The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

The Pale King

David Foster Wallace

A fascinating novel about tax collection? By turns poetic, tragic, deliriously funny and insightful, Wallace manages to make this sprawling, multi-stranded exploration of boredom and alienation into a spellbinding critique of de-humanising, soulless bureaucracies. If you are new to Wallace’s style, don’t expect any narrative cohesion, but fans of serious literary fiction will savour this unfinished final example of his linguistic mastery.

Extract

'And Desk Names are back ...
Although it's not exactly like before the Pale King. It got out of hand, there's no denying it. There's no obvious joke Desk Names now. Which to be honest got old fast and nobody misses; nobody wants a taxpayer thinking he's silly. We are far from silly around here. No more Phil Mypockets or Mike Hunt or Seymour Booty ... if you're smart, you'll use it as a tool. This quarter, my Desk name is Eugene Fusz -you can see it right on the nameplate here. They look pretty good now. One type of tool is you use a Desk name where the subject isn't sure how to pronounce it. Is it like fuse, is it like fuzz? ... Umlauts are always good; umlauts seem to drive them especially nuts. It's just one more little off-balance tactic. Plus a little smile on a gray day and so forth and so on. Hanratty applied for a Peanys plate for the third quarter -it's under review, Mr. Rosebury said. There's a line, after all, under Glendenning. This is about revenue. It ain't exactly the Chuckle Hut we're running here.'

Parallels
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis
  • Generation X by Douglas Coupland