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Home News by Category The Pale King DFW Wrote Two Novels, and The Pale King Is Not One of Them

DFW Wrote Two Novels, and The Pale King Is Not One of Them

Tom Scocca's [previously] latest piece over at titled, David Foster Wallace Wrote Two Novels, and The Pale King Is Not One of Them, should The Pale King be classified as a novel? Have to admit, I was a bit stunned by the tone of this one:
The American writer David Foster Wallace killed himself in 2008, at the age of 46, having authored two novels. He also had published some excellent nonfiction and short stories. But novel-wise, that was his literary output: two books (one of which was very long).

That basic set of facts made it confusing to read, in the New York Times on Friday, Michiko Kakutani's review of a book published under the title The Pale King, and in the name of Wallace, which she described as a "posthumous unfinished novel." This project or literary event had been in the pipeline quite publicly and for a while, yet those three words, as a description of a published book with a specific final length and price (548 pages, $27.99), are moths eating holes in the whole project of the review.

What is this book? If it were a David Foster Wallace novel, Wallace would have sent it to his publisher himself. It was made out of "heaps of pages," Time magazine reported, stuffed into a duffel bag by Wallace's editor. Maybe, in a world where Wallace kept on living, the collection of words would have turned out to have been half of a novel. Maybe it would have been one compact novel and a one collection of short fiction. Maybe it would have been tinder for bonfire.

It's not so much a problem of Art—David Foster Wallace took himself out of the conversation about what David Foster Wallace wanted, after all—as a problem of craft. The Pale King is not a finished object. Reviewing it as a novel is like eating whatever was in a dead person's fridge and calling it a dinner party and comparing it to the dinner parties the deceased gave in the past. 
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 April 2011 18:49  

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