Pale King Roundup

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A roundup of all things Pale King related:

The Millions has the first lines of The Pale King on their site today:

When David Foster Wallace killed himself in 2008, he left behind an unfinished manuscript and a number of fragments that, with the efforts of his long-time editor Michael Pietsch, has become The Pale King, to be released next month amid the high expectations of the late writer’s many fans. The book’s lyrical opening sentence, printed below, may be familiar to Wallace completists. It opens a brief piece called “Peoria (4)” that appeared in the fall 2002 issue of Triquarterly. That piece, which can be found in PDF form here, in its entirety makes up the opening sentences of The Pale King. (Recently, according to handful of blogs, the opening of The Pale King was read on a BBC radio program and some incomplete transcriptions of this appeared online.)

“Peoria (4)” is only one page in length so this seems to be an interesting opening for The Pale King. I’m counting down the days to April 15th.

From the Publisher’s Weekly review we can expect what, I hope, everyone had already expected: it wouldn’t be another Infinite Jest.

A pile of sketches, minor developments, preludes to events that never happen (or only happen in passing, off the page), and get-to-know-your-characters background info that would have been condensed or chopped had Wallace lived to finish it, this isn’t the era-defining monumental work we’ve all been waiting for since Infinite Jest altered the landscape of American fiction. (To be fair, how many of those sorts of books can one person be expected to write?) It is, however, one hell of a document and a valiant tribute to the late Wallace, being, as it is, a transfixing and hyper-literate descent into relentless, inescapable despair and soul-negating boredom.

Maybe, however, if David Foster Wallace had lived it might have been equal in footnote goodness and content.

Stretches of this are nothing short of sublime-the first two chapters are a real put-the-reader-on-notice charging bull blitz, and the David Foster Wallace sections (you’ll not be surprised to hear that these are footnoted) are tiny masterpieces of that whole self-aware po-mo thing of his that’s so heavily imitated.

The Pale King consists of the following stories that were previously published, not including “Peoria (4)” above:

  • Good People” originally published in the 2/5/2007 issue of The New Yorker
  • The Compliance Branch” originally published in Feb. 2008 issue of Harper’s.
  • Wiggle Room” originally published in the 3/9/2009 issue of The New Yorker.
  • All That” originally published in the 12/14/2009 issue of The New Yorker.
  • A New Examiner” originally published in the Jan. 2010 issue of The Lifted Brow and the Sept. 2010 issue of Harper’s.
  • Backbone” originally published in the 3/7/2011 issue of The New Yorker.

We know that David Foster Wallace had been working on The Pale King since 1996. From this we can only speculate on the other stories that have already been published that will be included in TPK.

It is thought that “The Soul Is Not a Smithy” from Oblivion may be a chapter in The Pale King as well as “Incarnations of Burned Children.” You can read more about possible inclusions over at The Howling Fantods.


Josh Anastasia is a reader. This is his blog. More from this author →