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Book #16: Infinite Jest, Part 2

Continued from Part One. 

Reviewing Infinite Jest is proving to be possibly more difficult than reading it.

This is such an unconventional book. If I’m honest with you, I didn’t understand all of it. But I doubt anyone does on a first read-through. Three days after finishing, I’m still thinking about it, trying to run through plot connections in my head.

A friend told me that Infinite Jest is really a book that needs to be read more than once. A 1,000 page book that needs to be read again? Really? For now, I’ll have to pass on reading this one again. But I know I’ll be thinking about it for awhile.

Reading Infinite Jest is like being transported into another universe–not unlike Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Of course, it’s set in a world we know, but it’s a massive world filled with deep, moving characters. Hal, Orin, Gately, Himself, the Moms, Joelle–the list goes on.

The beauty of the book is that you can’t read the whole thing without being impacted by it. I believe that’s why DFW and Infinite Jest have such a cult-like following. Most people never make it through the whole book. But those who do have an immense appreciation for it, even if they don’t get it all right away.

I guess that’s where I stand. Maybe in a few years, once I’ve finished 101 Books, I’ll pick this one back up–with some type of reader’s guide to go with it–and read it again.

Yep. That's Infinite Jest, bottom left, in an Apple commercial. Who would read IJ on an iPhone though?

Or maybe I’ll download it on my iPhone and read it on the go. Doubtful. But I think the fact that I’d be willing to go through Infinite Jest one more time says a lot.

So is it worthy of all the hype? Yes. Would I recommend the book to you? Maybe. Only if you’re willing to give this book a chance, past the first 200-300 pages. And if you’re willing to let go of any expectations of what a novel is supposed to look like.

I can only tell you that I spent a lot of time with this book in the last six weeks. And though I’m not a literary expert, not even close, and I in no way claim to follow every aspect of Infinite Jest, I do feel like it was time well spent. And I guess that’s all you can ask for in a book.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey through this book as much as I have. I knew very little about Infinite Jest or its author two months ago. From now on, you can call me a fan of David Foster Wallace.

Other Stuff

The Opening Line: “I’m seated in an office, surrounded by heads and bodies.”

The Meaning: “Infinite Jest” appears in Hamlet: “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!”

I also believe the title played on the length of the novel, as well as its non-linear plot without a true beginning and ending. Ultimately, Infinite Jest is about man’s inherent nature to satisfy his own desires, at all costs.

Highlights: Infinite Jest is a funny book, unexpectedly funny. But it’s not Seinfeld funny, not like that at all. David Foster Wallace uses a lot of dark humor, which made me feel uncomfortable snickering at times. But I laughed anyway.

Lowlights: The lack of paragraph breaks. I definitely could have used a few more of those. Need a breath every now and then, DFW.

Memorable Line: 1,000 pages and I have to pick out one memorable line? If I have to, I’ll go with a quote from early in the book, one that I’ve mentioned in an earlier post:

“I have an intricate history. Experiences and feelings. I’m complex. I read…I study and read. I bet I’ve read everything you’ve read. Don’t think I haven’t. I consume libraries. I wear out spines and ROM-drives. I do things like get in a taxi and say, ‘The library, and step on it.'” -Hal Incandenza

Final Thoughts: I feel like I climbed a mountain by reading this book. Infinite Jest was my literary Everest, and I finished it. I’m saddened, though, knowing this was just one of three novels (only two of which were completed) that David Foster Wallace wrote before his death. I definitely enjoyed the experience of reading Infinite Jest, and that’s exactly what it is–an experience.

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27 Comments Post a comment
  1. I just wanted to say thank you. I’ve read your many posts on DFW and Infinite Jest – the hype about him is not so big in the UK, and become intrigued. I’ve just downloaded the kindle version, but I’m wondering how I’ll cope with the footnotes, and whether kindle will make it even harder to read than the version you tried. What do you think? So far I’ve read 1% and already the book is spinning around my head, not sure I can cope with this for the next six weeks. It also really annoys me that DFW killed himself, and I don’t mean in a sympathetic way.

    Like

    May 12, 2011
    • Thanks Nicola.

