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Home News by Category The Pale King Pale King Updates April 9th

Pale King Updates April 9th

Review first:
There aren't many novels featuring white-collar work in America, and it's not hard to figure out why: Not much happens, and what does can be mind-numbingly boring.
But are those good enough reasons for ignoring the office, given that so many of us spend our adult lives working in one? What does it say about the (ir)relevance of our fiction when it doesn't have the guts - or just plain doesn't know how - to figure out what we do there, and how that makes us feel?
One of the late David Foster Wallace's many gifts - as well as his curse - was his constitutional inability to duck such questions, coupled with an unswerving commitment to seeing things as they really are.
It's therefore no accident that "The Pale King," the unfinished novel on which Wallace labored during the last decade of his life, is set in an office. And not just any office. Never one to do things by halves, Wallace chose the most boring workplace he could imagine: an IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Ill.
  • James Campbell's review for The Wall Street Journal, A Cure for Head-Exploding Brilliance . Spoilers, plenty of them, including things about its conclusion... Probably the least positive review, and one most focused on reading his life into his work, that I've seen. I don't feel it's representative of the book at all:

There are almost 550 pages of wispy narrative threads, some of which show signs of what once seemed boundless linguistic and narrative gifts. The kindest way of looking at it is as an attempt at a cure, self-prescribed: For head-exploding brilliance, try boredom, the last-ditch remedy.
By writing in excruciatingly tedious detail about tax accountancy—he took classes in the subject as part of his preparation—Wallace hoped to dull himself into the state that those fortunate enough to know it call normality. Mr. ­Pietsch, a loyal and conscientious editor, says that he felt "unexpected joy" at the discovery of the files in Wallace's office, but not even he can expect the ordinary reader to rejoice in passages like this [...]


Non-review updates:

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 April 2011 15:46  

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