The Pale King by David Foster Wallace


Well, without counting the kid books, I’m 539 pages deep into winter reading after finishing The Pale King. Reading this novel/memoir felt like reading many books at one time. I appreciated the variance across chapters and the depth of discussion through dialogue. Towards the end of the book there’s a 50 page happy hour scene that condenses into a conversation between two people that explores cutting, suicidality, the mental health establishment and other such related topics. During this chapter, one of the characters levitates — no joke. I confess I have not read the included note and asides from DFW that are after the end of the novel, though I’ll hope to visit them at some later point. I think if you do not read the editor’s note about this book before starting this book you may be disappointed in its totality — it is definitely a draft, which is not a criticism — just a reality of the situation. That being said, if you can let that go, and you like DFW, this will bring you as close to him as is Possible now. For this, I am so grateful I randomly plucked this from a free little library. While the IRS is the major theme there is so much more explored in these pages — human relationships, personalities, workplace drama, and the characteristics of the Midwest. This book took me somewhere for a long time and I already miss wherever that was.

6 comments on “The Pale King by David Foster Wallace”

  1. I had never heard of David Foster Wallace so I read a bit about him on Wikipedia. I learned a lot. Thanks for opening another door for me in the world of literature.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Appreciate your take on this book, borkali. I, too, am glad I had access to one more thing from DFW. Reading the editor’s note is a journey of its own.
    Is this right…would DFW be horrified at the notion…should I participate in this money-making venture? I still don’t know, but I couldn’t not read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great question, Teri — if we are honest with ourselves I think the answer is yes, he’d be horrified, as a perfectionist for one. Though somehow I hope in his new form he can appreciate our gratitude at having him sit in our laps this one last time…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I am tempted…

    The only thing I have read by him is This Is Water, his commencement speech at Kenyon College. I love what you say here, borkali – …This book took me somewhere for a long time and I already miss wherever that was.


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