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THE MONEY I DID NOT WANT3 years ago I noticed mysterious amounts were appearing in my current account Regularly Every week They came from the tax office and they were tax credits I hadn t applied for any tax credits So I phoned them up They said We can t stop it unless we know what account these monies SHOULD be paid into and we won t know that until someone complains I said well, what are you going to do they said, we ll be in touch So last month I got a letter through the post saying oh, remember all that dough we paid you by mistake, well now we want it back Total of money paid to me which shouldn t have been 4026 6493 Well it wasn t my money so i hadn t spent it so I can pay it back but you know, I m a little peeved with their casual maladministrative ways and who s to know that if I send the idiots a cheque they might lose it or cash it and stick it in the wrong account IF YOU COULD SPEND LINGUISTIC VIRTUOSITY DAVID FOSTER WALLACE COULD HAVE WRITTEN OFF THE THIRD WORLD DEBT BURDEN ALL BY HISSELFI m getting the very strong impression that DFW was a writer of immense gifts and brains who never really found his thing, his field, whatever you call it, so he ended up writing about any thing he happened to trip over the non fiction and then two giant anti novels this one s acknowledged subject is dull jobs which is a kind of admission of defeat which he then turns into a demonstration of virtuosity look, I can even write great stuff about boredom But this can also look like flailing about this is called a n unfinished novel by default, because it s not anything else particularly but it s actually a collection of disconnected DFW writings, some of which are about the IRS and some not Every chapter in this book so far is in a different style, a different tangent, like a collection of unrelated short stories or riffs.LA BELLE WALLACE SANS MERCI I saw pale kings and princes too, Pale warriors, death pale were they all They cried La Belle Dame sans Merci Hath thee in thrallIn this poem by John Keats La Belle Dame Sans Merci is a symbol of the Internal Revenue Service MY UNFINISHED SYMPATHYRight there on page one, alright, page 3 actually if you re pedantic, and if you re not pedantic then please stay FAR away from this novel, which is a full throttle celebration of pedantry, amongst many other things, and doesn t have a plot, which I know many readers hanker for, is this invaginate volunteer beansWhat a lovely phrase Come on, let s have a fewon page 5 A staggering girl underhanding you nuts that s a description of a stewardess on a very small plane Another one, a bit longer The birds at dusk and the smell of snapped pine and a younger one s cinnamon gum The shimmying motions resemble those of a car travelling at high speeds along a bad road, making the Buick s static aspect dreamy and freighted with something like romance or death in the gaze of the girls who squat at the copse s risen edge, appearing dyadic and eyes half again as wideand solemn, watching for the sometime passage of a limb s pale shape past a window once a bare foot flat against it and itself atremble , moving incrementally forward and down each night in the week before true spring, soundlessly daring one anotherto go get up close to the heaving car and see in, which the only one who finally does sothen sees naught but her own wide eyes reflected as from inside the glass comes a cry she knows too well, which wakes her again each time across the trailer s cardboard wall.I could copy pages of this stuff out with pleasure, about 25% of the book is like that, but we must get on Hustle, bustle.IS NOT A NOVELOne thing novels do, which they ve always done, and it might be not one thing but the thing, is drag in enormous chunks of human experience for our contemplation, to try to make some kind of sense of They set you behind the eyes of a multiplicity of characters, who usually aren t like ourselves at all except in a you are me and we are all together kind of way, and The Pale King is no exception, it is dragging in the subject of stultifyingly tedious deskwork for our edification, which actually means, since also, there is nothing you could mistake for a plot even if you have really poor eyesight and the characters fade in and out randomly, that The Pale King islike our own lives than a lot of other novels where you get things actually happening and outcomes and motivations made clear and exciting events like kissing and policemen and all that We will always need novels because we will always need to compare realities, yours with mine and theirs, and because we need to counteract our own technologically induced solipsism, which you might say is an odd thing to say, since non readers think of readers as somewhat on the introverted solipsistic side, but you are not alone when reading, you are the opposite, you re right inside someone else s thought, an intimate relationship you hardly get anywhere else What you re reading really is what the author thought.But otherwise The Pale King does pretty much the opposite of all other novels, it s about all the stuff novelists avoid like the plague, it revels in boring technical jargon, it bathes you in excruciating detail, people say shit likeHere they get standard kicks from Martinsburg, plust ESTs, plus exam requests from CID They do fats that St Louis doesn t even bother to open they re so fat They do contract work for Corporate Audit when a CA goes multiyear The whole thing s almost Phillygrade I WILL BE FRANK, YOU DESERVE NO LESSIf you take the 25% of this novel which isn t like that, isn t all about the hapless wigglers, is about, instead, the bizarre story of the boy who wished to press his lips to every part of his own body he begins this task by giving himself a spinal injury , or chapter 8 early life of Toni Ware , all this other non IRS stuff, what you have there is the beginning of one of the all time great American novels But