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The Pale King

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  13,124 Ratings  ·  1,688 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
Hardcover, 548 pages
Published April 15th 2011 by Little, Brown & Company
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Deborah Lagutaris As I remember it, it does not have an ending. The stories just ran together, or had common elements, like a series of vignettes. After the first read,…moreAs I remember it, it does not have an ending. The stories just ran together, or had common elements, like a series of vignettes. After the first read, I felt perfectly happy picking it up anywhere and reading on from there. Then I read Infinite Jest, which was a bloated monstrosity at 800+ pages. But did I complain? No. I read 50 pages of endnotes before telling myself I had lost it. (less)

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Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 28, 2012 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 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Michael Finocchiaro
I have been a little fascinated with David Foster Wallace since learning of his suicide on the blogosphere several years back. I have already written a little bit about my reading of some of his work and just happened upon The Pale King in the CDG airport on the way to Berlin. Perhaps it was just a funny twist of fate because the English book selection at Relais H in France tends to be something between the abysmal military fiction of Tom Clancy and the insipid modern novels pretending to be lit ...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. Es duro hacer esta reseña. No es una simple relato, es mucho más. No son páginas, palabras y tinta. Este libro es la herencia
...more
Greg
Apr 02, 2012 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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
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
Darwin8u
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, aere-perennius
“How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.”
― David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

description

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 part
...more
Mariel
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, modern-lit
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
Lee
Nov 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
B0nnie
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Jimmy
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Szplug
Mar 07, 2013 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
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
Edward
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s a little misleading to call The Pale King unfinished: in fact, it barely gets started. Despite the novel’s physical size, it’s less than half the length of Infinite Jest, and it was clearly intended to become megafiction of that order.

Throughout what we have of the novel, Wallace writes using various styles and perspectives. Sometimes he is overly detailed, expounding at length on the intricacies of tax law and the ins and outs of IRS processes – this is an exercise in immersion, an attemp
...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
Oriana
Mar 24, 2011 marked it as to-read
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
Apr 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1970-present, prose
Would have been his masterpiece. Is his masterpiece?
Nick Black
Jan 25, 2012 rated it liked it
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 marked it as to-read
THIS IS ABOUT MFSO HES JERKIN OFF THINKIN ABOUT IT
Jesse
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Natalie
Apr 15, 2011 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.

Jim
Apr 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Matt
Apr 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Chris
May 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Habemus_apicellam
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: americana
Sezionando l'accidia fino all'ultimo nervo

L'ultima prova di DFW è la più ambiziosa - la sfida è mettere al centro delle pagine la condizione umana meno attraente e interessanta: la noia, il tedio, l'ennui, la perdita di spinta vitale connessa alla monotonia e alla ripetitività.
E a questo fine lo scrittore investe dieci anni della sua vita (gli ultimi dieci anni, in triste retrospettiva), creando il contesto fisico, temporale (e direi, quasi filosofica) per affrontare questo tema: la sede dell
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Instructions
  • Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace
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  • JR
  • A Moment in the Sun
  • A Naked Singularity
  • David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide
  • Omensetter's Luck
  • Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest
  • The Angel Esmeralda
  • The Rainbow Stories
  • Train Dreams
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7,314 followers
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.” 765 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.” 503 likes
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