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David Foster Wallace, Finding Empathy Hidden In Red Tape

The author of 'Infinite Jest' and 'The Pale King', who took his own life 10 years ago, saw a higher meaning in the mundane — even wrestling with the French bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy meets postmodernism
Bureaucracy meets postmodernism
Martin Greenacre

PARIS — On September 12, 2008, David Foster Wallace hangs himself in his California home. He is 46 years old and has suffered a life-long battle with depression. The American author is something of a literary icon at the time of his death, best known for writing Infinite Jest, a category-defying 1,100-page novel about addiction and tennis, with a hundred pages of endnotes. Before his suicide, Wallace has arranged the pages of an unfinished manuscript on his desk.

Wallace's editor, Michael Pietsch, compiles the material Wallace has left behind, and The Pale King is published, posthumously, nearly three years later. The novel is set in an IRS office in the American Midwest and follows its employees in their mundane, repetitive, and tragic — but ultimately beautiful — lives. It is a book about boredom and bureaucracy, with detailed footnotes explaining the differences between various tax return forms and other daily matters. The New York Times called it "by turns breathtakingly brilliant and stupefying dull," which is perhaps the closest imitation of life an author can achieve.

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Geopolitics

AMLO Power Grab: Mexico's Electoral Reform Would Make Machiavelli Proud

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, says his plans to reform the electoral system are a way to save taxpayer money. A closer look tells a different story.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico votes

Luis Rubio

OpEd-

MEXICO CITY — For supporters of Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) the goal is clear: to keep power beyond the 2024 general election, at any price. Finally, the engineers of the much-touted Fourth Transformation, ALMO's 2018 campaign promise to do away with the privileged abuses that have plagued Mexican politics for decades, are showing their colors.

Current electoral laws date back to the 1990s, when unending electoral disputes were a constant of every voting round and impeded effective governance in numerous states and districts. The National Electoral Institute (INE) and its predecessor, the IFE, were created to solve once and for all those endemic disputes.

Their promoters hoped Mexico could expect a more honest future, with the electoral question resolved. The 2006 presidential elections, which included AMLO as a recalcitrant loser, showed this was hoping for too much. That election is also, remotely, at the source of the president's new electoral initiative.

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