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The Pale King [Kindle Edition]

David Foster Wallace
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £5.75
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Book Description

The Pale King is David Foster Wallace's final novel - a testament to his enduring brilliance

The Internal Revenue Service Regional Examination Centre in Peoria, Illinois, 1985. Here the minutaie of a million daily lives are totted up, audited and accounted for. Here the workers fight a never-ending war against the urgency of their own boredom. Here then, squeezed between the trivial and the quotidian, lies all human life. And this is David Foster Wallace's towering, brilliant, hilarious and deeply moving final novel.

'Breathtakingly brilliant, funny, maddening and elegiac' New York Times

'A bravura performance worthy of Woolf or Joyce. Wallace's finest work as a novelist' Time

'Light-years beyond Infinite Jest. Wallace's reputation will only grow, and like one of the broken columns beloved of Romantic painters, The Pale King will stand, complete in its incompleteness, as his most substantial fictional achievement' Hari Kunzru, Financial Times

'A paradise of language and intelligence' The Times

'Archly brilliant' Metro

'Teems with erudition and ideas, with passages of stylistic audacity, with great cheerful thrown-out gags, goofy puns and moments of truly arresting clarity. Innovative, penetrating, forcefully intelligent fiction like Wallace's arrives once in a generation, if that' Daily Telegraph

'In a different dimension to the tepid vapidities that pass as novels these days. Sentence for sentence, almost word for word, Wallace could out-write any of his peers' Scotland on Sunday

David Foster Wallace wrote the novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System, and the short-story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Girl with Curious Hair. His non-fiction includes Consider the Lobster, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, Everything and More, This is Water and Both Flesh and Not. He died in 2008.

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Product Description


One of the strangest, saddest, most haunting things I've ever read (Guardian)

Breathtakingly brilliant, funny, maddening and elegiac (The New York Times)

Innovative, penetrating, forcefully intelligent fiction like Wallace's arrives once in a generation, if that (Daily Telegraph)

In a different dimension to the tepid vapidities that pass as novels these days. Sentence for sentence, almost word for word, Wallace could out-write any of his peers (Scotland on Sunday)

Rich and substantial and alive . . . Wallace's finest work as a novelist (Time)

A transfixing and hyper-literate descent into relentless, inescapable despair . . . achingly funny, nothing short of sublime (Publishers Weekly)

The Pale King contains what's sure to be some of the finest fiction of the year . . . he was the closest thing we had to a recording angel (GQ)

Sometimes as a critic the most important part of your job is to say: here, this is it, we've found it, someone's doing it. That someone was Wallace. He was the real thing (Evening Standard)

The Pale King gave me a pleasure and excitement that I can describe only as biological. That is to say, the book produced in me that very rare, warm, head-to-toe tingling that comes with admission to a paradise of language and intelligence (Joseph O' Neill The Times)

Remarkable (Jonathan Derbyshire New Statesman)

Everyone who cares about literature should buy it (The Age)

About the Author

David Foster Wallace, who died in 2008, was the author of the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the short-story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Girl with Curious Hair. His non-fiction includes several essay collections and the full-length work Everything and More.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1758 KB
  • Print Length: 583 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0316074225
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 April 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004V2WSDK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #75,176 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

David Foster Wallace wrote the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl With Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and the full-length work Everything and More. He died in 2008.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book of hope 5 Jun. 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
How do you review a book that was never meant to be read in its current form? Where do you start? How do you know? "The Pale King" was left as a neat pile of papers as a final gift by DFW to his wife Karen; a kind legacy, a bitter suicide `gift'. The manuscript was by no means a coherent, complete piece of work and as we learn from the introduction to "The Pale King", Michael Pietsch, DFW's editor, had to sift through the debris in an attempt to join the dots. So this is what we have: "The Pale King: A Book that DFW, Maybe".

Revolving around the world of the IRS - the US tax office - "The Pale King" is fundamentally a book about boredom. For over 500 pages, this novel deals with the endless tedium of the modern worker; the alienation, the total absence of meaning. Even the luckiest among us will have, at some point, have experienced the soul-crushing effects of being trapped into the time-reversing vortex of boring work. For some of you, it might now only be the distant memory of a summer job; for others, and I sadly belong to the latter category, the above is a description of pretty much our entire working life.

If the thought of reading about Tax Assessors is already filling you with terror, I would call it a justified reaction. There are parts of this novel that are undeniably boring - making "The Pale King" a sort of `meta-novel' that bores the reader into understanding boredom. Characters describe long and abstruse administrative procedures; a handful of pages are devoted to explaining the intricate, arcane mechanisms of taxation.

Other parts - starting with the opening Section 1- are of pure, undiluted lyrical beauty.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By John W
This is the most boring and also the funniest book I've read in ages. If that sounds an unlikely combination - well it's an unlikely book. The fact that it's unfinished explains the lack of plot, structure and narrative. I guess the fact that Wallace is a great writer must be the explanation for many of the fragments collected here being fascinating, thought-provoking and very funny.

