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Home News by Category Critical Analysis Racist humor in The Pale King?

Racist humor in The Pale King?

In the Antiracist Book Club section of her blog, Cathy Jacobowitz considers some of the more questionable content of Wallace's work in her post, Racist humor in The Pale King:

Much of Wallace’s humor resides in this kind of grossness. Often the gross stuff pays off; sometimes, especially when his cockeyed humor depends on racism, it doesn’t. A cringe-worthy example is the longish set piece involving a “visibly ethnic” woman who greets the character David Wallace at the Peoria REC (which I think stands for Rote Examination Center, but I’m really not sure). There’s another new hire named David Wallace, of much higher status, and our David has been mistaken for him. “Ms. F. Chahla Neti-Neti (according to her ID badge)” might be considered a nod to “diversity” among the book’s mostly white personnel, were she not treated like an object and a punchline. We find out that her nickname is “the Iranian Crisis,” and she ends up in a closet giving David “a rapid, almost woodpeckerishly intensive round of fellatio.”

Continue reading Racist humor in The Pale King.

This is certainly an aspect of Wallace's writing that in the past hasn't been looked at as closely as other elements of his writing (and is being looked at more critically in some areas of Wallace studies). While there is certainly some merit to the counter argument that some of the more controversial views in his writing are those of Wallace's characters, not his own, this is an area that is being increasingly investigated and discussed in the field of Wallace studies.


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