The Pale King

548 pages

Published Nov. 8, 2011 by Little, Brown.

ISBN:
978-0-316-07423-0
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OCLC Number:
668192483

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4 stars (18 reviews)

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.

10 editions

Review of 'The Pale King' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Back in April of 2006, I had a decidedly awesome experience that I'd hoped to have again: I saw and heard David Foster Wallace speak at Franklin & Marshall College. He read aloud to us a portion about Leonard Syecyk, a most unusual and insufferable do-gooder of a child, chuckling in places as he went. It sounded like the makings of another fantastic novel, and lo, it is.

This is vintage DFW--the footnotes, a long list of characters that we meet in intense ways, but may not hear about again, and his zany, smart humor. This tome is mostly about living through excruciating boredom, and Wallace deftly immerses us into passages of IRS jargon and procedure that are quite challenging. Did my mind wonder? You bet. During one tedious interlude, DFW slipped in the words, every story is a ghost story. One of the little gifts for sticking with …

Review of 'The pale king' on 'Storygraph'

5 stars

Wallace had been mulling the possibilities for a third novel since the mid-1990s, even as he began the stories that would form the heart of Brief Interviews. The setting had come early, possibly even before the publication of Infinite Jest: he knew he wanted to write about the IRS. The agency fit well with Wallace’s Pynchonian appetite for clandestine organizations and hidden conspiracies. And like the tennis academy and recovery house in Infinite Jest, it was a world unto itself, where characters would be in charged apposition to one another. Wallace himself had had numerous small brushes with the agency over the years, usually involving trivial errors on Form 1099s that he or his accountant had to get corrected. These encounters touched off the same anxiety within him as communications from lawyers and fact-checkers. He had an idea as well of the IRS as a secular church, a counterpart to …

Review of 'The Pale King' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Wallace had been mulling the possibilities for a third novel since the mid-1990s, even as he began the stories that would form the heart of Brief Interviews. The setting had come early, possibly even before the publication of Infinite Jest: he knew he wanted to write about the IRS. The agency fit well with Wallace’s Pynchonian appetite for clandestine organizations and hidden conspiracies. And like the tennis academy and recovery house in Infinite Jest, it was a world unto itself, where characters would be in charged apposition to one another. Wallace himself had had numerous small brushes with the agency over the years, usually involving trivial errors on Form 1099s that he or his accountant had to get corrected. These encounters touched off the same anxiety within him as communications from lawyers and fact-checkers. He had an idea as well of the IRS as a secular church, a counterpart to …

Review of 'The Pale King' on 'LibraryThing'

5 stars

Wallace had been mulling the possibilities for a third novel since the mid-1990s, even as he began the stories that would form the heart of Brief Interviews. The setting had come early, possibly even before the publication of Infinite Jest: he knew he wanted to write about the IRS. The agency fit well with Wallace’s Pynchonian appetite for clandestine organizations and hidden conspiracies. And like the tennis academy and recovery house in Infinite Jest, it was a world unto itself, where characters would be in charged apposition to one another. Wallace himself had had numerous small brushes with the agency over the years, usually involving trivial errors on Form 1099s that he or his accountant had to get corrected. These encounters touched off the same anxiety within him as communications from lawyers and fact-checkers. He had an idea as well of the IRS as a secular church, a counterpart to …

Review of 'The Pale King' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars


David Foster Wallace's last unfinished novel concerns the employees of an IRS Regional Examination Center. Men and women with strange powers are being gathered at this office for a mysterious political showdown within the IRS. The novel, more a collection of nearly unconnected fragments, is a rumination on boredom and the role of humanity in a machine-like environment.

Just after I finished reading this book I wrote a fairly negative review, that I thought the book had some brilliant moments, some astonishingly good writing, but the disjointed pieces and the fact that it was so very unfinished made it unworkable and disappointing for me. And then I sat on that review for months and now I've changed my mind. This is a better book than I initially thought, and it borders on magnificent.

The book is definitely unfinished, and it feels less like a novel and more like a collection …

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