One of the big literary events this week is the arrival of David Foster Wallace’s hugely anticipated posthumous novel The Pale King (of which our Jonathan Segura wrote perhaps the first published review), which, though it’s not supposed to go on sale till tax day, is available already at Amazon and B&N.com.
While Segura called the book “A pile of sketches, minor developments, preludes to events that never happen (or only happen in passing, off the page), and get-to-know-your-characters background info that would have been condensed or chopped had Wallace lived to finish it,” adding, “this isn’t the era-defining monumental work we’ve all been waiting for since Infinite Jest altered the landscape of American fiction.”, Time‘s Lev Grossman, in a fascinating article that’s part review and part history of how the unfinished book was assembled after the author’s death, calls it “Wallace’s finest work as a novelist.”
Here’s a little excerpt from Grossman’s story, which is perhaps most interesting for its insight into how Michael Pietsch of Little, Brown took a duffel bag full of notes and sketches and turned them into a novel:
Nadell called Michael Pietsch, publisher of Little, Brown & Co. and Wallace’s longtime editor. He flew out in January and started reading. As it turned out, there was a lot more than just that neat stack. “They brought me literally bins and drawers and wire baskets,” Pietsch says. “Just heaps of pages. There was no order to them.” He went back to New York City with a duffel bag full of them.
Pietsch spent two years assembling and editing the contents of that duffel bag. The results will be published, appropriately enough, on April 15. If The Pale King isn’t a finished work, it is, at the very least, a remarkable document, by no means a stunt or an attempt to cash in on Wallace’s posthumous fame. Despite its shattered state and its unpromising subject matter, or possibly because of them, The Pale King represents Wallace’s finest work as a novelist.
Are you excited about The Pale King? Will you be grabbing a copy?