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Omedy Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value It is an exuberant uniuely American exploration of the passions that make us human and one of those rare books that renew the idea of what a novel can do Around halfway through endnote 90 which itself is 4 pages long Don Gately says It makes me feel good you think I m decent to talk to That s supposed to be why I m here I sure needed to talk at the start Can you remember where you were headed before I broke i interrupted 1001This is arguably what passes for a joke in Infinite Jest See Gately is a reformed thief who used to burglarize houses to support his drug habit So when he starts to say before I broke in he catches himself and corrects it to interruptedThis uote unuote joke I did not catch until my fifth reading of the monster that is Infinite JestIt s the kind of thing that could well polarize your readers5 stars out of 5 I ll talk your ear off about this one if given half a chanceMY FIRST REVIEW JANUARY 2016view spoilerThere are books and then there are BOOKSOnce I told a friend that my mom s favorite book was Atlas Shrugged and my friend said she was just trying to impress me with page count Some might feel the same about Infinite Jest which boasts 1079 pages 981 of prose and the remaining 98 all footnotes It s experimental it s self aware and it s complex Or it s not complex so much as detailed Overdetailed Hyperdetailed But it s also apologetic like the author knows he s got something really important to say and he s just so terribly sorry to bother you with it in this way Maybe knowing that the writer later killed himself colors my opinion but the whole book is infused with gravitas There are scenes full of energy and others that are boring in their normalcy yet it s all described in baroue intricacy that makes the mundane seem powerfully importantInfinite Jest is the story of Hal Incandenza a teenage tennis prodigy from an affluent Massachusetts family who briefly visits an addicts halfway house It s also the story of Don Gately a reformed thief who finds an unpleasant but effective recovery through the same house s 12 step programs and becomes a hero in the process It s also also the story of a secret short film so addictively entertaining that anyone who watches it dies slowly wasting away as they freeze catatonic and unable to turn it off And it s also also also about all the context in between and around and behind all that like the recent war that forced all the North American countries to merge and the way Hal s father killed himself after filming the film in uestion and the Canadian wheelchair assassin suad seeking to find the master copy so they can weaponize itInfinite Jest reminds us of what words can do what books can be what serious literature as art looks like I admit I had to turn to the Internet early on to search for some clarification But even that foray into cyberspace felt right like the text was only enhanced as time moved us all ahead into a fully digital age It s all part of the experience and Infinite Jest is absolutely that an experience Anyone who has finished it seems to remember where they were when they did sometimes if only because of all the other things they weren t able to do because they spent so much time reading it My copy comes with an introduction by Dave Eggers who compares it to exercise and that s a very apt comparison Reading it is like flexing your brain muscles It s not uite like lifting weights but rather like posing in front of the mirror and thinking I look goodI admit also that I skimmed some sections I skimmed much of the minutiae of the tennis academy routines I skimmed the plodding Eschaton games I skimmed the goofy puppet show film and the political farce of how ONAN got set up These are worldbuilding scenes bloated out of control methodical and tiresome and pretty damn boring And the phone conversations between Hal and Orin Please Nobody talks like thatOn the other hand I was riveted by the scenes in the addicts house and at the Boston AA meetings And I was transfixed by the delightful passages with Lyle the locker room guru who maybe can hover and gives out sage advice to troubled teens at the tennis academy And I laughed out loud when I read about the feral hamsters breeding in the nuclear wastes among other things The prose could surely benefit from a trim a couple pages here or a dozen there to help speed the narrative along And those footnotes aren t particularly illuminating I stopped checking them very early on and my understanding didn t suffer any Maybe this is all an artistic choice if the book is truly about life in America and how we re all escapists trying to endlessly entertain ourselves to distract from the unpleasant thought of our inevitable death as the critical consensus appears to be then these long stretches of dull text must reflect a singular truth about living in reality there s plenty of parts of life itself we d love to skip over right But we can t We are bound to continue on forwards one minute at a timeSo in the end what to say Is it perfect Well no But it is dramatic and perception altering and significant The depictions of addiction and depression resonate deeply It is absolutely touching and Very Important But it s not easy and I don t know that it s very re readable even though a second reading is strongly encouraged as the ending loops right back around to the beginning a la Finnegan s Wake You could just keep reading through and starting over and jumping right back down the rabbit hole as it were which is very appropriate given the exploration of addiction and the symbolism of the mystery movie2 of 5 as a work of entertainment 5 of 5 as a work of art and thus 4 of 5 stars from me overall OK OK Amended six months later on 592016 I ve thought about this book than any other I ve read critiues of it and watched movies based on it and speculated upon it and legitimately thought If you want to get me you ve got to read Infinite Jest It pops into my consciousness every couple of days or so and if that isn t what makes a 5 star book then I don t know what does 5 stars out of 5 It s something else hide spoiler

