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David Foster Wallace's 'The Pale King' is reviewed at Publishers Weekly

March 16, 2011 |  7:00 am

Thepaleking_dfw David Foster Wallace's "The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel" a story that involves a number of IRS staffers, is coming to bookstores, appropriately, on April 15.

When Wallace committed suicide in 2008, he left the pieces behind that would become the unfinished novel. It has been assembled by his longtime editor, Michael Pietsch.

Publishers Weekly, which often looks at books some time before they're available to the public, has an early review. "The Pale King," Jonathan Segura writes, is "a valiant tribute to the late Wallace, being, as it is, a transfixing and hyper-literate descent into relentless, inescapable despair and soul-negating boredom."

Stretches of this are nothing short of sublime -- the first two chapters are a real put-the-reader-on-notice charging bull blitz, and the David Foster Wallace sections (you'll not be surprised to hear that these are footnoted) are tiny masterpieces of that whole self-aware po-mo thing of his that's so heavily imitated. Then there are the one-offs -- a deadening 50-page excursion to a wiggler happy hour, a former stoner's lengthy and tedious recollection of his stony past -- but this is a novel of boredom we're talking about, and, so, yes, some of it is quite boring. And while it's hard not to wince at each of the many mentions of suicide, Wallace is often achingly funny. ...

One of those put-the-reader-on-notice passages -- the first sentence, anyway -- was published in the literary journal Triquarterly in 2002, as part of a piece then titled "Peoria (4)." Credit goes to the Millions for finding and connecting that 2002 publication to the upcoming book.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

 

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