It seems like ages ago when I read Infinite Jest. When was that? 2011 to be precise. I had one kid at the time, and he wasn’t even one yet. My blog was in its early awkward years…my mom was reading 101 Books, and maybe three or four of you, but that’s about it.
I loved the novel as a whole, but it’s like one big blur. So if you asked me to summarize it off the cuff, I couldn’t. Hopefully, my two-part review would do a decent job of that. And I would hope that if I re-read the novel today, my take would be similar to what it was in 2011. But would it?
This article on Ed Rants brings up the point. In 1996, Dave Eggers (you might know him from A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and as the founder of McSweeneys) reviewed Infinite Jest for The San Francisco Chronicle.
He wasn’t much of a fan: Read more
Today’s post is kind of like my 20 Questions series, but with more of a specific focus.
If you could ask a famous author one question, what would you ask him or her? It’s that simple.
To get things rolling, I’ll start with questions I would ask to 10 famous authors (either dead or alive):
I love it when writers make up funny crap—especially when they create strange words.
Twice during this 101 Books journey, I’ve encountered the term “howling” used in a humorous way.
The first time was during David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. When a character had the “howling fantods,” they had the “creeps.” You might call it the “willies” or the “heebie jeebies.”
Here’s an example of the howling fantods in context from the novel:
I can’t think of one thing, maybe other than breathing, that I would, of my own free will, do for 24 hours.
Of all the things I would not do, somewhere in the upper portions of that list would be to watch a 24 hour play of Infinite Jest.
Wait a minute, you ask…Infinite Jest has been adapted into a play? Why, yes. Yes it has. Leave it to our German friends. An expiremental theater company in Berlin, Hebbel am Ufer, embraced this epic undertaking—with mixed results, if you read Aaron Wiener’s review on Slate.
This week, I’m revisiting some of my favorite posts from 2011 while I take a one-week break from writing and simply focus on reading and spending time with my family. This post was originally published on May 11, 2011. 101 Books will return live on Monday January 2. See you then!
What just happened?
That’s the first question I asked myself after reading the final word of Infinite Jest. And while that might seem like a bad question to be asking oneself at the end of a 1,000 page book, it wasn’t unexpected.
I’m not sure I could count how many times I asked myself “What just happened?” while reading David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece over the last six weeks. It happened, like, a bunch of times–enough to be qualified as a recurring theme in my head.
It happened enough for me to say Infinite Jest is supremely frustrating at times–the loose, non-linear plot, the $10 words, the pure effort that the book takes to read.
But is that the point? Is that what David Foster Wallace was after? Did he want to make you work your butt off to read this book?