Have you read it yet? The New Yorker this week is running an excerpt from a posthumous David Foster Wallace novel, The Pale King, unfinished but apparently several hundred thousand words in length, and slated to be published next year by Little, Brown. The excerpt is titled “Wiggle Room” and it’s vintage Wallace: an office drone named Lane Dean processes tax returns for the Illinois department of revenue in the 1980s. He watches the clock, shifts uncomfortably in his chair, his stream of consciousness parsing every tedious micro-moment. Lots of bureaucratic-speak and flurries of tax form numbers, somewhat in the spirit of Wallace’s ad agency short story “Mr. Squishy.” Lane is visited by a specter (think of those hospital room wraiths in Infinite Jest), a kind of etymology guru—“The man had on a headlamp with a tan cotton band, like some dentists wore, and a type of thick black marker in his breast pocket. He smelled of hair oil and some kind of food”—who proceeds to define in excruciating OED detail the origins of the word/concept “boredom.” Can’t wait to read more of this.
And in the same issue: don’t miss this extraordinary piece—the most complete yet—by D.T. Max on Wallace’s career and final days.