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Comment Archives: stories: Books: Features

Re: “Death and Taxes

You guys are funny.

Posted by whatevs on 04/15/2011 at 4:48 PM

Re: “Death and Taxes

@Matthew Stadler: Probably worth noting: The Pale King's cover was designed by Karen Green, Wallace's widow.

Posted by Erik Henriksen on 04/15/2011 at 1:46 PM

Re: “Death and Taxes

@Colin I was hewing to the legal answer, but I'm tempted to defend it as the ethical one, too. Death takes the author out of the conversation, irreversibly. Authors do everything they can to keep their interests alive, training people like you and me to articulate their needs as our own (they train us by writing so well). And crucially they choose an executor. Someone agreed to sell the rights for this work to Little, Brown. I presume DFW chose that someone, but maybe he neglected to. Regardless, now Little, Brown has the right, morally as well as legally. I don't think the intuited needs of the dead should ever trump the articulated needs of the living.

Posted by Matthew Stadler on 04/15/2011 at 1:44 PM

Re: “Death and Taxes

@ Erik, 1) I also disagree that not setting the manuscript on fire before hanging himself is tacit agreement to publishing - he obviously had some weightier things on his mind.

2) I'm also glad the publisher's making these disclaimers, but there's no doubt in my mind that with each year that passes, the "unfinished" tag will get buried further and further and Pale King will inevitably be included fully in DFW's acknowledged body of work.

@ Stadler, "Should it be published? Yes, if there are readers who want to read it and an estate that wishes to make it available." What?

If that's the standard, we may as well force all authors and other artists to turn over all of the their unfinished work right now, shouldn't we? After all, WE WANT IT, and distributors want to make money off it.

Is it just death that takes him out of the conversation over what happens with his work?

I guess the underlying question is, "why do we feel we have a right to this stuff?"

I'm not very satisfied with the answers "because he failed to burn it, and we want to read it."

Posted by Commenty Colin on 04/15/2011 at 1:04 PM

Re: “Death and Taxes

@Erik again, My tone must be off, sorry. I don't think they need to hang disclaimers. They published a book they call "an unfinished novel by David Foster Wallace." In answer to Colicky Colin I said I think there's no such thing. Or, more accurate, everything in my life is an unfinished novel; everything, that is, except the five novels. A writer does a ton of stuff, but a book by a writer is a finished thing. There's no book -- there is nothing -- until it's finished.

I'm intrigued by your point that DFW must have known something like this would happen, and so his acquiescence is his consent. More saliently, his estate's consent is his consent, and thank goodness they gave it. I'm looking forward to reading this DFW writing, but I don't agree that it is a book by David Foster Wallace. (btw, I like the cover designer's solution. No "by.")

Posted by Matthew Stadler on 04/15/2011 at 11:49 AM

Re: “Death and Taxes

@Matthew Stadler: Have you read the book yet?

By all accounts (or at least all the ones I've found), Wallace had been working on The Pale King for a good chunk of time before his death—like 10 years, apparently. He didn't finish it, and since it's clearly incomplete, there's really no way to read it as if he had. (That said: It's impressive how well the book holds together and how whole it feels, given the circumstances.) The publisher's being about as clear about all of this as they can be while still letting people know that (A) it's Wallace's writing they're selling, and (B) Wallace had been writing The Pale King as a novel. I'm just not sure how many more disclaimers you feel need to be hung on this thing.

Posted by Erik Henriksen on 04/15/2011 at 10:55 AM

Re: “Death and Taxes

@Erik, this is what I was going on, from Little, Brown:…

"The Pale King
An Unfinished Novel
By David Foster Wallace"

I agree, they're dealing with the odd nature of the material pretty well; but the implication is that David Foster Wallace wrote a book, which is far from true.

Posted by Matthew Stadler on 04/15/2011 at 10:02 AM

Re: “Death and Taxes

@Matthew Stadler: The book is referred to several times—in both publicity materials and on one of its title pages, I think—as The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel. (I'm not aware of any instances where it's been officially billed as "a novel by David Foster Wallace.") This, along with Pietsch's editor's note and the "Notes and Asides" section, makes the book’s unfinished state pretty explicit.

Posted by Erik Henriksen on 04/14/2011 at 4:18 PM

Re: “Death and Taxes

@Commenty Colin: I don't know how I feel about it, honestly. I will say I had a lot more reservations about reading The Pale King before I figured out how obviously unfinished it was—at which point reading it started to feel like a wholly different exercise than reading a finished novel. One point that's also worth bringing up, I think: Wallace was smart. He had to know what'd happen with his papers and files after his death. Yet he left 'em around, some of them neatly organized and ready to be sent to his publisher. It's not like Wallace's death was unexpected (for him, at least); one could make the argument, I suppose, that if he hadn't wanted this stuff to be read, he would've made those feelings clear, or even destroyed the work in question.

Posted by Erik Henriksen on 04/14/2011 at 4:16 PM

Re: “Death and Taxes

Publishing this as David Foster Wallace's book is misleading, at best. It is a book of his work, compiled and organized by others, but not his book. The publisher calls it "an unfinished novel by David Foster Wallace," but really it is what was in his files when he died. Should it be published? Yes, if there are readers who want to read it and an estate that wishes to make it available. But it should not be called "a novel by David Foster Wallace," unfinished or otherwise. I can attest to the myriad changes of mind an author goes through on the way from "writing a novel" to having a finished novel, or having nothing at all. Intentions do not correlate to achieved art, and it is presumptuous for the publisher to assert otherwise.

Posted by Matthew Stadler on 04/13/2011 at 9:55 PM

Re: “Death and Taxes

What do we think about publishing a dead author's unfinished novel? He's dead and all, but it's hard to escape the feeling that he'd object to it's publishing, and it's entrance into his body of work with it's half-formed nature becoming more and more of a dusty footnote over time. Part of art is declaring a work finished and fit for judgment and entry into the rest of one's body of work, no?…

Posted by Commenty Colin on 04/13/2011 at 7:05 PM

Re: “Stumping for Comics

Is this still being looked at? Im a comic creator and I want to move to Portland as soon as I can. Do you know where the largest collection of comic artists live?

Posted by on 06/17/2009 at 11:29 AM

Re: “Stumping for Comics

I'm an idiot, of course, but I always thought this festival was put on by the roasting company. I regret not having my stuff ready for this.

Posted by ROM on 04/16/2009 at 12:02 PM

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