Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

No one knew what to expect from the half-finished manuscript that David Foster Wallace left behind when he died. What we got was the best we could have hoped for: a construction site of a novel, to be sure, hard hats required, with the barest skeleton of a plot, but also some of Wallace's most direct and personal and eloquent writing. The opening section of the book includes a dozen pages set in the head of a junior accountant on a regional jet, just sitting and thinking, and it's riveting. Nobody writing now can pull off that kind of a literary MRI job. It's a vivid reminder of what Wallace had, and what we lost, but it's also half a great novel, and that's a good half more than what most novelists ever write.