The Pale King, complete in its incompleteness

From Hari Kunzru’s excellent new review of The Pale King. Note esp. the last sentence.

Wallace, in life a shy, considered, and considerate man (or so he seemed to me when we met at a mutual friend’s New York reading) would most probably have been embarrassed by the drama in which he is currently starring. He would also have tried to understand it, to give it his full attention, even, or perhaps especially, when he found it boring. The rapidity of his canonisation feels startling, even though it’s deserved. There are already grumblings online about the emergence of a “David Foster Wallace industry”, and the publication of The Pale King will only take this to the next level, but the truth is that Wallace’s new level of posthumous celebrity isn’t the work of some corporate publicity department. It has proceeded from the ground up as fans have unearthed uncollected texts, written criticism and organised conferences. Wallace’s reputation will only grow, and like one of the broken columns beloved of Romantic painters, The Pale King will stand, complete in its incompleteness, as his most substantial fictional achievement.

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One thought on “The Pale King, complete in its incompleteness

  1. I thought it was an excellent piece by Kunzru. The irony is I don’t think Wallace was that widely read. Even now I suspect he’s more discussed than read and I expect many who buy The Pale King won’t finish it.

    Still, it does sound like he merits his recognition and that last sentence is an important one. Without it I might not have looked at TPK. I prefer my books finished as a rule.

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