The Politics of Boredom and the Boredom of Politics in The Pale King

Document Type

Contribution to Books

Publication Date



As the reviews poured in for David Foster Wallace's posthumous and unfinished The Pale King, it became evident that most reviewers took an almost perverse glee in declaring the book was "about" boredom. Michiko Kakutani's review of the novel for the New York Times, for instance, claims, "[n]ot surprisingly, a novel about boredom is, more than occasionally, boring" and wonders if Wallace, at times, "wanted to test the reader's tolerance for tedium." In a long piece for The London Review of Books praising Wallace and his work, even Jenny Turner admits, "much of The Pale King I found completely deadly." Perhaps Sam Anderson, writing for the New York Times Magazine, put it most succinctly: "Wallace seems to have posed, to himself and to his readership, a sadomasochistic challenge: a novel devoted to the world's least-appealing-possible subject." These responses are fairly representative of many of the major reviews of The Pale King that were quite positive in their assessment of the novel but continued to muse upon what ways, to borrow the words of the purported narrator David Wallace, the novel says "something about dullness, information, and irrelevant complexity. About negotiating boredom as one would a terrain, its levels and forests and endless waters" (85).

This document is currently not available here.