that is not the novel DFW wanted to write Unfortunately for me He wanted to write this one, or some approximation thereof, since it s unfinished Reading and reviewing TPK is a double problem, the same one posed by the monologues of Spalding Gray which also revel in run on sentences and tornadic presentation and both witty brilliant men bursting with life and ideas in their art, and suffering chronic depression in their life and presenting us with this painful conundrum plus the other one you get from Mervyn Peake s Titus Alone and Dickens Edwin Drood You just don t know if some sections were first drafts which he would have fixed One character, for instance, repeats the phrase Type of thing so many times it becomes enraging and puerile But maybe that was his intended effect And maybe he would have rewritten that section Another instance is chapter 46, a 60 page conversation between a devastatingly beautiful woman and a complete dork To steal a line from that well known sitcom Friends I know , it s not that this chapter is bad, it s that it s so bad it makes me want to push my finger through my eye into my brain and swirl it around So yes, there are multiple problems with this document called The Pale King.A BEAUTIFUL BIRD WITH A BROKEN WING FLAPPING ABOUTIf I didn t know that DFW intended his novel to be a series of set ups for things to happen but nothing ever happens DFW quoted by the editor then I d be describing the whole thing as like watching a big beautiful bird with a broken wing making numerous painful attempts to get airborne but always crashing back and trying again Just when you think the novel has found the take off point, it stops and reboots I only found one single bad review of this novel, in the Washington Post, which was saying its publication was merely a cynical cash in, and unworthy I disagree But I also disagree with the reviewers who find traces of grand themes and big points here I don t think Wallace got that far It seems this thing would have needed to be another thousand pager It s possible he WAS going to make such points as that government bureaucracy is actually a bastion against chaos and not the enemy it is knee jerkily scapegoated as that there was a battle for the soul of the IRS going on in the 1980s and that this battle was joined by IRS wigglers who had curious and very mild super powers two such people are mentioned or that Almost anything that you pay close, direct attention to becomes interesting.And surely we are getting close to some kind of declaration of intent in the following great quote from a substitute lecturer I wish to inform you that the accounting profession to which you aspire is, in fact, heroicgentlemen here is a truth enduring tedium over real time in a confined space is what real courage isNo one to applaud, to admire No one to see you Do you understand Here is the truth actual heroism receives no ovation, entertains no one No one queues up to see it, no one is interested.And later, on p 438 It is the key to modern life If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.ASIDE ON STALINI have seen that given as the explanation for Stalin s mysterious ascent in the Bolshevik party None of the other revolutionaries could be bothered with the bureaucratic grinding involved in actually running the party, but he could nicknamed Stone arse for his ability to sit at his desk for hours He could have been a great wiggler.WHAT COULD HAVE BEANSo this could have been a towering novel but what we actually have is a hotch potch There are stretches of insanely tiresome dialogues, there are beautiful vignettes, there is deadpan satire and there are really long sentences Do I recommend it Well You know, what can I say except Invaginate volunteer beans What renders a truth meaningful, worthwhile, c is its relevance, which in turn requires extraordinary discernment and sensitivity to context, questions of value, and overall point otherwise we might as well all just be computers downloading raw data to one another.In the interest of full disclosure as a novel this work is not five stars As a collection of chapters, stories, asides and footnotes it is quite close to being five stars I have no idea how to review this I mthan a little surprised at myself for reading it I haven t been able to bring myself to finish the stories in Oblivion because of the finality I seem to feel hovering around finishing any of the DFW works that I had been saving for those long dry periods between his work when he died Pale King I had the feeling would be the work that would forever linger unread on a bookshelf Then I got the urge to read it as soon as it came out in paperback I would read the paperback thus buying the book new twice, which is fine, but I would feel evenuncomfortable reading the hardcover because of weird feelings I have towards the physicality of books and the admittedly arbitrary fact of a book having a one in the printing history located on the verso title page causing me to handle the book like it s a delicate object, worrying about any damage it might receive and being fearful of underlining the book or doing anything to it that doesthan the minimal damage necessary to the book from reading it If you are one of those heathens who reads a book and makes it look like it s been through a war with duct tape holding it together and the pages puffed out from dropping it in puddles and all of that, please keep your opinion to yourself about my admittedly arbitrary analness when it comes to certain books and their treatment The paperback that I would have no trouble underlining in, marking up, writing notes and having a grand old time with For three or four days I eagerly awaited the arrival of the paperback Pale King into the store The book was in the warehouse at the start of the week Tuesday but didn t arrive in the store until the Bookazine delivery on Friday afternoon I checked almost hourly during that time on Bookmaster to see if the book had