The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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Pale King Updates 19th April

In one way, this is palpably true: the novel as we have it is mostly the detailed evocation of a world through character outlines, conversations and recounted memories. But in another way, Wallace has hit on a historical story of great significance to our time. In the period from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s the IRS adopted what various characters term ‘‘the Initiative’’: staff performance would now be rated not by the number of tax returns completed, but by total monies recuperated through audit. As Wallace tells it, this shifted America’s largest state bureaucracy away from a concern with citizenship and moral responsibility, toward a pro-business, bottom-line philosophy, a philosophy now indelibly associated in our own world with the neoliberal turn that has dominated to the present day.

The centrality of this history to The Pale King makes it the author’s most political novel, but Wallace’s answer to the problem he identifies is less political than ethical. His evident belief is that by attending better to each other and to the world we inhabit - thereby breaking through our customary boredom with big ideas and little details - we can learn our responsibilities anew. And this ethics is also, of course, an aesthetics, because to pay enough attention is to find beauty in almost anything.
Non-review Updates:
Last Updated on Monday, 18 April 2011 20:23  


#1 Joe Briefcase 2011-04-20 07:41
I thought I read somewhere that there would be a guide for The Pale King for reading groups - is that correct?
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