or be) the perfect distillation of all Foster Wallace’s talents? All his strengths are here, in full bloom—his dizzying insights into the microbial su ...more
Paul Bryant
Nov 14, 2011 Paul Bryant marked it as assorted-rants-about-stuff  ·  review of another edition
As you know I have a lot of difficulty with DFW. I find him difficult! Also exasperating, brilliant, funny, also thinking he’s funnier than he is, also no doubt a genius writer, all of that, and virtually impossible. A difficult case. So I came across a review of The Pale King in the Sunday Times by Theo Tait which explains the problem with DFW. As the Sunday Times is part of the Evil Murdoch Empire and is no longer free online, I thought I would excerpt the best bits as a service I am happy to ...more
Szplug
Apr 21, 2013 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a strange experience reading The Pale King when set against that of Infinite Jest: having entered into it with a degree of trepidation—due to a combination of the novel's unfinished status, the advance warning I'd received about Wallace's determined efforts to capture the essence of (workplace) tedium and graft it within the story's very being, and another cyclically harrowed state of mind—it all made for a dispassionate progression. At no time, as before, did I feel completely enrapt in ...more
Jimmy
Apr 14, 2011 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
B.I. #? 04-11

'Well, I was going to suppress the urge to do it this way, but it seemed fitting. Not just in that meta-gimmicky way, but like a sort of homage. Because I genuinely do love the man and his writing, which is not the sort of sentiment that I usually feel toward most fiction writers that I admire.'
Q.
'Okay, maybe love isn't the right word. More like a relatable connection. Like listening to that Nine Inch Nails album With Teeth, and thinking about Reznor's substance abuse problem, an
...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
"'The Human Heart is a Chump': Cataloging The Pale King"; Jenn Shapland works in the Ransom Center and writes in The Millions about her experience cataloging The Pale King archival material:
http://www.themillions.com/2012/10/th...
The final paragraph:
"I don’t know what people will find in these folders or how they’ll choose to interpret this new installment to the record of Wallace’s works. What I’m certain they will discover is that within the boxes, numbered 36-41, lies not a single unfinished
...more
Nick Black
Feb 11, 2012 Nick Black rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Chisho1m
Shelves: likely-reread
well, first off, whew! it has been entirely, inexplicably, unforgivably too long since i've read a new book! what the hell happened? the end of 2011 was terribly shitty in pretty much every sense, and 2012 has been wholly consumed getting zee komputerkorp up off the ground (i've got a company that makes computers...or a computer that makes companies...i forget the details). so, what have we here?

chapter 46's long paean to aspergery goodness could have been pretty much lifted from any number of c
...more
Krok Zero
Sep 15, 2010 Krok Zero marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
THIS IS ABOUT MFSO HES JERKIN OFF THINKIN ABOUT IT
Oriana
Apr 15, 2011 Oriana marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
description

The Goodreads gods are jerks.

***

Dear Goodreads gods,

If I win the First Reads giveaway for this book, my entire life will have meaning. Every book I've ever read, and every review I've ever written, will have led me to this crowning moment. I've even created a new shelf just for The Pale King: to-read-immediately. I promise to neglect every other aspect of my life, including my dog and my boyfriend and my work, to read this when it comes.
PLEASE GIVE ME THIS BOOK PLEASE?

Sincerely yours,
oriana
Adam
Dec 05, 2015 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970-present, prose
Would have been his masterpiece. Is his masterpiece?
Natalie
Apr 17, 2011 Natalie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
RIP David Foster Wallace. It is so fucking weird that they released your book about the IRS on April 15th that I can hardly stand to write about it. So I made this picture instead.

Sentimental Surrealist
This could've, had Wallace lived to see it through, exceeded even Infinite Jest. Yes, IJ is my favorite novel, and it's hard for me to imagine anything topping that, but the potential was here. See, for all of DFW's second novel's many virtues, it's a very self-conscious novel. You can tell that Wallace wanted it to be an encyclopedic account of human existence, and while 1,079 pages is a lot, I don't think it's enough to do what Wallace wanted to do. He wanted to make literary history with it, ...more
Jesse
Apr 23, 2011 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So as you all know, Wallace’s writing style is highly contagious; thus, I will push back against the marriage of breezy witticism and Wikipedic knowledge that is Wallace’s distinctive style. I began “The Pale King” with an odd feeling of elation mixed with bittersweet bemoanment. I had waited for years for a new DFW novel. And while I love his non-fiction as much as the next guy, the non-fiction stuff seemed like buying a ticket to be inside Wallace’s brain as he did typically middle American a ...more
Sofia
The Demon, Engulf'd in Flames

