Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Hi, Kathleen!) was a member of the DFW panel at MLA09 and posted some news about the session to wallace-l. It sounded like a very interesting session, with some great presenters, hopefully I'll be able to post more about it later.
Michael Pietsch was also a panel member and spoke about The Pale King
Kathleen's report revealed:
- DFW had been working on TPK since 1996.
- It's had a number of working titles: "Glitterer," "SJF "(which stood for Sir John Feelgood), and "What is Peoria For?"
- Some of the pieces of short fiction collected elsewhere are chapters of the novel including "The Soul Is Not a Smithy" and "Incarnations of Burned Children." (No clarification if this means they are part of TPK, Nick)
- Wallace did extensive research for the novel in accounting, tax processes, an so forth. (Check out the DFW Research notes at the bottom of the page here)
- There are more than 1000 pages of manuscript, in 150 unique chapters; the novel will be published in time for tax day in April 2011. (With a number of publication date changes already I'd say this is not yet set in stone, Nick)
- The subject of the novel is boredom. The opening of the book instructs the reader to go back and read the small type they skipped on the copyright page, which details the battle with publishers over their determination to call it fiction, when it's all 100% true. The narrator, David Foster Wallace, is at some point confused with another David F. Wallace by IRS computers, pointing to the degree to which our lives are filled with irrelevant complexity.
- The finished book is expected to be more than 400 pages, and will be explicitly subtitled "An Unfinished Novel"; the plan is to make available the drafts and phases the text went through on a website that will exist alongside the book. Pietsch is editing the book in close collaboration with Bonnie Nadell and the estate, but as we've heard him say before, he sees his role very clearly as attempting to order the text into a unified whole, and not making changes that the author isn't there to argue with.
(Thanks for taking such detailed notes, Kathleen! Check out her blog, Planned Obsolescence