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Infinite Jest

About what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are Eual parts philosophical uest and screwball c While I don t actually have A Favorite Book or Song or Album or Band or Film or Painting or Sexual Position or any other category of things that contain than one eually great contender Infinite Jest is the first book that immediately comes to mind when the idea of My Favorite Book arisesAs I ve already alluded to and partially instantiated in a few scattered places around GoodReads I feel that I read this book at the right time The contingent particulars which culminated as the temporal whole that was My Life converged with my reading of this book rather beautifully First of all I had zero knowledge of the book and author before and throughout my reading I came upon it as a babe in the woods in these regards I was completely unaware of its popular and largely positive critical reception seven years prior in 1996 For this I am grateful It s all too easy to hop on the backlash bandwagon when critical darlings and it people of the moment emerge on your radar I take great pains to try to avoid this kind of thing but it s not easyI also was juggling a variety of ongoing confused trains of thought about the basic subjects that the book focuses on to boil them down as far as relevantly and reasonably possible Addiction Entertainment and Western Culture specifically that of the modern US of A I was also deep in the trenches of stomach level sadness11 What were you intending to do when you started this bookI wanted to do something sad I d done some funny stuff and some heavy intellectual stuff but I d never done anything sad And I wanted it not to have a single main character The other banality would be I wanted to do something real American about what it s like to live in America around the millennium And what is that likeThere s something particularly sad about it something that doesn t have very much to do with physical circumstances or the economy or any of the stuff that gets talked about in the news It s like a stomach level sadness I see it in myself and my friends in different ways It manifests itself as a kind of lostness Whether it s uniue to our generation I really don t know InterviewI had borrowed the copy that I read the first time around from my best friend at the time who I d been close with since early childhood I d been confiding some existential angst to him about depression and the exacerbation of said depression with miscellaneous self medicating behavioral patterns He responded by solemnly handing me a thick book wrapped in the image of white cumulus clouds imposed upon a bright blue sky Cut to the summer of 2004 I d just finished my first year of real not community college and was working on the buildings and grounds crew around the campus in exchange for eight dollars an hour and a free room I spent the days doing all manner of maintenance and grunt work and my nights poring over this book and dramatically rediscovered the joys of falling head first into a fictional world and the redemptive value of communing with the consciousness of another person through reading and writing I also found another artist to feel a deep kinship with and solely through the type of communion that is mediated by pulped trees and ink Wallace was rather uickly inducted into the ever expanding and occasionally contracting roster that is my pantheon of personal heroes and as such also rapidly ascended through the ranks to sit somewhere vaguely near the zenith point again the trouble with rankingI was hooked in a big way by the time I hit upon the scene describing the torturously self conscious self doubting thoughts of a cannabis addict named Ken Erdedy This was well before the hundredth page mark It perfectly captured the mind of a hyper analytic depressive and compulsive THC ingestor From the sorrowfully resigned glee that all minutely self aware addicts feel at various points along the path of Addiction of planning a two week long marijuana vacation2 to the descriptions of how depressing having sex with someone would be in such an excessively stoned and self loathing state32 Consisting mainly of drawing the blinds shutting off the phone being perpetually intoxicated with pot smoke watching films vigorously masturbating and loads of fractally expanding and contracting shame and despair lurking beneath it all and freuently bursting through the surface for greedy gulps of oxygen and one on one time with the vacationer s psyche This planning is all being done in the context of desperately attempting to find a way to finally pluck the compulsive behavior getting high from his life excessive use of the demonized substance is rationalized as the savior the one thing that will finally make him disgusted enough to uit forever 3 He had never once had actual intercourse on marijuana Frankly the idea repelled him Two dry mouths bumping at each other trying to kiss his self conscious thoughts twisting around on themselves like a snake on a stick while he bucked and snorted dryly above her his swollen eyes red and his face sagging so that its slack folds maybe touch limply the folds of her own loose sagging face as it sloshed back and forth on his pillow its mouth working dryly pp 22 23There s simply too much too many amazing scenes and characters to even begin the process of surgically removing them holding them up to the light of the review and rendering them vague enough to maintain some reuisite mystery and yet contextualized enough to give each pinned down specimen some mouth watering OOMPF for the Dear Reader It simply cannot be done People can cast their gaze in the direction of the myriad collegiate dissertations already written about this book andor a book called Elegant Complexity if they want in depth analysis Luckily many of the people I know who will read this review have already read the novelSo there s a terrible type of rumor that roams around about this book and Wallace generally and these sentiments can be rounded up and boiled down to It s all PoMo trickery and no heart Wrong So very very wrong I ve always seen this book as the emergent propertylocus of a web like arrangement of profoundly emotionally compelling portraits of people places and things This is its core its essence its fundamental organizing principle Yes there are some gags like footnotes and some funny names but what the naysayers seem to overlook are the hundreds of seismically moving descriptions of human struggles and triumphs from the head clutchinglyjaw gapingly dramatic to the very recognizably monotonous which can be very edifying this process of recognition from the painfully inherently private and singular to the monumentally universal and public Wallace s desire to write a sorrowful book is fully realized here I think it s safe to say that this a tragedy in the Shakespearean4 sense of the term and that it like the greatest tragedies does not simply pummel you with darkness but pokes holes of humor and joy through the opaue veil to allow for some breathing room Indeed there are some extremely funny things going on in this book and it s mostly a darker shade of humor that is employing them Not at all