Maybe I Missed The Infinite Jest

a847b856a4fd535daac0f238f559b98cI should probably like Infinite Jest. But it’s just so gratuitous.

Here at page 108, I could put the book down. Entertainment Weekly promises me that “most people who own a copy of Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace’s 1,079-page magnum opus, haven’t finished it.”

Maybe I should put it down. That’s the point of the novel, right? To look away before I slip into a stupor? Even at page 108, I’m slipping. It’s like I’m penned to this side of the fourth wall, mirroring the always speculative character Hal Incandenza. This can’t be good. To avoid being the butt of the jest, I suspect I should  live in my own present rather than drifting through Wallace’s characters’ reflections on theirs.

But that’s not why I’m going to give up. I’m going to stop reading this book because I just don’t want to wade through so many words. The first 108 pages deliver painstakingly detailed set up. And lots of intricately detailed footnotes about tangental individuals and events that do not exist. I appreciate the idea, but Borges similarly creates a world and in effect a novel of ideas in his magnificent, and only 19-paged, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.”

Maybe it’s not the word count as much as the content. Despite its almost cult following amongst bibliophiles, A Confederacy Of Dunces didn’t resonate with me either. I might just be too far removed from a popularly constructed “masculine” interest to connect with Toole’s and Wallace’s writing (at New Republic, Adam Kirsch confirms my suspicion that “like Hemingway, [Wallace] was deeply concerned with traditional manliness”). I could revisit The Sun Also Rises to test my theory. But as Hemingway’s thin volume is only two hundred pages, the comparison might not be sound.

Harold Bloom aside, Wallace’s tome is well-regarded. Mental Floss’s Nick Greene claims “it’s not a stretch (or very original) to call Infinite Jest the defining work of the 1990s.” So I doubt I’ll hurt any feelings by calling it quits. But I hope I’ve invoke yours, on your recent reads.

What should I read next?




4 thoughts on “Maybe I Missed The Infinite Jest

  1. You’re not alone. I haven’t finished it, either, but for different reasons. I made it about 300 pages in, and it was so incredibly depressing, and I could relate to aspects of it so much that I just had to put it down. I will try again one day. Will I re-read the part I’ve already done? No. But I’ll see where it takes me. I knew none of the hype when I first picked it up. And I’m used to not falling in love with stuff the rest of the world thinks is marvelous (like the timeless think-piece, Game of Thrones).

    I just read “Sabriel” and was blown away. I was late to that party, too.

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