Friday, 12 April 2013

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

I feel like I just ran head-on into the brick wall that is Infinite Jest, and my head isn't quite clear enough to figure out what I thought yet.

I mean, it was a slow-motion run, given that I started this back in December and read it very, very slowly. I've taken a lot of time to think about it. Why don't I know what I think?

I enjoyed most of it a great deal. I liked every individual storyline. I appreciated the characters, and the varieties of writing style, and the footnotes, and the sheer inventiveness and complexity.

And yet I didn't love it. I'm at the end of Infinite Jest and I'm just feeling like I missed something. I liked the book well enough, I'll probably read it again some day, but although individual sections moved me or entertained me, it's just not hanging together.

There was a point, about 200 pages from the end, when it all felt like it was starting to knit together, and never quite did.

When you get to this point with a proclaimed masterpiece, it's hard not to feel that you're just missing something. I feel like I'm missing something! How can all of these great pieces not quite hold up?

I'm pretty sure maybe it's me.

Infinite Jest is a kaleidoscope of characters, settings, and personal, political, national, international, and tennis intrigue. It circles around addiction. And entertainment. And communication or lack thereof. It's part dystopia, part character study, part comedy, part drama, part crazy shit.

I can't even begin to try to explain it. The writing is masterful, and those long paragraphs with little punctuation were hypnotic, always used for reason, and to great effect.

Dammit, there wasn't any part of this I didn't like! So why hasn't it taken that last leap and swept me away?

I'll reread this someday, and see if knowing what is to come helps put the rest in perspective, allows the book to finally knock me off my feet and dust me off with a whisk broom.


  1. Maybe it's because the end isn't chronologically the end? I remember feeling lost when I finished!

  2. I think I knew that was going to happen, but I can't remember why. I was reading it as part of a Goodreads group read (the group is still around if you're interested in any of the discussions), so perhaps someone had mentioned the looping nature of the book there.