I found parts of it brilliant, but overall it was a test of will and endurance to read it than anything else for me. I know there’s a lot of people out there who agree with minty green, but I didn’t find the payoff worth the time I put into it. And I really like some of David Foster Wallace’s other work.
WSLer, I’ve done the same thing you describe with Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow Must have started it 5 times, haven’t made it to page 100 yet.
And yes, the footnotes are part of the novel. He mentioned in an interview I heard with him that he was going ‘cold turkey’ from footnotes, but it looks like he’s already off the wagon.
It is, in fact, on the verge of being unreadable. The story structure puts Catch-22 to shame, the imagery makes Thomas Pynchon look like a choir boy and it is, as minty said, one of the greatest novels ever. In my opinion, it was worth reading because it really changed my idea of what a novel should be. If you find it just too hard to read, try The Girl with the Curious hair, a collection of short stories by David Foster Wallace. That would be a good intro to his stuff.
Just accept that character will enter unexpectedly and disappear just as quickly. Also remembering where the name comes from might help in understanding the book along with the hint that much of the theme revolves around advertising and consumerism.
Dangit. That should be entertainment and consumerism. Also I have to agree with Melon Farmer on Gravity’s Rainbow. My head hits the pillow by page 50 on that one. [ot]Minty’s esteemed opinion notwithstanding, Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon is the greatest book ever[ot]
I have never, repeat, never read a novel with better characters (the dozens of tangential people who flit in and out, each of whom take on a full life of their own that goes far back and far beyond the few pages where we see them) or more richly-developed characters (the handful of central characters, especially Hal, Mario, and Don Gately–the frailest, saddest, and most inspirationally pathetic (in the sens of pathos) 300-lb tough guy in literature).
That’s why the novel is so incredible. The plot is fantastic, but there’s not a hell of a lot of it, even though what there is of it is fabulously inventive. The ride is the characters. Just accept that you’re entering the lives of a series of people, all connected in various ways, all in the height of the absurd banalities of everyday existence and looking–like we all do–for the easy way out or the only way out of the easy way.
I know little of that makes sense. But that’s because you haven’t read it. Infinite Jest is, bar none, the greatest novel ever written.
I’d say I’m reading it currently, but it’s been on the shelf too long. It is an incredible novel. However, the state of the modern novel seems to be that it’s written to be devoured in a few short sittings. Infinite Jest is meant to be taken in bits. I found it helpful to read less substantial items in between, rather than trying to take IJ all at once.
It’s certainly worth the fortitude, and I think after the first 200-300 pages, things will start to come together. You’ll start to see the connections between the characters. The characters really are the meat, and they still resonate with me though I’m less than half way through the book, and haven’t picked it up in months. DFW really is a genius, and it’s a complicated, weighty tome. Not meant as “a little light reading.”
Though I won’t go as far as minty, I do agree that it’s a work of genius, so much so that I’ve worked through it twice (though I may be a bit of a masochist–I’ve read all of Pynchon’s tomes multiple times as well). My favorite part/idea is a tie between when the boy gets the computer monitor stuck over his head during Eschaton, and the feral hamsters.
minty is my mouthpiece. It’s my favorite book, and I usually reread it once a year. Someone once complained to me that the problem with Infinite Jest isn’t that it’s too difficult to read, but just that the physical book itself is totally unwieldy. It’s tough to read in bed, unless you like to read Brady-style.
At any rate, I get something new out of it everytime I read it, especially in making connections between characters. I identify particularly with Hal, am fascinated by James Incandenza, still don’t know how I feel about Marathe and the Wheelchair Assassins, and really like the assorted Little Buddies at Enfield Tennis Academy (especially Josh Gopnik). Madame Psychosis’s radio bit is absolutely brilliant, too.
So, to answer your question, WSLer, I don’t know if it’s you or the book. All I can tell you is that it was the most rewarding reading experience I’ve ever had.
You may also recognize my user name from Wallace’s The Broom of the System.
I read it about a year and a half ago. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say I “enjoyed” it while I was reading it. It was more like work. But I will say that parts of it have stuck with me and I find myself thinking about it a lot. There are some real priceless moments–the list of drugs that they do at the school which spills over into a footnote and ends with “homemade transdermal MDMA”, for example. When I read about The Ring I was reminded of the killer videotape in the book.
But I will say that he is no Pynchon. Gravity’s Rainbow is twice the book that Infinite Jest is.
Wallace is Pynchon with a more intuitive grasp of character. Only in Mason & Dixon did I ever feel that Pynchon had created living beings instead of interesting cast members. Gravity’s Rainbow is brilliant; Infinite Jest is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.
I have read it, the whole thing including the footnotes, and I thought it was merely ok. It wasn’t terrible, it has some very entertaining moments, and contains some memorable and insightful writing. I also think there is no reason whatsoever for it being as long as it is. It could do with some reasonable pruning with no damage at all to the elements of the book that are truly great. I think it’s safe to say that if you’ve tried it and don’t care much for it, just put it down, no harm no foul.
The endnotes, I think, are DFW’s wry ironic comments on himself – that he has a habit of going off on a tangent, and he’s taken that and turned it into a stylistic tool in and of itself. I love his endnotes/footnotes and I hope he doesn’t stop, although I can see why he is concerned that it is starting to seem gimmicky.
Personally, I’m a much bigger fan of DFW’s essays rather than his fiction. If you like him, but maybe Infinite Jest isn’t doing it for you, you might want to try A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again which is a collection of his essays.