arrived I was ready for it and I bought the book during my five o clock break on Friday, a time I never buy books at, about an hour and a half after the book arrived in the store, but because I had promised to read The Night Circus for Karen s Reader s Advisory group read I didn t get to start the book until Monday, this caused me a certain amount of psychological discomfort, mostly because I was afraid my resolve at actually reading the book would disappear after actually owning the book for a few days if I didn t start it ASAP I was fairly worried about this, but the worries ended up being unfounded obviously And I read it A few days later I sat down to write this review a few days after I sat down to write the review a day or so after I sat down to write the review immediately following when I finished the book Now I m deleting just about everything I ve written up until point, except for the very boring story above about how I came to read the book at the present time The above story, in all it s stupidness is seriously what it s kind of like being in my head or spending anytime around me I m very uninteresting, boring and tedious, but most likely you don t know this because a you don t actually have to spend anytime around me because or b if you do spend anytime around me I don t say very much and keep the boring crap inside me Seriously, is that story anything you would tell someone And for me that was probably one of theinteresting things that happened to me during my working week Sundays not included, that is the one day that isinteresting, but only because of Karen Again, seriously, because this is oh so serious, why would I share that stupid story I don t know Maybe because I believe, like everyone else , that the daily minutia of my life is so important that it must be as captivating to others as it is to me You know, sort of like everyone thinks that their dreams the ones they have when they are asleep are so interesting but they never really are that interesting to anyone you tell them to Why flood the world with somebits of non essential information, why subject you to having to be exposed to this non essential data and force you to shift through it to come to the point that you ve just been exposed to some stuff that you didn t need to know about and now you are being exposed to evennon essential data that is being gratuitously added to an already uninteresting mess Is it some attempt for me to get your sympathy No, Greg you aren t boring, you re liked, I look forward to reading about the mundane details of your life, please share, or to try to be understood, to communicate in some way with some people from my real life and a handful of relative strangers To evoke some kind of empathy To feel less isolated and alone and convince myself in someway that any of the stupid bullshit I feel is shared by others who are similar even if paradoxically different from myself , or for some other reason I get the feelingthat what you re imparting might be unclear or uninteresting and must get recast and resaid in my different ways to assure yourself that the listener really understands you 504 11 44 pm Sunday April 15th, 2012.All of this stuff has been worked on Tax Day, one year after The Pale King was released The story at the start of the review was written earlier in the week, but all of the cutting up of my worked on review, the notes and asides and general self deprecating that I seemed to need to share in order to get to this point was done at various times during this evening I need to write this review because it s looming over me, it s making me anxious depressed and feeling like I never want to write another review again I don t want to take these feelings with me when I go to visit my parents tomorrow, and I rarely write reviews when I m at their house so I just want to get this done now Besides it s fitting to finish this review on Tax Day, right If you made it this far in the review and are looking for an actual review of the book you should just stop reading now It s not going to happen MFSO has written a very good review thoughts on the book and I d recommend you read or re read his review in place of mine I agree with a lot of what he says and he writes in a clearer manner than I do Some of these chapters are just about the best writing DFW ever had published Some of the chapters make no sense and I can only believe that they would have fit in with the overall structure of the book if it had been finished, or else not been included I read the paperback copy as I ve already stated above , so I had the extra scenes I mthan a little baffled about why the longish bonus scene about a man planning to take time off work to watch every minute of broadcast television for the month of May isn t in the actual book It stars mostly characters that never appear in any of the other chapters, but there are quite a few chapters with characters that never show up again and which are wonderful creations that were probably going to be like the great one off characters in certain Infinite Jest sections or else that might have been developed further if the book had actually been finished I d recommend reading those extra scenes I d also recommend reading the notes for the various chapters, they sort of fill in what the finished novel might have looked like I was afraid maybe those weren t included in the hardcover version, but they are, phew Since DFW s death I ve been on some level looking for someone to take his place Probably even before he died, in the years between the last time I read IJ and 2008 I was on the lookout for DFW esque authors, someone to help fill in the time I expected to have to wait between any new work I figured I d have to be patient with him, great big works aren t written overnight I ve thrown the DFW esque tag on quite a few people, sometimes in reviews andoften in my head while reading someone For example while reading some of Zadie Smith s essays you could feel