For those who are not DFW enthusiasts, or those who (not without reason) think much too much is being made of a fragment, here's Steve Donahue's devastating take-down of both DFW and Tom McCarthy's review of The Pale King:
Wallace wrote a 1000-page novel in part in the smug assumption that such an act would protect him from any accusation of laziness – and yet he was the laziest American author since Sydney Sheldon. In writing as in life, laziness isn’t defined by how little you do – it’s defined by how much you’re willing to do to avoid work. Wallace buried his editors and publishers with hundreds of pages of ‘notes’ and ‘clarifications,’ buried his books in hundreds and hundreds of pages of pointless verbiage, but he didn’t do any of that for the reasons he helped the literary world to craft. There was never any of the ‘tortured artist with so much to say‘ involved in all that over-production … it, all of it, every page of it, was produced in order to avoid doing the actual work of writing, the shaping of plot and character and action, the whittling and revising and precision that are supposed to separate the novelist from the tyro. That’s epic, Biblical laziness.even Wallace. Ouch. Sydney Sheldon. Double ouch.
And it prompts laziness in turn. McCarthy at one point is practically asleep at the keyboard when he writes, “The issues of emotion and agency remain central, but are incorporated into a larger argument about the possibility or otherwise of these things within contemporary fiction.” I’m not at all sure what any of that means, but I’d hazard a guess that “issues of emotion and agency” are central to pretty much every novel ever written. These are the kinds of things reviewers write when the grip of a celebrity season is upon them, and even Wallace deserves better.