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Publisher's Summary

The "breathtakingly brilliant" novel by the author of Infinite Jest (New York Times) is a deeply compelling and satisfying story, as hilarious and fearless and original as anything Wallace ever wrote.

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.
 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2011 David Foster Wallace (P)2011 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"One hell of a document and a valiant tribute to the late Wallace.” (Publishers Weekly)

"Deeply sad, deeply philosophical...The Pale King will be minutely examined by longtime fans for the reflexive light it sheds on Wallace's oeuvre and his life. But it may also snag the attention of newcomers, giving them a window...into this immensely gifted writer's vision of the human condition as lived out in the middle of America." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

"The Pale King is by turns funny, shrewd, suspenseful, piercing, smart, terrifying, and rousing." (Laura Miller, Salon)

What listeners say about The Pale King

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Compelling Profound Book about Tedium

Tedium, trivia and selfconsciousness as the essence of life. Drinian, the android/alien IRS examiner, is one of the most mysterious and compelling literary creations since...oh, don't know, something in Pynchon back when he was hitting all the marks, as is the agent he understands/misunderstans so well. Unfinished, tragically, Imbued with the strangness of the really real, undeniably. Not right or fair in the least that an incredible writer like Wallace is dead. Damn! Damn! Damn!.

9 people found this helpful

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3.88 stars.......A Tour De Force? Um.....no


I would only recommend this to die-hard DFW fans. David Foster Wallace was a brilliant author, and Infinite Jest is my favorite audiobook. While The Pale King features a few sections of DFW's brilliance, it is unfinished and would have looked extremely different had he lived to finish it. The Pale King is novel for those who are already familiar with DFW and want to see what he was working on at the end. It is not a place to start with DFW. I've heard some refer to this novel as a Tour De Force. in my opinion, it is not. If you want DFW at his best, a true Tour De Force, invest the time in Infinite Jest.

Overall rating: 3.88 stars

16 people found this helpful

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The King is dead, long live the King!

“How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.”
― David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

If a novel about IRS examiners in a Midwest Regional Examination Center seems like a bad pitch, and definitely a boring novel, you will have almost grasped about one-half the magic of DFW. This is absolutely a novel about boredom, tedium, loneliness, isolation, bureaucracy, melancholy, and depression. Did I also mention this book is damn funny and absurd? I giggled at parts. I cried at parts. I cried and giggled at parts. There are books I love for their power. There are books I love for their art. Their are other books I love for their soul. I love this unfinished, rough and beautiful novel for everything.

28 people found this helpful

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David Foster Wallace Lives

Ever struggle with tedium? Who hasn't? Did you know the word "boring" did not exist in the English language until the advent of the Machine Age? I did not, until this fact was revealed in the course of experiencing David Foster Wallace's final epic, The Pale King. This labor of love, painstakingly brought to life by the author's long-time editor Michael Pietsch when the work was left unfinished after Wallace's suicide in 2008, reveals the infinity underneath boredom. Wallace removes the lid from the gaping void that is always right there for those who dare to look. Clearly, he spent a lot of time looking down that hole, for better or for worse. -paragraph-

Wallace has the gift of being able to stop time. He dives deep down in a headfirst rush into a single moment, peeling back the layers of thought, memory, feeling, experience, sensation, and circumstance that overlay every simple act, until they all stand exposed and elucidated. Then, just as quickly, he yanks you back up to the surface, back to the mundane and ordinary, back to the normal, back to the squeak of the wheel in the document collector's cart in the IRS processing center where much of the "action" in the Pale King takes place. Sometimes you feel like a fish gasping for water in the naked sunlight. Sometimes you feel as though you've been given some tremendous gift, a gem of insight that will sustain you and nourish you for years. -paragraph-

The IRS? As subject matter for a novel? I cannot imagine anyone else who could pull this off. While the book is understandably ragged in many ways, Pietsch has made it hold together so that the undeniable voice of David Foster Wallace comes through loud and clear. The audiobook's narration is handled masterfully by Robert Petkoff. He lives inside the 200-word sentences, the parenthetical asides, the footnotes, and the flights of language that are Wallace's trademarks, making them real, accessible, and meaningful. -paragraph-

David Foster Wallace lives.

15 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

A tour de force by the reader.

Fascinating book and a pitch-perfect reading. I listened twice. Robert Petkoff's reading has both a flow and a level of detail that makes the book comprehensible and intriguing. I bought the hard copy and looking at it, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it through. This is a gem.

16 people found this helpful

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  • J
  • 09-02-11

Welcome to the machine

If you could sum up The Pale King in three words, what would they be?

Brilliant, excruciating minutia

What did you like best about this story?

DFW

What about Robert Petkoff???s performance did you like?

Flawless, clean narration

If you could rename The Pale King, what would you call it?

Bang Your Head Against The Wall

Any additional comments?

This is my first exposure to DFW and I loved it. Long stretches of the novel are tedious, yes, but there are sections - three come to mind - that are just breath-taking in skill, technique and story. As a commentary on life in general and the travesty of work could not be better. I came of age in the mid-1970's to mid-1980's where a good portion of the novel is based so was able to connect immediately there.

Oh, and a I dislike this new review system. I'm sure it passed all sorts of statistical analysis indicating it would improve responses, but it is really a dumbed-down drag.

18 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • dd
  • 06-07-11

Not perfect but very good

This book is about many things: Its about tedium, attention span, its about the joy of focussing on a task. The agony of drifting focus.
I can see how these thoughts could be the meat of anybody that has to create for a living. In the IRS, he certainly found the best setting to talk about difficult tedious work requiring concentration.
It's like an ADD manifesto, and minefield all in one.
He describes the creative process or should I say the productive working process, his character's motivation and thought processes better than anything I have ever seen. I'm 70% so I don't know if he gets to put it all together at the end. But It is a really amazing Listen.
But I have to say, no Evelyn Wood would ever get me through this thing. Definitely an audible-only recommendation. If you really liked "but eventually you become yourself" you'll love this.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

I'll Take It Over no-DFW

This is definitely an UNFINISHED novel. I imagine if DFW knew The Pale King would get published in its obvious infancy, he would have stuck around long enough to finish it or have taken it with him. That said, I'm really glad the publishers took the time and care to give us what they could. There is absolute brilliance in this book that can only make one wonder and fantasize about what the final finished product might have been. If you love and "understand" the author, get this book.

6 people found this helpful

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Excellent Narration

Glad I got past the opening segments— it’s not an endless narrative in that vein, rather a set a vignettes (so far) that made me laugh out loud.

The narrator is excellent- conveys the character behind the text. Really one of the best narrations I’ve heard, and even suits the locution of DFW’s speech.

1 person found this helpful

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Meta as meta gets

Loved it. Loved the idea of hiding in the details. Loved the prose. Loved the boredom. Loved the floating off the chair, the sweating, the page turning, the meditative breathing... Loved.

1 person found this helpful