Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I'm looking forward to reading The Pale King, the unfinished novel by David Foster Wallace that will be released later this month. Advance reviews have been glowing. Why read an unfinished book? According to one reader, "The Pale King is, for great swaths, an astonishment, unfinished not in the way of splintery furniture but in the way of Kafka’s Castle or the Cathedral of St. John the Divine." High praise, indeed. And while this may seem like hype, Wallace has delivered the goods in the past and this highly awaited novel--finished or not--may be the publishing event of the season. According to Time Magazine, "If The Pale King isn't a finished work, it is, at the very least, a remarkable document, by no means a stunt or an attempt to cash in on Wallace's posthumous fame. Despite its shattered state and its unpromising subject matter, or possibly because of them, The Pale King represents Wallace's finest work as a novelist."

Wallace was a thoughtful, extremely intelligent writer who suffered from depression and took his own life in 2008--and certainly that will be the angle of many reviews, that this is his crowning achievement, the culmination of his life's work, his swan song. In our newsy society, everything is reduced to a human interest story, and if death is involved all the better, but DFW's suicide is really just a footnote to this book. If you know his work, you've enjoyed his dark wit and keen eye and you know how funny he can be--depressives make the best comics, truth be told--not funny ha ha, but funny in a sardonic way that encompasses our foibles. For the uninitiated, these highlights from the Charlie Rose Show will help open the door a crack. Better yet, read one of his books. The Pale King will be released April 15th.

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