the DFW ness to them, Adam Levin s use of words in certain stories in Hot Pink, the ballsy size and scope of his The Instructions George Saunders with his sort of playfulness and weird world that could be other parts of the world that IJ takes place in Jonathan Lethem in his essays, just to name a few, but there areDFW left a huge mark on the way people could write, what could be said in an essay, how a story could read Even if all of these people weren t ripping him off, you can tell that they were liberated in some way by his influence When DFW s writing is merely a memory, in between actually reading him and reading others I can see hints of him in others and say out loud, in reviews or just in my head this is like DFW and at the moment what I m reading that reminds me of some part of something I d read of him that is true, but only sort of The thing is none of these people measure up to him, there is something so huge and powerful in his work that other people might have bits and pieces of it down, but they don t have what feels like the all consumingness that DFW s work has for me and this is fine, I would probably feel disgust in an author who was just blatantly ripping off DFW, sort of the way I felt during the start of Eggers Heartbreaking Work which wasn t a total rip off but felt too much like someone going out of his way to capture the tone that DFW had , for example, I like that Adam Levin has so many DFW elements but that he still has his own thing going on, or that Zadie Smith is not a DWF clone but a really intelligent and great writer who also shares some of the sensibilities that he had does this make any sense I don t know what words to say to really explain what I mean by this It s not just that he wrote big novels, or long stories but most of the time, or at least when he was on what he was writing felt gigantic, like a whole world in itself, like something I could stay interested in and occupy for a long long time For example, chapter 46 with the long conversation that is really a fairly uninteresting conversation, topic wise, between Drinion and Meredith Rand, could have been an entire novel and I would have loved it The point of that example is that it isn t even a short chapter that should have worked, it should have been boring and trite, some office drones going out for Happy Hour drinks where two of them have a conversation that isn t on the surface all that interesting and probably shouldn t be a seventy page chapter but it works and it s engrossing and awesome and is just one example of what I love so much about him and how I can t think of anyone else writing who could do something like that and do it so well Adam Levin in some of his Talmudic side stories of The Instructions might come closest, I m thinking his Slip Slap 9 11 back story specifically Some critics of DFW have pointed out that at times he is just showing off how well he can do different voices, but that to me is one of his great feats, he can move through so many different interior worlds and get the words feeling like they are part of the damaged thoughts of people That he can write all these different people and feel like he s writing from their perspective and not necessarily just as a narrator looking over his creations I don t know what I m trying to really say, except that he is unique and his writing isn t for everyone but for those who he does speak to, I don t think there is anyone else out there to replace him He was just so fucking good and it because I m a self centered asshole I think it sucks that I ll never get to read another new great big work of his but at least we were left with this, flawed as it is for not being finished but still filled with mainly with amazing moments.Post script Ok, this review is a failure I ve made a fool of myself and excised whatever awfulness I d been feeling about writing this review and I m just going to post it as is Consider this part a spoiler It s a question about the book, it s not a big spoiler, but it s something that is built up to in one of the chapters Consider it my own reading group guide question view spoiler In the very long Chris Fogle chapter, his father dies from a freak mechanical accident involving the door of a public transit train Himself killed himself in Infinite Jest by re engineering a microwave oven to work in a freak manner, with what can be thought of as an intentional malfunction of the door mechanism, and subsequent failure of the safeguards which should have not allowed the train oven to still be able to function in the manner it did What do you make of these two fairly prominent deaths of fathers in fairly grotesque manners and the viewing coming upon the dead fathers in both cases by the son which in both cases is a DFW esque character if you read IJ as I do to see Hal as a version of DFW hide spoiler The Pale King is a skyscraping achievement Separating Wallace s backstory from the novel might be impossible, but the edited text, however incomplete, astonishes The Pale King doesn t need a sympathy vote the book soars on its own merits.I should also point out that, after two attempts, I never finished Infinite Jest A couple years back I recommended IJ to my friend James because he plays tennis and I remembered something in that doorstop about a tennis camp James is still mad So I didn t approach The Pale King slobbering over DFW s fiction By this novel s end I felt like I had experienced a masterwork The Pale King revolves around an Internal Revenue Service center in Peoria, Illinois IRS personnel gather and engage in the implementation of the potentially soul killing detail inherent in tax law and policy Others have written, of course, of paperwork s drudgery, but only Wallace, in my experience, captures the way one s mind navigates eight hours of precise, abstract analysis Some characters develop panicked, sweat laden self talk and almost turn hallucinatory in their attempts to master tasks or accelerate minutes