like putting a clown nose on a prisoner being executed or anything DFW is much naturally funny than that but a beautiful balance of the genuinely sad the genuinely funny and the instances of absurdity where both overlap4 FYI The title comes from a line in Hamlet Alas poor Yorick I knew him Horatio a fellow of infinite jest of most excellent fancyI also think of this book as mostly embodying a style of realism though there are occasionally some rather extraordinary things taking place as well What I m trying to stress is that it s not some non stop ride of wacky gimmicks and metafiction which is strangely and mistakenly the impression some blurbs give of this book Beneath the hilarious absurdity of things like business corporations annually purchasing the names of the year which is a brilliant gag by the way there is a massive foundation of stark realism and humanism perched stoically beneath and it s all just slightly artfully tweaked in ways that makes you wonder how this or that instance of absurdity is really much different from the absurdity faced in your slice of the non fictional world that you inhabit I ll go ahead and just state it plainly referring to our units of measurement like our neat bundles of 365 days as things like Year of the Adult Depends Undergarment or Year of the Trial Sized Dove Bar is less insane than the very real concept of corporate personhoodAs far as self referentiality and the use of metafictional techniues are concerned I simply see none of it Nowhere are we cleverly reminded that we re reading a book at least not explicitly Nowhere is that little wink and nudge of This is a bookI am an author writing a book ever inserted into the prose This was something Wallace very consciously avoided along with a species of irony that he s referred to as being representative of the song of a bird who s come to love its cage I ve discussed this with Bram before and he makes some mention of DFW s self consciousness seeping through the pages of Infinite Jest in his wonderful if slightly less religiously devoted review Bram s point seems to be so that Wallace s voice throughout the novel is very much his voice the same type of charge gets launched at DeLillo as I briefly covered elsewhere This is indisputable The thing is this it doesn t bother me in the least because as Bram writes on the subject of DFW s voice Whatever his reason for writing this way it works because this voice is such a joy to read Amen brother Bram Indeed I found it to be such a joy that I didn t even notice this fact about the prose style in either my first or second reading I don t mind that the thoughts of a physically deformed and mentally challenged teenager are narrated with the same voice as the thoughts of a clinically depressed thirtysomething woman or a wheelchair bound u b coise assassin or the prettiest veiled girl of all time or an alcoholic experimental filmmaker and his childhood self et cetera The book is written from a completely third person perspective too This is an important fact to note Had Wallace tried to cram his voice into first person perspectives of the characters it would ve been an unpublishable disaster But he didn t it wasn t so let s get over it and just come to grips with what it means to write from the third person perspective In sum this book is proof positive by my lights that characters don t have to take on wildly different tones of voice and manners of thought and speech in order to be rendered deeply sympathetic and compelling For most of the book the prose is so pitch perfect and the on page action so arresting that I simply didn t make a note of this just now mentioned technical stuff about perspective tonal shifts and so on There are some relative lulls like some of the extended descriptions of tennis matches but on the vastly larger slice of the pie chart the book remains extremely entertaining thought provoking tear duct lubing belly tickling soul massaging etc The scenes at Ennett Recovery House and the AA meetings are flawless and much of it struck me uite strongly as being amazingly insightful and emotionally jarring Upon my second reading of the novel I discovered where the cover image of the sky might possibly have come from You are at a fork in the road that Boston AA calls your Bottom though the term is misleading because everybody here agrees it s like someplace very high and unsupported you re on the edge of something tall and leaning way out forward p 347Everything involving the Incandenza family is superb Same with Joelle Van Dyne aka Madame Psychosis aka PGOAT Prettiest Girl of All Time Same with Gately Same with the entire conceptual metaphorical apparatus behind the notorious film mostly known as The Entertainment officially titled Infinite Jest as well as the actual socio political entanglements that surround it Same with the brilliant conversational back n forths between Marathe and Steeply where some of the greatest insights into the three major themes of the novel occur Same with Wallace s sheer talent with language including the coining of highly memorable terms and idioms There are now two phrases I use around fellow fans of this book when the moment is appropriate the howling fantods in reference to feelings of extreme nervousness and high strung emotional strain and to eliminate one s map in reference to suicide I could gush on and on and on and onThis all just makes me want to settle into Round Three right this very second and read it all over again and I just might Infinite Jest has the uality of slowly unfurling in your memory which makes sense considering the sheer length the descriptive depth and the broad spectrum of content Each re exposed detail symbiotically attaches itself into the larger self organizing cumulative memory of how fucking amazing the book was and indeed still is When I met the tome s final sentence and finished it off I was left with an amazing set of feelings that s very difficult to describe satisfactorily Basically I felt a deep abiding sadness at the fact that it was now finished I found myself somewhat frantically flipping between the final page and the Notes Errata section irrationally seeking words I may as well have been tearing the room apart looking for meth money I felt a physiological craving confined and radiating within I wanted More entertainment More communion More redemption More identification And then as I sat stunned and staring at the final paragraph it hit me David Foster Wallace wanted the reader to feel this way55 On some level all writers and artists and anyone trying to sell anything ideas feelings books etc to other people all want those people to keep coming back for but there was than that standard set of intentions going on in Infinite Jest He was trying to show people something about themselves namely that sad funny and strange spectacle of continually seeking pleasure and reliefHe wanted the reader to acknowledge Craving He turned the mirror of the Ennett House upon the reader and captured their reflection and left them with things to think deeply about outside of the book My eyes widened and my jaw literally dropped open and the word Genius popped into my head scattering the cognitive noise and bringing me one brief moment of Thoughtless Bliss

