The Pale King is different. He left us this book-the people closest to him agree that he wanted us to see it. This is not, in other words, a classic case of Posthumous Great Novel, where scholars have gone into an estate and unearthed a manuscript the author would probably never want read. Wallace seems to have laid this book before us in an all but do-with-it-what-you-will sort of way. Supposedly one of his last acts on earth was to arrange the most-ready pages and leave them in a place where his wife, the artist Karen Green, could find them. His notebooks led to the identification of partial chapters, which his longtime editor Michael Pietsch has assembled into something like a draft of the novel as it might have looked in Wallace’s head-more polished than that, in places, less so in others. Think of a big mural that was half done.
The context adds to it, of course.