Getting caught in traffic in a packed, airless car, for example, allows the author an opportunity for a brilliant, dizzying inner monologue about how the roads could have been better designed, the IRS s policies concerning warning stickers on windshields, and whether or not fellow passengers can sense the narrator s anxiety But it sthan that WayIt s the tight wire tension of a potentially cute girl sitting behind you while you worry that you re going to sweat through your clothes It s nerds sharing office legends It s meticulously cataloging every act in a quiet room It s making little promises like I will finish the next two tax returns before I check the time It s very hard to explain but penetrates every American s if not human s existence It s a conversation about the type of people drawn to tax auditing It s a man in a bar listening so intensely to a woman s story that he starts to levitate It s trying to separate important facts when your mind processes trivia It s believing that everyone around you knowsand feelscomfortable than you Wallace doesn t mythologize as much as he obsessively itemizes office hours with endless sentences that mirror the way a train of thought rapid fires into the next So were I, for example, to recommend The Pale King to James, I would probably say It s about working in a Peoria IRS Center but it s about boredom and hope and despair andbut I can t explain it well so you re on your own The Pale King is filled with wonder and a curious and powerful paradox of magical realism crossed with an uncomfortable claustrophobic reality Wallace seems to have found a frantic and exhausting joy in close observation.I read this book over ten days in part because I only had fourteen days with the library copy But now that I ve finished The Pale King I ve needed time to readjust to normal novels, you know, the kind with plots and main characters and recognizable storylines David Foster Wallace s The Pale King is so unique and spellbinding that it s beyond imitation This book inhabits its own stratosphere Five stars No doubt. Qu raro se me hace el tener todo esto dentro y que para vosotros no sean m s que palabras David Foster Wallace ya no se encuentra entre nosotros Las heridas todav a est n abiertas Solo nos queda su obra, las historias en las que se refugiaba y a su vez sangraba Es lo nico que nos mantiene en contacto con esa alma nacida en Ithaca pero que vivi siempre en el dolor Es duro hacer esta rese a No es una simple relato, es mucho m s No son p ginas, palabras y tinta Este libro es la herencia de un escritor que lo supo todo menos ser feliz Es su ltimo regalo El rey p lido consta de 50 cap tulos, todos ellos con el caracter stico detallismo extremo de Wallace, plet ricos de narrativa pesada y digresiones que exigen al extremo la atenci n y concentraci n del lector Tiene personajes estramb ticos que rozan lo absurdo un funcionario que tiene revelaciones extempor neas de informaci n irrelevante, como por ejemplo el peso de todas las pelusas que se encuentran en los bolsillos de una cierta cantidad de personas en una habitaci n un chico que tiene como principal objetivo besar cada lugar de su cuerpo una persona que le teme a los desag es, a los cuadernos de espiral, entre otras cosas, y que tambi n padece un grave caso de hiperhidrosis etc tera El tema central es el aburrimiento Y Wallace lo trat de manera superlativa, con prosa sincera y concisa Abord el tedio, esa m mesis inevitable que nos golpea con el paso a la adultez Retrat con brillantez y agilidad que lo que nos separa del comportamiento agon stico animal es que usamos trajes y sonrisas sard nicas para atacar Tambi n opino que el mensaje que nos trasmite es que hay algo m s debajo de todo ese gris mortificante que a todos nos llegar hay algo en ese aburrimiento que nos terminar completando como individuos Que una vez que logremos lidiar con ese mprobo, seremos invencibles El h roe contempor neo no usa armadura y rescata princesas en castillos, se localiza en una oficina y puede soportar a os haciendo la misma actividad intransigente que le encomendaron La burocracia es lo que nos transforma en h roes Es mucho m s reflexivo de lo que parece A pesar de tener una inusitada cantidad de partes que expresan la mejor s tira de Wallace, hay otras que demuestran la profunda tristeza y la acuciante frustraci n que estaba sufriendo Es por eso que quiero dedicarles un p rrafo aparte a la soledad y la melancol a, que son palpables en cada l nea de este trabajo Se nota que hay un intento de mostrarnos a nosotros, los lectores el desprendimiento de la infancia, el desapego de lo que fue y nunca m s volver C mo nos trasladamos sobre una cinta autom tica desde un sistema simple a uno m s complejo y, por definici n, m s exhaustivo En el fondo, este es un libro sobre el crecimiento y el desamparo Nos ense a que nadie vendr a rescatarnos, que ya se termin esa etapa en que ramos inmortales.Fue doloroso llegar al final Cada tanto tomo el libro y verifico si realmente termina en el cap tulo 50 Busco si no se me pas por alto un escurridizo capitulo 51 Aunque s que no ser as este libro termin tan intempestivamente como su autor La ltima p gina es una caricia y un adi s Jam s habr un nuevo cap tulo, jam s habr un reencuentro David Foster Wallace se ahorc en el fondo de su casa el 12 de septiembre de 2008, y nunca m s volver a escribir Pero la memoria permanece Yo puedo estar seguro de que cada vez que abrimos una de sus obras, Wallace vuelve a latir Nunca dejemos de leerlo Wallace es y ser para siempre. Original review May 10, 2011100 Words in Search of a Precis For Those of Us Who Prefer the Short Form of Stimulation DFW is calling on us to become Heroes or Pale Kings There is something Proustian at work in The Pale King DFW isn t so much in search of lost time or even perceptions he is in search of a lost ability to perceive or to sense or to make things interesting In a time when there is so much boredom, DFW is offering us