That boredom is given numerous forms and representations in The Pale King only reinforces the difficulty of defining boredom once and for all, but it does imply the distinction of a typology of postmodern boredoms.
Indeed, one could add any number of categories to this list, but the key for contemporary theorists of boredom, and for reading boredom in The Pale King, is to understand this list as a continuum, and not a hierarchy, of boredoms.
According to Kuhn, ennui is distinct from the common boredoms mentioned above, which Kuhn finds unworthy of study.
Michiko Kakutani's review of the novel for the New York Times, for instance, claims, "[n]ot surprisingly, a novel about boredom is, more than occasionally, boring" and wonders if Wallace, at times, "wanted to test the reader's tolerance for tedium.
How does Wallace's take on boredom fit into a larger literary and cultural context?
In Melancholy and Society, Wolf Lepenies remarks that "[m]elancholy and boredom belong together, even etymologically; 'ennui' is not the only term to cover both" (87), while Patricia Meyers Spacks claims, in Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind, that "[b]oredom was not (is not) the same as ennui, [which is] more closely related to acedia.
Unlike Kuhn's work, The Pale King refuses to privilege one type of boredom over others and, in fact, embraces the common forms of boredom, as when David Wallace wonders whether "dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that's dull or opaque tails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient low-level way, and which most of us spend nearly all our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from feeling" (85).
As he reflects on this dream that "was my psyche teaching me about boredom," the narrator explains how he was "often bored as a child, but boredom is not what I knew it as--what I knew was that I worried a lot" (253).
Yet instead of presenting each in an isolated fashion or privileging one kind of boredom over another, he demonstrates how they inform one another.