Posthumous David Foster Wallace story published in New Yorker, book promised for 2010

March 3, 2009  |  1:00pm
Following months of speculation as to what would happen to David Foster Wallace's large amount of unpublished fiction, The New Yorker has offered an answer. It comes in the arrival of "Wiggle Room," the first posthumous work by Wallace to be published anywhere. The piece details the minutiae of an I.R.S. rote examiner slowly going crazy from the boredom of his work. Anyone who read Wallace's previously published story "Good People" will recognize its protagonist, who would have been one of the main characters in Wallace's large, unfinished third novel, The Pale King. "Wiggle Room" is as self-consciously boring as the subject it's written about, but extremely moving in a crushing sort of way.

Accompanying "Wiggle Room" is an article by D. T. Max that not only does a decent enough job profiling Wallace, but more importantly details both the past and present of The Pale King. Following the publication of Infinite Jest, Wallace sought to go beyond his own maximalism and find enlightenment in boredom. This led him to studying tax examiners, whose lives he sought to follow until they revealed solace with their focused dullness.  Interestingly enough, despite the novel's subject matter, he previously wrote about a breakdown of sorts via corporate boredom in "Mr. Squishy," the first piece from Oblivion Stories, as well as "The Soul Is Not a Smithy," which ponders how his father could have put up with the boredom of his work while failing to notice a teacher breaking down.

Publisher Little, Brown is planning on releasing the partial manuscript for The Pale King in 2010.

Addendum: A secondary item that Max's piece highlighted was the large amount of letters Wallace wrote and received from other writers, especially Don Delillo and Jonathan Franzen (also, undoubtedly, Mark Costello). It's probably too much to ask at this early date, but who doesn't want to learn what Delillo and Wallace wrote to each other while restructuring the face of American fiction? Come on, Little, Brown: publish those letters.

Related links:
News: David Foster Wallace: 1962-2008
Review: Oblivion Stories
Review: Consider the Lobster

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