Two writers dive deep into David Foster Wallace’s posthumous Pulitzer finalist novel, The Pale King. Seth Colter Walls takes a look at the tax classes the author took before he began writing, and Eliot Caroom checks the facts laid out in Wallace’s portrayal of the IRS. (Related: the opening lines of The Pale King, and a previously unpublished scene as well.)
For the most part, Alexis de Tocqueville had good things to say about the young United States in his book Democracy in America, which is probably why we tend to forget that he thought Americans weren’t funny. What de Tocqueville missed, according to a new history of American humor, is the extent to which American funniness emerged from subversive groups of outsiders. In Bookforum, Ben Schwartz takes stock of the arguments in American Fun.