The Pale King — David Foster Wallace

The Pale King — David Foster Wallace

Originally published here.

This week, I finished two novels, The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, and Serotonin by Michel Houellebecq.

Here is my brief review of The Pale King, entitled ‘Unfinished enlightenment’.

In this, Wallace’s so-called unfinished novel, that is actually at times part memoir and part journalistic feat compiled by his friend and editor posthumously (for Wallace) about his 13 months working for ‘the Service’ at Lake James Illinois’s IRS Post 047 while serving suspension from university (all explained in the book’s Foreword, beginning on page 66 of the first edition hardcover from Little, Brown), there is not only an inside look at the ‘Initiative’, which changed the IRS (forever) in the 80s from a moral entity into a profit-motivated bureaucracy with the assistance of advancing computer technology (see ANADA), but also a sensitive, serious, yet hardly cynical lens — actually multiple lenses, since Wallace attracts … read the full review


PS After writing the review excerpted above, I found Jon Baskin’s book, Ordinary Unhappiness: The Therapeutic Fiction of David Foster Wallace, which includes a section on The Pale King, where the intrigued reader will undoubtedly find insights he hadn’t himself noticed — such as that Wallace with The Pale King is suggesting “that a whole culture can persist in a state of immaturity and blindness to itself” (131) — which inspires me to reach for an even closer reading in my upcoming efforts.