      I’m sure the Kindle version will be easier for transportation. Not sure how they handles the footnotes. Are they links? Might make it easier than flipping back and forth with pages.

      The early part of the book definitely takes some adjustment. Hang in there.

      Like

      May 12, 2011
  2. Robert, funny story….I was recommending your blog to a friend who teaches High School History and we started talking about DFW and Infinite Jest and he told me that he has a student (a freshman) who has read it three times. Wow! Thought you’d appreciate that after your comment today about reading it more than once.

    Like

    May 12, 2011
    • That’s great. My friend has also read it multiple times. I’m happy with my one time for now.

      Like

      May 12, 2011
  3. Thank you for the great review. I, for one, did not get tired of the weeks of DFW posts at all. I have definitely become a fan of DFW as a person, and I’m looking forward to becoming a fan of his writing, too.

    Like

    May 12, 2011
    • Thanks for reading, Heather! I hope to getting around to reading The Pale King of The Broom of the System one day.

      Like

      May 12, 2011
  4. Ben #

    I haven’t read or even heard of it. But I’ll sure check it out, if I ever get the chance.

    Like

    May 12, 2011
  5. 2blu2btru #

    So where does this fall on the list?

    Like

    May 12, 2011
    • I’ve got it ranked 3rd out of my first 16. I’ll explain my updated rankings after book 20.

      Like

      May 12, 2011
  6. Patti #

    Thanks for the review – it will encourage me as I plow onward to get to page 400 where the plot starts to take shape.

    Like

    May 12, 2011
  7. So great! Glad you enjoyed the book and are so honest in your reactions. I “treated” myself to some chicklit after finishing this; a little break to recover from the mental gymnastics of IJ. Well done!

    Like

    May 12, 2011
  8. I enjoyed all you Infinite Jest posts but somewhere along the way I have decided to forego reading this one–just don’t have the time! I love that the book stays with you after reading. To me, the best books leave you mentally “chewing on them” for a while.

    Like

    May 14, 2011
  9. Gemma Sidney #

    Great review! Congratulations on reaching the finish line.

    Like

    May 14, 2011
  10. Jen #

    I was glad to find your review of this book. My friend and I just started it and are about 10% into it. I am having a bit of a hard time following it, but am just going to keep plugging along. It is very entertaining, and he has written it so you really are inside the heads of the characters, which can be absolutely bizarre…

    Like

    May 25, 2011
  11. Do you know anyone who’s interested to sell his/her copy of any David Foster Wallace book? Preferably Infinite Jest. Thank you!

    Like

    July 24, 2011
  12. Okay, I made it to page 320 of . I am thinking of giving up on it before it spoils my love of reading completely. That is how much I dislike the book thus far.
    I am not laughing. The reviews say I should be splitting a gut. My gut remains solidly intact.
    What am I missing?
    Jodi

    Like

    December 24, 2011
    • Uh oh. If you’re really hating it like that, you might want to give it up. I think it’s just one of those love/hate books. I definitely took a while before I started to enjoy it.

      Like

      January 4, 2012
  13. Blue88journal #

    I finally found a copy on ebay, a nice used one. I can’t wait to give this a read.
    l.c.m

    Like

    December 31, 2011
  14. Have you read any of DFW’s non-fiction or short stories? Even after the fact it is apparent how they inform IJ. Great Review.

    Like

    April 14, 2012
  15. I started this in January and ground to a halt at page 121. Your review suggests to me that I should try again.

    Like

    April 15, 2014
  16. You may want to go back and just read the first chapter or so? I was told to do that and it sort of….links some things together…or something. I don’t know. I agree with your review. It’s an epic beast to get ahold of, to complete, but it’s life changing if you do.

    Like

    August 13, 2015

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Book #16: Infinite Jest, Part 1 | 101 Books
  2. Looking Back on Infinite Jest | 101 Books
  3. Book Review: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace | Between the Covers…
  4. Book #16: Infinite Jest, Part 1 | 101 Books
  5. Revisiting 2011: Book #16: Infinite Jest, Part 1 | 101 Books
  6. My Most Popular Posts, Broken Down By Category | 101 Books

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