The Pale King

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

This post has spoilers for The Pale King

In David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel, The Pale King, there are three characters named David Wallace. One is a young man who has just started to work for the IRS, one is an older, established man, and the other is the author of the book. All three are fictional. David Foster Wallace is the fourth David Wallace, who is the real author, but he does not enter into the novel. DFW constructions a fiction bio for David Wallace, the author. The woman referred to as the Iranian Crisis Girl, mistakes the younger David Wallace for the older David Wallace causing hilarity to ensue. (I don’t want to give this plot line away).

In the middle of the novel, David Wallace, the author will stop and begin to addressing the reader, using the words “Author Here.”

This is Lauren’s goal for her novel. She wants to give credit to David Foster Wallace and suggest everyone should read The Pale King. The Pale King is better than Infinite Jest. The reason is most people read Infinite Jest just moving from drug scene to drug scene, because the plot is incomprehensible. Even the study guide called Infinite Complexity failed to comprehend the plot, and is little more than a more simply written shorter version of the novel. What really hurt the Pale King was DFW insistence on placing long boring passages about the inter working of the IRS, which are also fictional. DFW often made up facts about certain matters.


For example, he created a fictional word origin of the word “boredom” in the Pale King. The character Lane Dean is sitting at his desk feeling bored when he falls asleep and in a dream a demon comes to him. This demon looks like an older version of DFW and carries a sharpie. DFW always had a sharpie for correcting student papers. The demon invites Lane to commit suicide, but he uses the word boredom instead of the word suicide. Lane is a Christian with a son and he can’t commit suicide. DFW loves to create impossible situations in which characters have no way out of them.

David Foster Wallace planned everyone would read The Pale King from start to finish, and be forced to suffer the boredom, but Lauren skipped all the parts about the workings of the IRS. Most people feel they must read from start to finish. They need to break away from that mind set. Maybe DFW knew that some people would not read from start to finish?  Neither Infinite Jest or Pale King has a set plotline. Passages can be read in any order. By asking the reader to approach his novels different, DFW invites creativity.

There is another character named David as well, David Cusk, who is based on a real aspect of DFW. David Cusk wants to impress, whom he presumes is a pretty girl, sitting behind him in tax class, but she is a killer, Toni Ware, who is horribly disfigured. Her goal in life is to play destructive planks on random strangers who have been kind to her, and sometimes kill homeless men. David Cusk never turns around to look at the real Toni Ware. He images that she is a model and that he has impressed her. This shows the difference between imaged love and reality. Infinite Jest also had a tragic character named Poor Tony.

We can bring the count of people named David up to five in The Pale King. The Pale King will be your friend for many years. There is no need to stop or start reading it, to finish it, and to put it away. You can keep reading The Pale King from time to time and find new insights. The Pale King was DFW last novel before he committed suicide because he was depressed because his anti-depressant failed to work.

Everything about DFW has a tie in to Lauren’s life. The names David and Tony, depression and suicide, the substance abuse. There are so many parallels Lauren feels like DFW wrote the novel to speak to her from beyond the grave and uplift her by giving her new insights and ideas that make her happier and more creative.

The number 13 is an unlucky number.





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