The book is concerned with the US tax authority (IRS), and takes the form of a series of stories and anecdotes told by or about various characters who work there. The work of examining tax returns is described as the most boring job on earth - boredom and how to handle it is a major theme in the book. I have a personal interest here as I work for the UK tax authority and I could see parallels between some of the situations described and my own experience.

Some sections of the book really are quite dull and boring. At least some of the time this is deliberate - after all, the book is about boredom, and I think Wallace was trying to get the reader into the swing of this. I confess I skipped over some of the worst bits though - maybe he'd have toned this down a little if he'd finished it. Other sections provide some great characterisations and funny stories. The funniest bit for me was a story about the introduction of a progressive sales tax in Illinois in the seventies (reading this back I realise that doesn't sound like it would be funny but believe me it is). I had to Google it to check if it was a real or fictional anecdote (it's fictional).

So - although I skipped through some boring bits I enjoyed it and it made me laugh. The guy obviously had talent and I'd have liked to read the finished version.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
It has to be acknowledged that this book isn't for everyone. Based on an incomplete manuscript, the book is really a series of beginnings, character backstories and sketches of office life and routines. There are also lengthy digressions about taxation and IRS bureaucracy that some might find tedious. However, what makes this a book of genius is the way that these tedious details illustrate the novel's theme, which is how individuals cope with the boredom which is a part of most office jobs, and how individuals relate to the corporations/bureaucracies that shape their lives.

While there are some flaws that are a result of the novel's incomplete state, the quality of the writing invites comparison with Pynchon and Joyce, and if taken as a series of loosely related short stories, is one of the greatest books I have read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, poignant and meandering 11 Nov. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Read David Foster Wallace and you find yourself ushered into the elite of contemporaty fiction. Literary types tend to mention his name in hushed tones. True, any reader who likes a plot, or an ending even, may as well forget it. This book was pulled together from fragments when the manucript was discovered following the author's death. It is indeed a mosaic of detours and diversions and digressions. But let's not come over all reverential. The Pale King is laugh-out-loud funny. Take the old lady on a commuter jet trying to break into the packaging of her complimentary nuts on page 2. And the central story itself about the unique brand of heroism needed to survive the tedium of firstly qualifying for, and then working in, the US tax service is splendidly arch. All done in an oral style, profane and colloquial and not remotely stuffy. If you liked Jonathan Franzen's Freedom you should enjoy the Pale King. Franzen does plot better, but DFW is, in my view, closer to genius.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Peter Michael Pedersen
5.0 out of 5 stars Only the [bleep]y great die young...
A fantastic read! Granted, probably not for everyone, as it is not all that easily accessible. But once you're into it, you cant put it down. We miss you, David Foster Wallace!
Published 6 months ago by Ida Marie Pedersen
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning and hilarious reflection on boredom
Quite simply one of the best books I've read in a long while. It's choppy and doesn't flow, keeping track of characters and the chapters' interrelations is nigh on impossible. Read more
Published 21 months ago by CR
4.0 out of 5 stars Salvaging David Foster Wallace
The Pale King is pale in comparison with Infinite Jest but still, it's a great achievement. Michael Pietsch has pieced together a readable book about boredom and dullness and the... Read more
Published on 15 April 2013 by Ken Brimhall
5.0 out of 5 stars I didn't love this book
I'm not sure how much the writer is one of the characters in this book and if he is darkly laughing at the absurdidy of many of the people in it and himself. Read more
Published on 30 Nov. 2012 by G. Haines
5.0 out of 5 stars READ READ READ
The pale king is what one should expect from Wallace, whose Infinite jest I read a few months ago(and it took me a few months to read but I didn't want the reading to end). Read more
Published on 14 Oct. 2012 by Nikolaos Oikonomidis
1.0 out of 5 stars tedious
I'm 200 hundred pages in and I'm going to give up. One of the most tedious books I have ever (tried) to read. Read more
Published on 25 Sept. 2012 by N. Chivers
4.0 out of 5 stars incomplete modernist masterpiece about office life - great, but not...
This incomplete novel consists of discrete episodes in the lives of employees of the Inland Revenue Service in the US in 1985. Read more
Published on 17 Aug. 2012 by William Jordan
1.0 out of 5 stars Lousy Kindle formatting. Now there's a surprise.
As I understand it, one of the main selling points of any e-reader is that it replicates the experience of reading a physical book. Read more
Published on 26 July 2012 by Simon Basso
1.0 out of 5 stars incomprehensible and boring
Good literature is more than randomly selecting words and gathering them in odd sentences and making us believe that all IRS people are more or less autistic. Read more
Published on 11 Jun. 2012 by J. van Maris
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