Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Pale King Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
|New from||Used from|
Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
"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....Through some function of his genius, he causes us to ask these questions of ourselves."―Benjamin Alsup, Esquire
"Deeply sad, deeply philosophical...breathtakingly brilliant...funny, maddening and elegiac...[David Foster Wallace's] most emotionally immediate work...It was in trying to capture the hectic, chaotic reality--and the nuanced, conflicted, ever-mutating thoughts of his characters--that Wallace's synesthetic prose waxed so prolix, his sentences unspooling into tangled skeins of words, replete with qualifying phrases and garrulous footnotes...because 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."―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"The overture to Wallace's unfinished last novel is a rhapsodic evocation of the subtle vibrancy of the midwestern landscape, a flat, wind-scoured place of potentially numbing sameness that is, instead, rife with complex drama....feverishly encompassing, sharply comedic, and haunting...this is not a novel of defeat but, rather, of oddly heroic persistence.... electrifying in its portrayal of individuals seeking unlikely refuge in a vast, absurd bureaucracy. In the spirit of Borges, Gaddis, and Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985), Wallace conducts a commanding and ingenious inquiry into monumental boredom, sorrow, the deception of appearances, and the redeeming if elusive truth that any endeavor, however tedious, however impossible, can become a conduit to enlightenment, or at least a way station in a world where 'everything is on fire, slow fire.'"―Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
"THE PALE KING represents Wallace's finest work as a novelist...Wallace made a career out of rushing in where other writers feared to tread or wouldn't bother treading. He had an outsize, hypertrophied talent...THE PALE KING is an attempt to stare directly into the blind spot and face what's there...His ability to render the fine finials and fractals and flourishes of a mind acting upon itself, from moment to moment, using only the blunt, numb instruments of language, has few if any equals in American literature..this we see him do at full extension."―Lev Grossman, TIME
"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."―John Jeremiah Sullivan, GQ
"A thrilling read, replete with the author's humor, which is oftentimes bawdy and always bitingly smart.... The notion that this book is 'unfinished' should not be given too much weight. The Pale King is, in many ways, quite complete: its core characters are fully drawn, each with a defining tic, trait, or backstory... Moreover, the book is far from incomplete in its handling of a host of themes, most of them the same major issues, applicable to all of us, with which Wallace also grappled in Infinite Jest: unconquerable boredom, the quest for satisfaction in work, the challenge of really knowing other people and the weight of sadness.... The experience to be had from reading The Pale King feels far more weighty and affecting than a nicely wrapped story. Its reach is broad, and its characters stay with you."―Daniel Roberts, National Public Radio
"The four-word takeaway: You should read it!"―New York Magazine
"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 ... What's remarkable about The Pale King is its congruity with Wallace's earlier ambitions ... The Pale King treats its central subject--boredom itself--not as a texture (as in Fernando Pessoa), or a symptom (as in Thomas Mann), or an attitude (as in Bret Easton Ellis), but as the leading edge of truths we're desperate to avoid. It is the mirror beneath entertainment's smiley mask, and The Pale King aims to do for it what Moby-Dick did for the whale ... Watching [Foster Wallace] loosed one last time upon the fields of language, we're apt to feel the way he felt at the end of his celebrated essay on Federer at Wimbledon: called to attention, called out of ourselves."―Garth Risk Hallberg, New York Magazine
"Wallace's gift for language, especially argot of all sorts, his magical handling of masses of detail...[these] talents are on display again in The Pale King."―Jeffrey Burke, Bloomberg
"An incomplete, complex, confounding, brilliant novel...Reading THE PALE KING is strangely intimate...it also comes with a note of grace."―Sam Anderson, New York Times Magazine
"The most anticipated posthumous American novel of the last century...[Wallace was] America's most-gifted writer...American literature will rarely, if ever, give us another mind like Wallace's...ferociously written...richly imagined...a deep panoply of lives and the post-modern awareness of how this all was constructed, both the work and the vortex of current life."―John Freeman, Boston Globe
"THE PALE KING represents Wallace's effort, through humor, digression and old-fashioned character study, to represent IRS agents...as not merely souled, but complexly so. He succeeds, profoundly, and the rest of the book's intellectual content is gravy. Yes, parts are difficult, but 'boring' never comes into it. And it's very, very funny."―Sam Thielman, Newsday
"It may be unfinished, but the reviews-cum-retrospectives all soundly agree: It's still a book to be read."―The Miami Herald
"A fully imagined, often exquisitely fleshed-out novel about a dreary Midwestern tax-return processing center that he has caused to swarm with life.... a series of bravura literary performances--soliloquies; dialogues; video interview fragments; short stories with the sweep and feel of novellas...This is what 360-degree storytelling looks like, and if it doesn't come to a climax or end, exactly, that may not be a defect."―Judith Shulevitz, Slate