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A gargantuan mind altering tragi comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America Set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy and featuring the most endearingly screwed up family to come along in recent fiction Infinite Jest explores essential uestions It s my habit to write on the inside sleeve of a book the words from the text that I can t define or don t understand Here is the resulting list from the back inside sleeve of Infinite Jestapocopesbolectionsregletsdipsomaniauincunxvaricocelessimpaticoaleatoryexperialistagnatepedalferrousfulvouslouveredsangfroidgibbonsapercueideticmuratedtumescentrecidivismerumpentrutilanthalepurlednacellesulcusimprecatedtumbrelcomportmentscopophobicasperityrapaciousafflatusbatheticbrachiformstrabismicascaparticavuncularaditfactotachuffingneuralgiactumideustacianxerophagygynecopiasuborningsolecisticlissomeascaparticanapesticbradyauxeticlordosiscorticatemucronatecodicillumenacreouspuerilethanatopticspansuleshaspprognathousnonuremicapothegmapicalsselvagedcaparisoncunctationsaphasiacetiologyprolixchymeamanuenticfalcatejejunecatastaticeschatologydeclivitymaffickingcuirassvigmiasmacorditecirrhoticreveilletektiticcrepuscularthrenodyemerymysticetouslyanechoicanorakerumpent again apparently I didn t remember it from the first timeaphasiacreseaudiverticulitiscathexisskirlingdunexaculatesaphasiaanodizedpicayunecaprolaliacverdigrisedcoruscantanacliticcatexicsybariticallyrestenoticmalentenduperipateticlordoticrictalthanatopicolla podidainguinalsudoriferousswartemeticparotiticalacritysinciputkyphoticciuatoxicI didn t realize until later in the book that DFW often makes up words I will post a full review at my blog meekadjustmentsblogspotcom

