BOOK REVIEW: The Pale King

Cecilia Areta

Throughout his career, the late David Foster Wallace had proven to make fictions of ordinary life into something extraordinary. His latest, albeit unfinished, book, “The Pale King”, explores the excruciating boredom of employees at an Internal Revenue Service tax centre in Illinois.

Wallace was an influential writer who composed nine books of short stories, essays, literary journals and novels. He is best known for his famous piece of work, a 1,000 page modern classic titled “Infinite Jest”. Having suffered severe depression for much of his life, Wallace hanged himself on the patio of his house, in Claremont, Sept. 12, 2008, at age 46.

“The Pale King” is Wallace’s unfinished novel, which he was working on for several years before his death. There has been much argument to whether or not the novel should be read because it is unfinished. Wallace’s longtime publisher, Little, Brown and Company, will release the novel on April 15. Little, Brown said in a statement that the novel runs “several hundred thousand words and will include notes, outlines, and other material.”

The main premise of the novel is boredom. The protagonist is David Foster Wallace, who was named after Wallace himself and purposely used for a mockumentary-style novel. Wallace is a trainee at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, IL.

After getting use to the ties at work he creates a monotonous routine and asks the other agents how they survive working at the IRS doing such a repetitive job. He undergoes boredom-survival training and learns more about how each employee was drawn to such a strange calling. He finds that there is an extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to an anything but exciting line of work.

Michael Pietsch, the publisher of Little, Brown and the editor of the novel, said in a statement that in the novel, “Wallace takes agonizing daily events like standing in lines, traffic jams, and horrific bus rides (things we all hate) and turns them into moments of laughter and understanding.

Although David did not finish the novel, it is a surprisingly whole and satisfying reading experience that showcases his extraordinary imaginative talents and his mixing of comedy and deep sadness in scenes from daily life.”

It is a shame that Wallace cut his life short. His writings shed light amongst the most minuscule thoughts. “The Pale King” is one of the most anticipated book releases of 2011, according to the National Post. It might be worth checking out.