The Pale King
David Foster Wallace's last and most ambitious undertaking
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 what little humanity and dignity the work still has.
The Pale Kingremained 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.
The novel was included on the Best Books of 2011 lists in the New York Times, Time Magazineand Salon.
'The Pale Kingrepresents Wallace's finest work as a novelist ... His ability to render the fine finials and fractals and flourishes of a mind acting upon itself, from moment to moment, using only the blunt, numb instruments of language, has few if any equals in American literature.' Lev Grossman, Time Magazine
'Funny, maddening and elegiac ... In this, his most emotionally immediate work, Wallace is on intimate terms with the difficulty of navigating daily life, and he conjures states of mind with the same sorcery he brings to pictorial description ... He aimed to use words to lasso and somehow subdue the staggering, multifarious, cacophonous predicament that is modern American life.' Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
'He was the closest thing we had to a recording angel ... The Pale Kingcontains what's sure to be some of the finest fiction of the year. It's intimidating to have to describe the excellence of some of these set pieces ... People will one day be able to read him and feel what it was like to be alive now.' GQ
'One of the saddest and most lovely books I've ever read ... D.F.W. writes sentences and sometimes whole pages that make you feel like you can't breathe ... Let's state this clearly: You should read The Pale King.' Esquire
'One hell of a document and a valiant tribute to the late Wallace.' Publishers Weekly
'Monumental, almost unbearably poignant.' New Statesman
Publication Date: 15-Mar-2012
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia