David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace

Look at me!  I’m cursing dead contemporary authors in bed!

I’m pretty sure the reason he titled the book Infinite Jest is because he’s laughing–from beyond the grave–at anyone who tries to read it.  The story is a thousand pages long, and it has an additional hundered pages of footnotes, in small print.  The footnotes are often just little jokes, like sub footnote (a) of footnote 110, which is, “don’t ask.”  A lot of them contain detailed information on various illicit substances which may or may not appear in the story.  A few of them contain large chunks of the story itself, which I guess he just put in as footnotes because he couldn’t figure out any place else in the thousand pages of non-linear prose where he could put them.  I thought it was cute at first, even amusing, oh ha ha the author is being playful, but now it’s like when you’re hanging around a five year old and they keep telling the same joke about an elephant and a flying pizza over and over, each time laughing hysterically because they just think they are so damn funny.

Has anyone out there actually finished this book?  Or is it like Ulysses, everyone starts it but never gets more than a couple hundered pages in before giving up but they all say how great it is because no one wants to admit they couldn’t finish such a highly regarded piece of literature?

New Readers: This is a good place to start

oh my goodness purchase these t-shirts quick quick quick!

Discussion (21)¬

  1. oranje says:

    I finished it. Twice. Also you’re a jerk. Do you not love the mad stork? Les Assassins en Fauteuils Roulants? Madame Psychosis? Giant feral hamsters roaming the countryside?

    Last time I read that my weekend was only five months long – that’s totally less than infinite. Infinite Jest Weekend!

  2. L. Nichols says:

    i never could get very far in the book, but i know several of my friends managed to finish it and loved it. maybe my attention span just sucks? i don’t know.

  3. blake says:

    Clearly Mr. Oranje is a big grumpy liar. Also, most people who have friends also have friends who are liars.

  4. irene says:

    i’m with you – intolerable jerking about.

  5. fanny says:

    he’s just a big joker.

    the book goes nowhere and everywhere. almost like watching lost.

  6. melg says:

    I am still on page 75

  7. TheDamnTruth says:

    So I’m supposed to feel sorry for you because you’re semi-literate and of below-average intelligence? Piss off. Why don’t you find a copy of George W. Bush’s favorite book, “My Pet Goat” and attempt to read that. While that one might be too tough for you too, I doubt it has footnotes–you thickheaded cretin.

  8. blake says:

    Best comment ever.

  9. darkmoodybastard says:

    Geez Blake, which is smaller, your brain…or your pecker?

  10. blake says:

    I am willing to admit that my penis is smaller than my brain.

  11. forager says:

    it’s my favourite book ever. even better than catch 22.

  12. Julian says:

    I appreciate the need to go ‘against the system’, and the fact that you actually generated an original thought over the book, but you should definitely stop being such a little bitch and just plow through. Sure it’s challenging, but it’s definitely worth it for probably one of the best pieces of contemporary ficiton out there.

  13. costi says:

    I honestly feel pity for whoever wrote this post. Not only because of his incapacity for appreciating any book beyond the literary level of Harry Potter, but especially because of his conviction of being acting like a REAL intellectual by denigrating a book which is definiteley worth the time it takes to be read, understood and discussed.
    If I were you, I wouldn’t try to hide my lack of cultural bases under mere presumption. It just doesn’t work.

  14. blake says:

    Jeeze, you people! You make me feel like I should generate an entire series based on the premise of implying that a person did not 100% finish and become a devoted fan of Infinite Jest. I have a confession: I did actually finish reading the book. I even enjoyed it. I’ll admit I was even a little bit sad that it was over, so many of the characters were left in ambiguous and troubling situations! My only criticisms of the book are that it could have been edited down a bit or at least split into two volumes so it isn’t such a beast to carry around (though in this era of e-books that’s less of a concern) and that Wallace was clearly too in love with his own prose stylings re. excessive footnotes. I agree that literature should be challenging, but the challenge shouldn’t revolve around trying to keep your place in three separate parts of the book at once. It reminded me of the choose your own adventure novels I was fond of when I was like eight years old, all the flipping around.

  15. justin says:

    30 pages away from finishing my second read of the book, and the only parts i think could be cut are those heady math sections (only because I’m not good at math, and therefore can’t figure out what place they have in the book; actually, the stuff on annulation is fine, and the stuff with pemulis and hal isn’t long enough to really be frustratingly tedious, but, yeah, sort of tedious). after my first read i knew it was my F.B.O.A.T. (F-boat, or, favorite book of all time). It’s a strange feeling when as soon as you finish something this massive you want to just start it over again. i waited a year on it. took me a month the first read, a month and a half the second read.

    as for challenging–the books real crux is the fight between self-control and self-obliteration, active participation versus passive spectation respectively. merely seeing the books structure as a nuisance misses the great depths to which dfw went to make this book both crazily entertaining and excessively self-conscious work of art. it’s not just the footnotes, it’s also the authorial intrusions, it’s also the sentence structures and word choices, it’s also the repeated discussions of artwork, of the craft of fiction, it’s, like, everything dude. but, i’m glad you read it at least. i’m trying to get someone i’m friends with to read it, so that they can then help me edit my novel, which i hope is shittily related to infinite jest in some ways, like it’s shitty, mentally deficient younger brother, who is also not cool.

  16. Joey B says:

    Blake: I got your back on this one. In the humblest of my humble opinions I am going to go out on a limb here and say that those who are spitting venom and vitriol are simply taking themselves-AND DFW-waaaay too seriously. Being so pompous and pretentious as to immediately dismiss anyone who pokes fun at-or should I say JESTS at- a novel is an excellent way to negate any accrued intelligence via the diligent reading of difficult pieces of literature.

    I have read numerous tomes with similar “degrees of difficulty” in content and in critical praise, and I also love the post-modern stylings of Vonnegut and the like, but that DOESN’T mean that they are “easy-reads”. I agree that the excessive use of the footnote is agitating, and after reading in depth DFW’s explanation (in the form of a letter he wrote defending the practice to his editor) anyone can see that “agitation” was one of his primary goals in doing so. He WANTED the reader to have to move back and forth, imitating (among other things) the conscious human thought, which of course is not linear.

    Nevertheless, it IS tedious. The mark of true genius in literature is the ability to convey complex or complicated ideas, thoughts, and information in such a way that makes it able to be digested by a wide swath of audience. That is by no means the ONLY way that a writer can succeed, and DFW is unapologetic in his approach, so kudos to him… But that doesn’t make HIM the “best writer ever” nor does it make him above criticism simply because those who have TOILED through his complex works liken it to a mental marathon (Or Triathlon, if you prefer) and believe that the sum total of all people who could similarly complete the task is slim, thus placing them in an “elite crowd”.

    When I read your criticisms, namely those of how many of the footnotes and sub-footnotes do not even pertain to the story, I agree with you and also in your assessment that it is unnecessary. We ALL know now that DFW was a “tortured genius” to the core, which explains all the MORE why he erred on the side of “wordy”… because he HIMSELF felt he couldn’t hit his mark.

    For those of you who loved the book, that is wonderful and I am certain the author would appreciate your praise and defense. Be happy for yourselves and also be aware of how ignorant you become when you begin hurling daggers at those who poke fun at something you hold dear. There is NO SUCH THING as the “consensus” best book or best author, a fact borne out by the vast difference of opinion, even among EDUCATED scholars. Classic or not, garbage or gem, few can argue that the style, especially the annotation and the footnote structure, is what could be called “orthodox”, even when held up to a “hybrid genre”. The author wanted it that way. He most CERTAINLY could not have thought that everyone would love it….. So why do you?

  17. Passing by says:

    Good comment, Joey B ! Very classy and not offensive. Regards.

  18. uzoma says:

    One point like crazy, Joey B
    Nice one

  19. DomiKko says:

    Having reached this point in the novel, I know your frustration, and I felt the same way, I’m reading it over several months alongside several other books and I’ve vowed that if it ever stops being interesting and funny to me I’ll put it down and not think twice but no matter how bad the temptation gets something always pulls me back in and I have not yet regretted it.

  20. le lecteur says:

    Did read it through. And I do think it’s a masterwork, and obvious masterwork. (And English is my second language, by the way).

    You do need to go past the first 150 pages to realize it is more than a random collection of characters, and that these characters appear more than once. Also, can’t deny the opening chapter, which does not seem to have any link whatsoever with what comes next, is puzzling. (You only have a chance – and a small one – to understand what this opening chapter is about after you’ve finished the book).

  21. #DFWday says:

    [...] archivi, nascono gruppi di lettura, nascono vignette su vignette su vignette su vignette: l'unica cosa che non si può dire di David Foster Wallace è che una volta letto [...]


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