In David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, set half at a tennis academy and half at a rehab centre, one of the characters says that junior athletics is about sacrificing the ‘hot narrow imperatives of the Self’ to ‘the larger imperatives of the team (OK, the State) and a set of delimiting rules (OK, the Law)’. Meanwhile, the rehab inmates are learning, with the help of the twelve-step program, to overcome the narrow imperatives of their addicted selves. In The Pale King, the academy and the rehab centre have been replaced by an IRS tax-return processing centre in the mid-1980s. The book is similarly concerned with submitting to the law and surrendering to a higher power.
Owen Richardson reviews 'The Pale King' by David Foster Wallace
The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel
by David Foster Wallace
Hamish Hamilton, $39.95 hb, 560 pp, 9781926428178
Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month. We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen. If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.
Owen Richardson studied philosophy at the University of Melbourne and has been writing about books, film, and theatre since the early 1990s. Besides Australian Book Review, he has been published in The Age, The Sunday Age, The Australian, The Australian Literary Review, Sydney Morning Herald, The Monthly, Scripsi, and Meanjin.
By this contributor
Leave a comment
Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.
NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to email@example.com. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.