Americans are in danger of amusing themselves to death, the late author David Foster Wallace warned in his epic novel Infinite Jest. Now, in posthumous novel The Pale King, Foster warns of the equally terrifying danger of being bored to death, in a "deeply sad, deeply philosophical book," writes Michiko Kakutani in her New York Times review. It is an almost actionless story about a depressed, frustrated IRS agent also named David Wallace, who works at an office in Ohio. It focuses on how a cast of characters came to work at their dreary jobs and "reminds us what a remarkable observer Wallace was."
Calling the book "lumpy but often stirring," Kakutani says The Pale King "feels less like an incomplete manuscript than a rough-edged digest of the themes, preoccupations and narrative techniques that have distinguished his work from the beginning." It is "by turns breathtakingly brilliant and stupefying dull—funny, maddening, and elegiac." It will no doubt be "minutely examined by longtime fans" but it also might just lure new fans "into this immensely gifted writer’s vision of the human condition as lived out in the middle of the middle of America."