10 thoughts on “Infinite Jest

  1. says:

    USHER Goodreads court is now in session the Honourable Judge Chandler presiding All riseJUDGE Mr Wise you appear before the court today on the charge of failing to adore Infinite Jest an act in gross and flagrant violation of basic Goodreads standards of decency How do you pleadWARWICK WellI mean presumably this kind of thing is all subjective opinion so—PROSECUTOR Let the record show that the defendant utte

  2. says:

    this booki think it is time to write a proper review for this book as it is one of my all time favorites and deserves way than two words back when i was a junior in college i was at the nyu bookstore trying to sell back some textbooks before going away for winter break the person in line in front of me was trying to sell back infinite jest where was i when this class was being offered and of course they weren't taking it back because nyu i

  3. says:

    It's my habit to write on the inside sleeve of a book the words from the text that I can't define or don't understand Here is the resulting list from the back inside sleeve of Infinite Jestapocopesbolectionsregletsdipsomaniauincunxvaricocelessimpaticoaleatoryexperialistagnatepedalferrousfulvouslouveredsangfroidgi

  4. says:

    While I don't actually have A Favorite Book or Song or Album or Band or Film or Painting or Sexual Position or any other category of things that contain than one eually great contender Infinite Jest is the first book that im

  5. says:

    Admittedly Infinite Jest is a tough book You start the book having no clue when it is happening and who the various characters are There is stuff that happens in the opening pages that explains events at the end of the book albeit over 1000 pages and hundreds of footnotes away I'd say it is uite elliptical That being said it is an amazing piece of literature I forced myself through the first 300 and then 400 pages and

  6. says:

    Anybody who completes THE Infinite Jest automatically receives a medal Really Just read every single fuh cking word from beginning til the end you get an award that's what THIS IS basically A badge of honor Bragging rights A Privilege The experience which is so much like ogling the Mona Lisa live at the Louvre for the first time y

  7. says:

    I've been waiting panther like for the right combination of caffeine and personal gumption to strike to attack writing about this since it reall

  8. says:

    Know what they say about novels such as Infinite Jest Don’t seek Perfection or Pleasure but rather seek the Inf

  9. says:

    Around halfway through endnote 90 which itself is 4 pages long Don Gately says It makes me feel good you think I'm decent to talk to That's supposed to be why I'm here I sure needed to talk at the start Can you remember where you were headed before I broke i— interrupted 1001This is arguably what passes for a joke in Infinite Jest See Gately is a reformed thief who used to burglarize houses to support his drug habit So when h

  10. says:

    DJ Ian's Sunday Evening Tell Me What You Really ThinkYou're listening to Radio KCRCR Tell Me What You Really Think where we listen

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