Download The Pale King Audiobook

The Pale King Audiobook, by David Foster Wallace Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: David Foster Wallace Narrator: Robert Petkoff Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2011 ISBN: 9781609419769
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,117 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has.

The Pale King remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace’s death, but it is a deeply compelling and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions—questions of life’s meaning and of the value of work and society—through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace’s unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Deeply sad, deeply philosophical…By turns breathtakingly brilliant and stupefying dull—funny, maddening and elegiac…in almost everything Wallace wrote, including The Pale King, he aimed to use words to lasso and somehow subdue the staggering, multifarious, cacophonous predicament that is modern American life.”

    New York Times

  • “Feverishly encompassing, sharply comedic, and haunting…this is not a novel of defeat but, rather, of oddly heroic persistence…electrifying in its portrayal of individuals seeking unlikely refuge in a vast, absurd bureaucracy. In the spirit of Borges, Gaddis, and Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Wallace conducts a commanding and ingenious inquiry into monumental boredom, sorrow, the deception of appearances, and the redeeming if elusive truth that any endeavor, however tedious, however impossible, can become a conduit to enlightenment.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “It doesn’t matter that the novel is unfinished. Read its chapters in random order and you’ll still be amazed by the talent. If you read only half of what is there it would be one of the best reads you’ve had in a long time. There are geniuses and there are geniuses. David Foster Wallace is both, and The Pale King is a testament to that…One of the most influential literary voices of our times.”

    USA Today

  • “Transfixing and hyper-literate…Nothing short of sublime…Achingly funny…Pants-pissingly hilarious.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • The Pale King dares to plunge readers into this Dantean hell of ‘crushing boredom,’ suggesting that something good may lie beyond…It uses the IRS as a metaphor for american sadness and loss, and American heart too…The Pale King glimmers and sparkles.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Wallace’s finest work as a novelist…when Wallace steers the tanker back to its theme—the struggle to extract meaning from each second that passes, no matter how empty or lonely or indistinguishable from the second that came before itThe Pale King achieves power levels that Wallace never reached in his first two novels…His ability to render the fine finials and fractals and flourishes of a mind acting upon itself, from moment to moment, using only the blunt, numb instruments of language, has few if any equals in American literature.”


  • “Amazing.”


  • “Wallace transforms this driest of settings into a vivid alternate IRS universe, full of jargon and lore and elaborately behatted characters, many of them with weird afflictions and/or puzzling supernatural abilities…Brilliant and bizarre.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • A New York Times bestseller
  • One of the 2011 Bookpage Most Anticipated Book
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”, April 2011
  • A 2011 Library Journal Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2011 NPR Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2011 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Fiction
  • A 2012 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Fiction
  • A 2011 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Akiva | 2/2/2014

    " This contains a really fantastic collection of short stories. Unfortunately, is is a novel and it is unfinished (rest in peace DFW). It is definitely worth reading, but I felt like the parts that weren't super focused vignettes kind of dragged on. The more focused stuff was all fantastic and obviously all of David Foster Wallace's sentences are glorious diamonds or sapphires and the occasional giant perfect artificial diamond, so if you need some of that sweet DFW flavor The Pale King will provide. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dyan | 2/2/2014

    " not his best, but entertaining "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Adrienne | 1/31/2014

    " I kind of hate this book. It is really, really unfinished. It just feels like death all over again. But so beautiful... and giving it less than five stars would just be unthinkable. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jesse | 1/31/2014

    " some hilarious short chapters and some really dull long ones that mostly rehash Infinite Jest material right down to the meaningfully bizarre dad-death "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brendan | 1/28/2014

    " Even though it was far from complete and didn't have a plot yet, there were still plenty of great characters, themes, and details to make it satisfying. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jim | 1/3/2014

    " I hope this book got better as it went, but I couldn't get beyond the first few pages "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Rob | 12/28/2013

    " Wonderful language, select moments of greatness in the storytelling, but the lack of continuity in the end made me crawl to the finish line asking for mercy! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jay | 8/23/2013

    " Some interesting sub-stories, like Infinite Jest. But not as many, not as good, and not as intresting a theme tying them together. Which maybe is the point. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Gina123 | 8/19/2013

    " Whew! I love DFW but page after page of tax law? Interspersed with some amazing writing..but..taxes? Not sure if I can finish it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Craig | 7/25/2013

    " While clearly not a complete novel, these related fragments contain some of DFWs best fictional writings. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ian | 3/24/2013

    " I found this book rather disappointing. As always with DFW, it's worth reading just for his tremendous use of language, but the complete lack of plot, totally unlinked set pieces and some unnecessarily long chapters make this a frustrating, and not wholly enjoyable, read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Taylor | 2/3/2013

    " Still continuing to read this... very hard to say goodbye to the greatest author of all time. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Chris | 8/14/2012

    " Sprawling mess with moments of brilliance. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kate | 7/12/2012

    " Easily the worst book I have ever read. EASILY. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nakedjen | 5/10/2012

    " There's some sort of cosmic irony that I'm purposely reading a book about the IRS. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amanda | 3/30/2012

    " this book is killing me "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Charles | 6/25/2011

    " What are you gonna do? I think this book would have turned out great. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kevin | 6/13/2011

    " Review to come soon...but an excellent DFWish book. I love the way he writes about the tedium of bureaucracy and how it basically makes you feel like something BIG is always about ready to happen but never seems to. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jon | 6/12/2011

    " Five stars because it's the great David Foster Wallace.

    Three because it's not exactly a novel. By any stretch. But what the hell. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 John | 6/9/2011

    " I wouldn't recommend it. I liked it okay, it had some fun bits and some though-provoking bits, but overall meh. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Andrea | 6/6/2011

    " The first chapter felt like nonsense. The second chapter felt like one big run-on paragraph. I didn't make it any farther than that. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Cheryl | 6/6/2011

    " E-library download to my Sansa Clip. Unfortunate. Both the book and the narrator. All the minutiae of people's days, lives and thoughts. And the narrator read in continuous, breathless monotone. Some parts were mildly humorous, but pointless. :-( "

About the Author

David Foster Wallace (1962–2008) was the New York Times bestselling author of Infinite Jest, The Broom of the System, and Girl with Curious Hair. His essays and stories have appeared in Harper’s, the New Yorker, Playboy, Paris Review, Conjunctions, Premiere, Tennis, the Missouri Review, and the Review of Contemporary Fiction. He received numerous awards, including the Whiting Award, the Lannan Award for Fiction, the QPB Joe Savago New Voices Award, and the O. Henry Award.

About the Narrator

Robert Petkoff is an actor and audiobook narrator who has won a prestigious Audie Award and multiple AudioFile Earphones Awards. He has appeared on Chappelle’s Show, Law & Order, and Quantum Leap. His Broadway credits include Sir Robin in Spamalot, Perchik in Fiddler on the Roof, and Tateh in Ragtime.