Who is the King (or Queen) of the Long Sentence?
I haven’t hidden the fact that I wasn’t a fan of Mrs. Dalloway–which is currently last in my rankings of the books I’ve read to this point. Interestingly, though, I’ve noticed some similarities between Mrs. Dalloway and Infinite Jest.
Both David Foster Wallace and Virginia Woolf didn’t mind writing a sentence with hundreds of words. I believe a couple of sentences in Infinite Jest last more than a full page.
But the difference being, in my opinion, that David Foster Wallace’s long sentences actually make sense to my small brain.
Let’s look at two examples. First, the sentence I quoted in my review of Mrs. Dalloway, which, technically, isn’t a run on, just a long sentence. Correct me if I’m wrong, editors.
It was not to them (not to Hugh, or Richard, or even to devoted Miss Brush) the liberator of the pent egotism, which is a strong martial woman, well nourished, well descended, of direct impulses, downright feelings, and little introspective power (broad and simple–why could not every one be broad and simple? she asked) feels rise within her, once youth is past, and must eject upon some object–it may be Emigration, it may be Emancipation; but whatever it be, this object round which the essence of her soul is daily secreted, becomes inevitably prismatic, lustrous, half looking glass, half precious stone; now carefully hidden in case people should sneer at it; now proudly displayed.
Now, take a look at a sentence from Infinite Jest:
Gately’s biggest asset as an Ennet House live-in Staffer–besides the size thing, which is not to be discounted when order has to be maintained in a place where guys come in fresh from detox still in Withdrawal with their eyes rolling like palsied cattle and an earring in their eyelid and a tattoo that says BORN TO BE UNPLEASANT–besides the fact that his upper arms are the size of cuts of beef you rarely see off hooks, his big plus is he has this ability to convey his own experience about at first hating AA to new House residents who hate AA and resent being forced to go and sit up in nose-pore-range and listen to such limply improbably cliched drivel night after night.
For whatever reason, the Infinite Jest passage is much easier for me to follow. Maybe it’s just the more modern writing or the fact that I’m actually into the story.
Both books require a lot of concentration to read–as shown with these sentences. But I’m digging Infinite Jest much more than Mrs. Dalloway.
What do you think? Are both of these passages painful to follow?