a way of seeing and engaging with the parts of the world within our gaze perceptively, sensuously and appreciatively The Pale King might be the culmination of both his literary and philosophical endeavours ReviewBecause of the length of my review, I have placed it here is chapter 11, in case you get lost in the My Writings page.Earlier Fictitious ReviewHere is an earlier fictitious,light hearted review I wrote before finishing the novel NotesI made copious notes while I was reading the novel.There are many issues that I have omitted from my final review, because the review would have just got too long.I have put my reading notes here is an extract from the first section of my review Some Perceptions in and about the StructureThe Pale King TPK is not a conventional linear narrative.It s not really even a narrative or a story, in the sense that a number of events are described in a way that aggregates into something meaningful, once they are absorbed by the reader.So DFW did not really use the structure of the novel to play with time.However, I think there is a sense in which he uses the novel to explore and play with our perceptions or, at least, the way we perceive.There are 50 chapters, some of which are less than a page, others anywhere between 50 and 100 pages.It would be tempting to say that the longer chapters areimportant, because of their length.However, ultimately, the importance of each chapter derives from its subject matter, no matter how long or how short.I don t think it would be correct to speak of the chapters as short stories.They are definitely part of the one creative enterprise.Each chapter derives meaning from some or all of the other chapters.Individually, they are discrete Collectively, they influence each other.They form a society that creates meaning.Individually, the chapters are verbal portraits.Collectively, they constitute pictures at an exhibition about 20th and 21st century life.Click here to read the rest of the review I have been a little fascinated with David Foster Wallace since learning of his suicide on the blogosphere several years back I have already written a little bit about my reading of some of his work and just happened upon The Pale King in the CDG airport on the way to Berlin Perhaps it was just a funny twist of fate because the English book selection at Relais H in France tends to be something between the abysmal military fiction of Tom Clancy and the insipid modern novels pretending to be literature like the DaVinci Code So, seeing a book by DFW jumped out at me and I grabbed it immediately in case it was just a mirage It wasn t As opposed to Infinite Jest of which I still haven t been able to get past the first 50 pages yet, The Pale King grabbed me immediately I wrote somewhat recently that I was getting a little down thinking of the precipitous drop in reading in general and also about my own problems in having enough concentration to read fiction especially since having kids Well, somehow, this particular book 540 pages I might add didn t let me go.In a nutshell, The Pale King talks about a myriad of characters that are all employed by the IRS in a Regional Examination Center or REC in Peoria, IL back in 1985 There is no plot or storyline, just a jumble of 1st person and 3rd person narratives and several chapters with only dialog The style varies widely and keeps the reader on his her toes all the time At one point the book s author jumps in on page 69 in 9 in an AUTHOR s FOREWARD that is doubly or triply ironic He claims that it is a fictionalized autobiography I believed this text until I did a little wikipedia googling and determined in fact that it was purely fiction So the author was pretending to be the author pretending to write about himself Kind of that peeling an onion effect in fact There are fascinating pieces of this Foreward, particularly the story that he got the IRS job because he was completing various term papers for cash at university and got caught He says that he was able to nearly perfectly imitate the style of the fellow student in order to cover the cheating I found this particularly fascinating because as you read each chapter about the various characters, the voice completely changes and it could almost be written by an entirely different person This all added an extra realism to this Foreward that was nearly creepy The triple irony in my mind stems from the additional fact that despite this realism I felt, there are supernatural phenomena in the book ghosts and levitation that are fascinatingly uncomfortable to the reader.Some of the writing is incredibly hilarious I laughed out loud in particular in 24 as he describes bureaucratic ineptness in excruciatingly funny detail whether it be the ridiculous traffic problems to get into the employee parking lot of 047 the IRS building , the lack of sidewalks, the utterly inefficient intake process each of these reminding me of the infinite times I have thought many of the exact same thoughts sitting in traffic jams, driving through strip malls and parking lots, and having worked for four different companies of which two ginormous IT ones His view is incredibly sarcastic and yet right on As a writer, he dives into a depth of detail that adds to the pseudo realism of the scene but especially heightens the comic effect by being so dead pan.Some of the writing is excruciatingly painful The description of the child in 36 that destroys his own spine in order to kiss every square inch of his body was particularly hard to read Perhaps I missed it, but I am not even sure which of the employees at the IRS this disturbed childhood refers to I even rescanned the chapter while I was writing this paragraph but couldn t find any clues In any case, the amount of detail of various contortionists through history and the medical detail on the impact of contortion on the spine and on human physical development made me very queasy as I read it It was extremely well written and one of the