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.
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.
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.