Summer Reading for Accountants: The Pale King

David Foster Wallace [from Wikimedia Commons]

After wading through David Foster Wallace’s writings for the past year, I’m finally ready for the ultimately challenge: reading The Pale King. Believe it or not, The Pale King is about accounting, and I’m sure much to the chagrin of my friend Adrienne Gonzalez over at Going Concern, Foster delves into how terminally boring accounting is, asking (in what I’m sure will be very long sentences) why anyone would ever go into accounting.

So far, there are long and obscure ruminations on tax codes, the CPA exam, and the bitter consequences of hiding a  backlog of unfinished working papers in air ducts. I’m only at the beginning, and already one accountant died in the bull-pen, but no one noticed for four days.

BTW, The Pale King is unfinished; before he could complete it, Wallace committed suicide.

You can buy the book here. Wallace is an acquired taste. You might want to start off with some of his easier works, like A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again or The Broom of the System before jumping into this one.


About Mark P. Holtzman

Chair of Accounting Department at Seton Hall University. PhD from The University of Texas at Austin. Worked at Deloitte's New York Office. BSBA from Hofstra University.


  1. Hello, Mark. I don’t have the courage to read this. Why don’t you tell me all about it when we meet up in Washington in August.

  2. athar murtuza

    there are poems, original, that deal with accounting! Including mine! perhaps his suicide was related to accounting!

  3. athar murtuza

    i should have mentioned in the comment above, those poems are in the journal, Critical Perspectives on Accounting.

    i also recall a paper that talked about accounting in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

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