most original texts in the book The stories of Toni Ware s childhood and in particular the car accident which took her mother s life were excellent as well.Sometimes the writing is pure bureaucratic observation of how folks work together and how managers thing I thought that the description of Glendenning in 43 was incredibly perceptive If I may quote a little of DFW here, Mr Glendenning could listen to you because he did not suffer from the insecure belief that listening to you and taking you seriously obligated you to him in any way If only a fewof managers that I know and no, David, Bruno, and Adrian, I am not speaking of you if you are reading this actually understood this The book has many observations like this, but this one in particular stuck out for me as particularly true.Perhaps the most enigmatic chapter of The Pale King which captures almost all of the elements above funny, painful, deep, complex in narrative, intimate was the Drinion Rand dialog in chapter 46 Here the gorgeous Meredith Rand divulges her personal story to the seemingly implacable Shane Drinion as he starts to levitate off his barstool The dialog is very hard to describe I erased about four sentences before writing this one as it moves between the immediate situation of the two individuals talking, the subtext of their conversation, and the attention that each one is giving to the other and the perception of that attention It is as if the dialog happens on about three or four planes simultaneously At one point the subject of the conversation is the subject of the conversation and leads to this interesting observation Is liking paying attention the same thing as being interested in somebody Well, I would say almost anything you pay close, direct attention to becomes interesting Much of this was like a snake eating his tail or perhaps how the contortionist from 36 would have written And eveninteresting, after about 70 pages, it ends as suddenly as it began It was a strange, exhilarating read.I thoroughly enjoyed The Pale King It is clearly one of the best, most readable works of DFW and I can only imagine what a mess must have been up in his head to have come up with so much twisted detail and have so many original ideas and yet boil it all down to 540 pages of well researched text I would bet that the posthumously published version of The Pale King is not all that different from what DFW would have edited together had he not committed suicide in 2007 What a loss for American 21c writing the loss of DFW was.If you want an introduction to DFW before taking the big dive into Infinite Jest, this is an excellent place to start I wish I know why he was shortlisted for the Pulitzer in 2012, but no prize was awarded Was it because he was no longer alive to receive it Pity that he did not get noticed in 96 for IJI haven t read Independence Day but IJ is better than Sabbath s Theatre a runner up in 96 and that is saying something because I adored ST by Roth as well and reviewed it here on GR. Well, wow What an epic, wondrous book I felt a breathless clarity, exhaustive elation, and all over giddiness reading The Pale King a feeling unsurpassed in the overlong Infinite Jest which could lose 300 pages easily , the often wilfully opaque stories in Oblivion, or the CPU on speed attack of his floating eye essays Might this have been or be the perfect distillation of all Foster Wallace s talents All his strengths are here, in full bloom his dizzying insights into the microbial subtleties of human interaction, the obsessively compiled data splurge that engulfs the reader in euphoric waves, ADD depictions of humdrumness rendered so alive, thrilling and affecting as to make the reader shout with delight Plus, in this novel, Brazil like comic surrealism levitation and business babies , light metafictive indulgence insertion of scalier author minus middle name , and little vignettes of Beethovenian melancholy the wrenching plight of the sweatiest kid in class The longest chapter, Irrelevant Chris s monologue about his wastoid beginnings and his calling to the IRS, makes the biggest effort at trepanning the IRS psyche, w o attendant mockery or knowingness Second longest the fictional Wallace s entrance into the IRS, taking fifty pages for his bus to dock, spiced with unexpected footnoted fellatio and flash fire trivia that s almost interesting Lastly, rounded female character Meredith Rand and a sane analysis of the problem of prettiness All magnificent Every sentence No boring parts at all Is this hyperbole Perhaps But wow A better unfinished novel you will not readonly the pain of the author s passing will diminish its impact. &READ KINDLE ↝ The Pale King ⇳ 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 HasThe 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 How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it s just wordsDavid Foster Wallace, The Pale King If a novel about IRS examiners in a Midwest Regional Examination Center seems like a bad pitch, and definitely a boring novel, you will have almost grasped about one half the magic of DFW This is absolutely a novel about boredom, tedium, loneliness, isolation, bureaucracy, melancholy, and depression Did I also mention this book is damn funny and absurd I giggled at parts I cried at parts I cried and giggled at parts There are books I love for their power There are books I love for their art Their are other books I love for their soul I love this unfinished, rough and beautiful novel for everything. When someone says something is universal I don t always feel like it quite applies to me, or it is some big cliche to describe just what people are used to The big stuff like young love, birth, taking a crap, death Sure, that s all universal and it happens to everyone maybe not young love Still, I don t think it s a word that I hop to and use to describe stuff like we re all gonna nod and be in the know Yeah, I get that Now I say but damn if The Pale King didn