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The Pale Kingby David Foster Wallace
If I told you this book consists of 500+ pages detailing the inner workings of the massive bureaucracy that is the Internal Revenue Service as well as the interior lives of the people who work there, you'd probably tell me it sounds like a great way to cure insomnia. But Wallace successfully invests his characters and their surroundings with an almost mystical air, suggesting that what lies on the other side of utter dullness is brilliant transcendence a point that is driven home when you reach the end of the book and realize you don't want to stop reading.
Synopses & Reviews
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 has.
The 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.
"The final, beautiful act of an unwilling icon...one of the saddest, most lovely books I've ever read...Let's state this clearly: You should read The Pale King.... You'll be [kept up at night] because D.F.W. writes sentences and sometimes whole pages that make you feel like you can't breathe...because again and again he invites you to consider some very heavy things." Esquire
"Deeply sad, deeply philosophical...breathtakingly brilliant...funny, maddening and elegiac...[David Foster Wallace's] most emotionally immediate work....in almost everything Wallace wrote, including The Pale King, he aimed to use words to lasso and somehow subdue the staggering, multifarious, cacophonous predicament that is modern American life." The New York Times
"To read The Pale King is in part to feel how much Wallace had changed as a writer, compressed and deepened himself...It's easy to make the book sound heavy, but it's often very funny, and not politely funny, either...Contains what's sure to be some of the finest fiction of the year." GQ
"It may be unfinished, but the reviews-cum-retrospectives all soundly agree: It's still a book to be read." The Miami Herald
"It could hardly be more engaging. The Pale King is by turns funny, shrewd, suspenseful, piercing, smart, terrifying and rousing." Salon
"Brilliant...[it] glimmers and sparkles." The Los Angeles Times
The character David Foster Wallace is introduced to the banal world of the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, and the host of strange people who work there, in a novel that was unfinished at the time of the author's death. By the author of Infinite Jest. 100,000 first printing.
About the Author
David Foster Wallace is the author of Infinite Jest, The Broom of the System, and Girl With Curious Hair. His essays and stories have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, Playboy, Paris Review, Conjunctions, Premiere, Tennis, The Missouri Review, and The Review of Contemporary Fiction. Wallace has received the Whiting Award, the Lannan Award for Fiction, the Paris Review Prize for humor, the QPB Joe Savago New Voices Award, and an O. Henry Award.
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