The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

56%

17 Critic Reviews

...a good portion of this framework comes in the final “Notes and Asides” section tacked onto the main, patently partial manuscript.
-NY Times

Synopsis

The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has.

The Pale King remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace's death, but it is a deeply compelling and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions--questions of life's meaning and of the value of work and society--through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace's unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time.
 

About David Foster Wallace

See more books from this Author
David Foster Wallace wrote the novels The Pale King, Infinite Jest, and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl With Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes Consider the Lobster, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, Everything and More, and This Is Water. He died in 2008.
 
Published April 15, 2011 by Little, Brown and Company. 589 pages
Genres: Other, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Pale King
All: 17 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 13

NY Times

Above average
on Apr 14 2011

...a good portion of this framework comes in the final “Notes and Asides” section tacked onto the main, patently partial manuscript.

Read Full Review of The Pale King | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Below average
on Mar 31 2011

“The Pale King” is less inventive and exuberantly imagined than Wallace’s previous novels: no herds of feral hamsters roaming the land, no artificially created deserts in Ohio, no ad-bearing Statue of Liberty.

Read Full Review of The Pale King | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
on Apr 24 2011

...we are left with a heroic effort, possibly doomed from the start, to instil in readers alternate modes of fascination, radically out of step with our attention-deficient and ever "rationalising" culture.

Read Full Review of The Pale King | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Below average
on Apr 16 2011

Why the need for this kind of pseudo-sophistication when you are as genuinely sophisticated as he was?

Read Full Review of The Pale King | See more reviews from Guardian

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Mar 14 2011

You get the sense early on that he's trying to cram the whole world between two covers.

Read Full Review of The Pale King | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Above average
on Apr 09 2011

Readers of Wallace born before 1960 are apt to require an extra shot of ­patience to indulge his oeuvre...

Read Full Review of The Pale King | See more reviews from WSJ online

AV Club

Below average
on Apr 21 2011

The Pale King is riddled with dead-ends, lost lines, and fumbled plotting.

Read Full Review of The Pale King | See more reviews from AV Club

National Post arts

Below average
on Apr 15 2011

Unfortunately, The Pale King is one of the works that Wallace cared most deeply about. For that reason, it is one of the most forgettable things he ever wrote.

Read Full Review of The Pale King | See more reviews from National Post arts

Entertainment Weekly

Below average
on Apr 13 2011

What's missing? Maybe quite a lot. An appended ''Notes and Asides'' section suggests Wallace was still working out even the basic plot...Or maybe Wallace really did intend something fragmentary and inscrutable...

Read Full Review of The Pale King

LA Times

Good
on Apr 15 2011

"The Pale King" features an array of laid-back yet scintillating sentences, bucketloads of anecdotes and comic asides...

Read Full Review of The Pale King | See more reviews from LA Times

Slate

Above average
on Apr 11 2011

Maybe his failure to tie things together was a reasonable response to an age so overrun by facts that their neat integration seemed nearly impossible, and even—for Wallace—dishonest.

Read Full Review of The Pale King

Chicago Tribune

Above average
on Apr 29 2011

...a book that barely achieves takeoff but glimmers and sparkles with sufficient suggestions of the grandeur that might have been.

Read Full Review of The Pale King

USA Today

Excellent
on Apr 15 2011

There are geniuses and there are geniuses. David Foster Wallace was both, and The Pale King is a testament to that.

Read Full Review of The Pale King

New York Magazine

Above average
on Apr 01 2011

It is the mirror beneath entertainment’s smiley mask, and The Pale King aims to do for it what Moby-Dick did for the whale.

Read Full Review of The Pale King

Esquire

Good
on Mar 15 2011

Throughout The Pale King Wallace asks these questions of us. Or rather through some function of his genius, he causes us to ask these questions of ourselves.

Read Full Review of The Pale King

New York Magazine

Above average

...the version his executors have stitched together doesn’t so much end as stop. It might be useful to approach The Pale King not as a novel at all but as a collection of linked stories and extraordinary novellas.

Read Full Review of The Pale King

National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Stephen Marche on Apr 15 2011

His “technique” is both distracting and dull, like an eight-year-old endlessly bragging about a new bike or his grades or his shiny new hockey cards. I put up with it for the good bits but I find the process gruelling, like sifting through a jar of pennies looking for quarters on laundry day.

Read Full Review of The Pale King | See more reviews from National Post arts

Reader Rating for The Pale King
72%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 236 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

User Review

Brian Lee Kloosterman Jr. 17 Feb 2013

Rated the book as 4 out of 5