t feel something like this universal to me over and over again, like my reading it and getting it made it universal The I didn t know other people felt this way and I thought I was all alone and feeling too familiar and then pleased at the recognition It can prickle a bit like talking to someone who calls you on your shit and manages to sound generic psychic hotline lady I ve never called one of those cocky therapist maybe because people are sometimes generic and still be right enough to make you feel uncomfortable I appreciated this feeling about The Pale King the most maybe something else will get me later in future musings but for now this is it Something I like to do is try to pay attention to mannerisms of other people, especially if they are around family If I catch myself doing something someone else does that pleases me evenI m really into this self awareness stuff Bordering the line between too damned painful and looking for patterns in behavior and what is like someone else It got me when a character finds out that other people take lots of breaks when studying here is a youtube clip from the Uk series Spaced of Daisy the writer taking any break she can think of even cleaning to avoid actually working That scene is the best depiction of this I ve ever seen The I didn t know that other people did this Leaving your own personal area of the familiar and then venturing into what s also familiar, but surprisingly so because you didn t know you would see it there Chris the wastoid and his father with their controlled anxiety about not getting there on time I ve had those same exact train platform crazy paranoid fantasies right down to how the dad died I didn t know anyone else was that crazy When you are driving on the road are any other driver s paranoid that a woman in a house dress will step onto the road and you won t see her in time to stop I go through a lot of what ifs I love to trace mental trains and wonder what led to what I love to imagine it could stop somewhere else Chris talks about his shameful past, how his dad must have seen him with his fellow wastoid friends The painful self awareness The kind that can stop in time to not do anything about it and come back in time to keep you from accepting yourself enough to feel good Chris s mental trains must go back a lot and without their 70s speed I wish I could say I needed drugs to have those moments like Chris does No weed I felt that universality again reading it Self conscious is right on DFW knows Two left feet in the mouth.Meredith s obsession with not being seen how she wanted to be seen and the talking and talking circles around the truth that old cliche that s true and doesn t get there because she probably talks about it too much her husband was right that she wanted to be flattered, I felt I haaaaaaaated Meredith for a good while I liked her a bitwhen she bothered to see if Shane Drinion was listening, like it mattered what he thought I couldn t be judgmental after that, at least I didn t wish she d stop talking any longer There was no way she had solved her problem from six years ago when she was a teenager and married her husband the dying guard from the psych ward She was too happy that her beauty could make a man cry and run away What s the cure Could it ever be talk It was fascinating that Drinion didn t have my kind of context when I think I know the type and don t want to listen to the I need to lose weight spiel again when said person is twenty pounds lighter than I am Who else could this chick possibly talk to It would be interesting to not be you , exactly, when approaching other people s shit It would be a different kind of a sponge to soak up all the influence and shit in the world Or facts I m not good at facts I guess I m like the anti Shane other than feeling just as clueless when faced with people talking I d be looking and then I d have to compare for patterns Probably not ever a cure, though I don t have that much faith in the healing powers of talk Scratching an itch, maybe.Their ending in the notes made me laugh and feel bad at the same time I don t like having those cynical observations that a chick is with some ugly guy to feel charitable about herself I mentally smack myself when I think something like that That s being an asshole Boredom is universal Tedium is every day Okay, I read this ages before I read The Pale King I was expecting it to be different I don t know what I was expecting but I was expecting it to be hard Reading TPK to me felt like if you could sit down some place busy or shut in like an IRS office and mind read Like what if you didn t know what was going to be the important part and you had to process everything Then the point turned out to be that you took in everything without the point The boredom and the tedium wasn t what got to me It was the spacing out and arriving at what feels like it could be important when you weren t really doing anything, like walking or tying your shoes, and you don t really know if it actually is important I kind of just value that quiet of the thinking without trying, like it could be some kind of peace I don t feel truly bored unless I feel like I m trapped, though Put me somewhere I can t leave and I m going to be bored no matter what What s hard is trying to make it all make sense to someone else Trying to make something of worth out of talk I didn t mind that it was unfinished I liked the thinking about it parts too much.I started reading The Pale King during one of my I can t get interested in anything mood TPK got me out of it because I read these instances of people not really doing anything but thinking like it could go anywhere Just don t stick me somewhere thoughtless.Well, I felt all wise and thoughtful and shit while I was reading it, anyway.P.s I forgot to mention that fans of The Pale King s hated benevolent little boy will want to read City Boy by Herman Wouk I d also recommend the film Barton Fink I love this kind of story.