the pale king


“The Pale King” is composed of parts of the “something long” on which 46-year-old David Foster Wallace was working before he hanged himself at his home in Claremont on Sept. 12, 2008. Wallace — author of fictions such as “The Broom of the System,” “Girl With Curious Hair,” “Infinite Jest” and “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men,” not to mention a score or so of wonderful loopy discursive nonfiction essays on subjects as diverse as tennis, John McCain, David Lynch, cruise ships, and baton-twirling — left more than 200 pages of typed manuscript for “The Pale King” in a neat pile, almost as if spotlighted, on the desk in the garage that served as an office. Thousands of other pages and fragments were later found elsewhere in the garage, on hard drives and floppies, in storage boxes, file folders, three-ring binders, and notebooks adorned with smiley stickers. It’s hard to define exactly what “The Pale King” is, let alone judge it — are we talking about an unfinished novel, or just a version of an unfinished novel or a grab by publisher and estate or a fine and necessary tribute to a writer whose pain, genius, and, yes, tragic glamour, have touched so many? Reviewers line up to debate the point. The book, as here published, has been assembled by Michael Pietsch, Wallace’s longtime editor at Little, Brown. Pietsch has accomplished the task with diligence and even, I’d venture to say, love, though the 500-plus page result is inevitably just a guess at the intentions of a writer who was an obsessive reviser and a notoriously reluctant finisher of his work.

more from Richard Rayner at the LAT here.