Joining another online David Foster Wallace group read. I celebrated “Infinite Summer” in 2009, reading DFW’s Infinite Jest along with others worldwide who discussed the book online that summer. This year calls for the online book club “Pale Spring” to read the recently published The Pale King.
I picked up my own copy of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King - that unorthodox compilation of notes and drafts and pieces for a novel whose author took himself away before the novel’s culmination into a finished form book of its own right – yesterday. I’ve seen it described as more the project of editor Michael Pietsch than the last major work of the novelist. I can’t say yet. I’m only sixty pages in (yes, I’m behind on the reading for the group).
The title page of the book reads: THE PALE KING | An Unfinished Novel. Yet it’s even debatable just how “unfinished” it really is. Pietsch was tasked with sewing together the parts left behind by Wallace after his suicide, turning it into some publishable thing. Always to be partially complete; imperfect.
None of what’s been published as The Pale King was ghostwritten – it’s all DFW’s work. But the book’s not polished in the way he would have wanted. In the Editor’s Note, Pietsch makes this point clear: “David was a perfectionist of the highest order, and there is no question that The Pale King would be vastly different had he survived to finish it.”
The Pale King is 547 pages if you count the endnotes and asides. This is short compared to Infinite Jest, which is long but very readable. Other descriptions for IJ that I could add include “hilarious,” “profoundly disturbing,” and just plain “beautiful.”
The “Pale Spring” group calls for us to have read through page 225 by this Thursday. I’m trying not to spoil it for myself by abstaining from reading the blog until I’m caught up.