"It could hardly be more engaging. The Pale King is by turns funny, shrewd, suspenseful, piercing, smart, terrifying and rousing."―Laura Miller, Salon
"Strange, entertaining, not-at-all boring...Wallace transforms this driest of settings into a vivid alternate IRS universe, full of jargon and lore and elaborately behatted characters, many of them with weird afflictions and/or puzzling supernatural abilities.... hilarious...brilliant and bizarre, another dispatch from Wallace's...endlessly fascinating brain."―Rob Brunner, Entertainment Weekly
"Exhilarating."―Hillel Italie, Associated Press
"Heroic and humbling...sad, breathtakingly rigorous and searching, ultimately hysterically funny."―Matt Feeney, Slate
"Brilliant...[it] glimmers and sparkles."―Richard Rayner, The Los Angeles Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
These elements, and more, are abundantly available in The Pale King, DFW's unfinished novel. In terms of organization, it is understandably a huge mess, although neatened admirably by the editor. But who reads DFW for conventionally organized plots? And why should you read this novel? For starters:
1) The language. DFW is a masterful stylist, a brainiac who always could have sounded much more intellectual than he chose to, instead embracing an easy-going, colloquial tone because he wanted people to read his books. The opening lines of PK alone ring with the linguistic sensibility that sounds like him and him alone. His signature music courses through passage after passage. His verbal precision, so simple word-wise, gives a jolt by making you see things in a new, though until-now, overlooked, way.
2) The characters. Sure, they're a lot of them. Some will grab you, others won't.Read more ›
Now that that's out of the way, let me tell you: this book is amazing. Wallace meditates on heroism, boredom, civics, duty, attention, authorship, religion, family, love, language and nature with levels of grace, humor and wisdom that other contemporary writers could only dream of having. DFW sure has come a long way from the cold cerebral linguistic games of The Broom of the System and the mind-bending erudition of Infinite Jest. The Pale King showcases Wallace at his most accessible, most heartfelt and most mature.
Reading this book is like finding some pieces of a beautiful shattered urn. The shards in themselves are gorgeous, so much so that it makes the heart ache wondering how they're all meant to fit together, what the urn would look like if it were made whole. This doesn't make the broken pieces any less beautiful, though.
I'm halfway through The Pale King as I write this, so keep that context in mind as you read (or not) what follows.
The three-star rating seems most appropriate to me: As Michael Pietsch's Introduction makes clear, what we have here is NOT Wallace's final intention for The Pale King, but Pietsch's version of that intention. That doesn't mean, though, that we shouldn't have this. While it may be unfinished in and of itself, I think that it clearly reflects Wallace's larger concerns in the latter years of his life--both life-affirming ones and, yes, darker ones as well.
(Something else you might want to keep in mind, by the way, is that I think it's a mistake to read The Pale King only or primarily as an indirect suicide note.)
The review proper is here: The version of The Pale King that we have takes us into a place most of us loathe, into the minds of the people who work there (whom most of us would probably regard as at least unpleasant), recreates (deliberately, through its prose style) the tedium of that place, and reveals its workers as, sure, flawed human beings (but who among us is not?) yet strangely drawn to (and more or less good at) the work that loathsome place requires of them. He locates their humanity, in other words. We may not want to hang out with some (most?) of them, but we end up acknowledging and maybe even respecting them as we say, yes, I'm glad it's not me, but someone has to do this work. But then again, that is the notion of Service in a nutshell. I'd argue that that's not just thought-provoking but ultimately life-affirming.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My first reading of a book by Wallace, I mostly enjoyed this novel. It seems to alternate between tediousness and brilliance, each sometimes reducing or canceling the other out. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Mort Payne
I really, really, really liked this book about boredom and nothingness. A lot easier to follow along than IJ.Published 2 months ago by Mike
This incredibly dense novel (just like the IRS tax code it imitates) is recursive and dark. I found it a fascinating view into the kind of person who would work at IRS and I... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mo Mig
Good book by a good writer. A little challenging to read and boring at times, but Foster Wallace loved to write about boredom, so it is expected.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
This might not be the best place to start if you've never read him before....the book feels unfinished (which, of course, it is) and uneven. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Macaw Lady
Hard to follow and unenjoyable. I'm an avid reader of literary fiction and this did not appeal to me at all. Read morePublished 5 months ago by ashley
Felt like the book was just getting started as I came to the last page. There were glimpses of the DFW insight into … the human condition? Read morePublished 6 months ago by HHH