They were killing my friends — Audie Murphy

My mother was (t)rapt in a maieutic conversation with a temporarily bankrupt friend, who has since again become a multi-millionaire, whom my parents had allowed to crash at our house until he was able to get back on his feet, his having a penchant for starting from scratch, considering themselves to be to him beholden on account of his having provided my father with employment soon after the latter had immigrated to the Unit
...more
Darwin8u
Dec 19, 2011 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, aere-perennius
If a novel about IRS examiners in a Midwest Regional Examination Center seems like a bad pitch, and definitely a boring novel, you will have almost grasped about one-half the magic of DFW. This is absolutely a novel about boredom, tedium, loneliness, isolation, bureaucracy, melancholy, and depression. Did I also mention this book is damn funny and absurd? I giggled at parts. I cried at parts. I cried and giggled at parts. There are books I love for their power. There are books I love for their a ...more
Chris
May 01, 2011 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Scott Gates
I've spend many, many hours arguing about (mostly against) DFW's merits and place in literature since reading Infinite Jest, way back in 1999 on vacation in Spain; toting the gigantic English paperback edition around from hostel to hostel, taking it on buses and trains through Andalucia, having bought it on the insistent and frenzied recommendation of my dear friend, Scott. A challenging book, annoyingly demanding the use of two bookmarks, and endless flipping from the chapter to the endnotes. N ...more
matt
I'm about a hundred pages in and this book is enthralling and gleamingly (not forbiddingly) complex. I love DFW profoundly, he's one of the writers I turn to for the usual reasons one turns to favorite (personal!) writers. There's insight, wit, beauty, power, depth, irony, verisimilitude, all of that stuff but also a strange sort of love. I don't mean this in an Oprah way or even 'agape' but this kind of... benevolence.

The world is an often ugly, unfair, crude and fucked-up place perhaps more
...more
Jim
Dec 15, 2011 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
David Foster Wallace takes on the central problem of our times. The book can be neatly summed up in section 45, that is pages 439-440 and ends with the sentence "If you are immune to boredom there is literally nothing you can't accomplish". Pale King is therefore a perfect complement or maybe the development of the idea of infinite jest (the desperate need to be entertained), by presenting that imperative's underlying cause "rather the way the ability to breathe and pump blood underlies all thou ...more
Jack Waters
For those particularly satisfied with a book after reading it, may I exhort you: read it again a few years later. The familiarity of the material makes the characters stand out, and the sentences scream nearly toward sentience.

Thus was the case when I dove back into D.F. Wallace’s ‘The Pale King.’ I re-read it after nearly the same length of time as had passed between Wallace’s death and its official published date.

“An Unfinished Novel” is a title-cased epitaph sandwiched between the book’s titl
...more
Jason
Jul 20, 2012 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who's read Infinite Jest
So I don't feel like I have anything substantive to say about the book and (see spoiler if you dare) I don't want to add a lot of redundant information, but I can say that The Pale King really solidified the feelings I had about DFW. I have a lot more to say about him after reading this, but that's for another venue.

For starters, going into the book knowing that one of the major themes was supposed to be about life’s boringness, and for all the reviews I had read that mentioned the same, I reall
...more
Kathrina
Dear DFW,
You are. This book is. My response is. The regular guy I(we, readers, CPAs, students, baton twirlers) never knew, never will know, thought for a moment I(we) knew, the guy with regular feelings about guilt, being a slob(me), being a dork(me), knowing and using too many big words in just the right way, your endless asides (using the word "paren" out loud), the guy you can never know just by reading his prose, fiction or non-, the unknowable narrative, the unknowable voice, the unknowable
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace
  • Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
  • The Angel Esmeralda
  • The Instructions
  • Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest
  • David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide
  • The Recognitions
  • Aberration of Starlight
  • Omensetter's Luck
  • Wittgenstein's Mistress
  • Against the Day
  • Train Dreams
  • A Moment in the Sun
  • The Royal Family
  • Parallel Stories
  • Love in Infant Monkeys
  • The Manikin
  • The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.
4339
David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it fe ...more
More about David Foster Wallace...

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“How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.” 477 likes
“The next suitable person you’re in light conversation with, you stop suddenly in the middle of the conversation and look at the person closely and say, “What’s wrong?” You say it in a concerned way. He’ll say, “What do you mean?” You say, “Something’s wrong. I can tell. What is it?” And he’ll look stunned and say, “How did you know?” He doesn’t realize something’s always wrong, with everybody. Often more than one thing. He doesn’t know everybody’s always going around all the time with something wrong and believing they’re exerting great willpower and control to keep other people, for whom they think nothing’s ever wrong, from seeing it.” 391 likes
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