“Despite its shattered state and its unpromising subject matter, or possibly because of them, The Pale King represents Wallace’s finest work as a novelist,” says Lev Grossman in TIME. While much praise was heaped on Infinite Jest, that novel was at once “great” and “borderline unreadable.” With The Pale King, Wallace “achieves power levels… never reached in his first two novels.” It’s not perfect, given its tragic, unfinished circumstances, but it has “an emotionally raw quality” that’s missing in his other work.
So apparently morbid depression and suicide were the keys Wallace was lacking in the first two novels. For God’s sake, make it stop . . .