In addition to this story, which is an excerpt from an unfinished novel, the new issue of The New Yorker includes an article (The Unfinished) by D.T. Max about Wallace, who committed suicide last year. The story is about Lane Dean, a wiggler for the IRS. He’s not very good at his job, or at least he’s not as fast as his co-workers. And it is dull in every way. But he puts up with it because he has a wife and a young son. Still, though, thoughts of suicide creep in and he imagines various means of killing himself. He seems to fall asleep, at which time he is visited by a demon of some kind who discourses on etymology, specifically the etymology of the word ‘bore’ as in to bore, to be bored, boredom.
As the accompanying article makes obvious, this is excerpted from “The Pale King,” the long book (is there any other kind for Wallace) he was working on when he died. I haven’t read much Wallace—I find that I often lack the attention to stay with his prose long enough to get anything out of it—but I liked this piece. It conveyed clearly what was going on in Dean’s mind, and etymological demon was a brilliant scene.
March 9, 2009: “Wiggle Room” by David Foster Wallace