Sunday, September 10, 2017

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace Part 2

Well, I'm in the club -- yesterday I finished Infinite Jest, including the many Notes and Errata at the end. Everything I said in my comments on August 21 still holds true, plus I have an additional revelation or two.

First -- and this is a major revelation -- the book doesn't have an ending. It just stops. It's as if Wallace got tired of writing (after 1,079 pages) and just said, "Fuck it. I'm done." I'm sorry, but after slogging through an over 1,000 page novel, one expects an ending. Wrap some shit up, for heaven's sake!

Second -- and this is really just a refinement of what I said in my earlier post -- Wallace must have been some messed up dude to come up with some of the stuff in this book, both the content and the gory details of said content. (I know, he committed suicide so there's that, but I'm making this judgment just on his writing). SPOILER ALERT FOR NEXT SENTENCE! The final scene -- a torture scene and one that is actually a character remembering a long-ago event (that frustratingly leaves you wondering if the character will live through his current dilemma) -- is hideously disgusting (e.g., drug addicts on a such a bender that they are pissing and shitting themselves, one ending up with his eyelids sewn open).

Third -- and this is my own pettiness coming through -- Wallace reminds me of someone who needs to prove how smart he is over and over and over again. It becomes quite tedious. I quit looking up arcane vocabulary words about halfway through because it was so frequent as to totally interrupt my train of thought. His prose is so obtuse at times that I didn't know what I was reading. That is, I literally couldn't bring comprehension to some lengthy passages.

But I read them all, hoping for a payoff which never came. I didn't find out what happened to major characters, what happened regarding the deadly film, what happened regarding the Canada-U.S. conflict, etc. My greatest reward came not from reading Infinite Jest but from being able to return it to the library without the guilt of quitting. I persevered. Somehow.

I don't recommend Infinite Jest unless you want a significant and lengthy challenge. Should it be considered a literary classic? In some ways, I can understand arguments for that point-of-view. I certainly understand why it has obtained cult status. For me, it was all about the challenge. I think it's the longest book I've ever read. And perhaps the most perplexing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Leaves you wondering if the character will live through his current dilemma? That was resolved on page 17! I'm sorry, but if you didn't even pay attention to what you were reading, this entire review is a nothing but an egomaniacal scrib of self-centered drivel.