8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2012
Many of the reviews talk of a "tour de force" entertaining characters, and so on. I've read the first ten percent of the book, and I couldn't tell you the names of any of the characters so far; it has completely failed to entertain me. It's just reading one word after another, one thing after another, dotting about with no coherence, sub plots that don't have any point... I liked Gravity's Rainbow; that made me think. This - sends me to sleep. Maybe the other 90% is worth reading, but there are plenty of other books to read that are almost certain to be more interesting.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2015
I'm one of those who didn't finish this.
I was drawn to this by the author's quote from a speech he gave to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College:
"Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship… is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough… Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you… Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is… they’re unconscious. They are default settings."
But it's not a quote from the novel (it's from Tim Keller's, "Center Church"). As for this book, unfortunately I found that what the critics classify as an "encyclopaedic novel" translates to "way too much detail and digression". Maybe it all adds up at the end, guess I''ll never know. There were descriptions and observations and ideas that I liked but in the end I found it too confusing and figure I could either plough on for a month or so, or read something for pleasure. Over 900 pages of small print plus 100 pages of even smaller endnotes? Sorry, I've got to be enjoying it to be putting in that many hours. I nearly made it to page 100. I'm out. Get the sample on the Kindle and see what you think.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2012
So here I am at last, ready to comment on my experience of Infinite Jest. I feel I must be humble, as one should be when facing something that defies comments and descriptions.Is this the perfect book? Maybe. Although it doesn't bring out feelings you have to encounter-to move you, shake you-to consider a work of art exceptional, it is exceptional the way Wallace brings into life a whole world through his words, in a way that, in my opinion, can be compared only with Kafka.I think many have tried it but noone succeeded to the extent Wallace did.For he was a genuine genius , like Kafka, for whom language, as it is apparent, was his life.I find no reason to start talking about the content(that seems to be deeply personal, and yet treated from a certain distance), as it is not irrelevant but does not say much about the magic of this book. I hold The pale king in my hands now and get ready to start it;I delay by reading other books, keeping it for later, as I know it will be the last thing I will read from Wallace(of similar ambition). In the preface I read that it was not finished. It doesn't matter!Infinite jest didn't quite have an end;nor did Franz Kafka's The trial. Goodbye Mr. Wallace!Too bad you went away too early!
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 21 March 1997
I don't remember what I had for dinner last Friday. I don't remember what I wore to work three days ago. I don't remember the scent of my ex-girlfriend's shampoo. But it's been about nine months since I finished Infinite Jest, and I find it's still resonating in my head like the memories of a good vacation.
We English-major types love to sound off about art (I've spent the last nine months scouring the 'net for a forum in which to discuss IJ), but never mind memes and tropes and pop-culture metaphors for right now. Let me put your mind at ease: IJ isn't just for Pynchon-heads, lit-crits and hip pre-millennial academics. IJ is, among other things, fun. It's a mystery in a joke wrapped in "Peyton Place," rolled in a giant paper and trailing fragrant smoke. It's a great party with your weird neighbors. It's a late-night dorm-room rap about everything that's profound and banal in the life of a late-Twentieth-Century American. It is, in short, a trip.
I find it curious that the most common criticisms of Wallace's book refer to its length, its endnotes, or its allegedly unsatisfying conclusion. The only even marginally defensible position from the critical viewpoint is that Wallace cheated his readers out of their comfortable feeling of closure by not wrapping up his plot lines in Christmas paper and handing them over, and even that argument ultimately belies a merely cursory reading of the novel. The other two criticisms are at once irrelevant and slightly whiny.
Remember when you heft the book (a much less daunting task in paperback, no doubt) that brevity may be the soul of wit, but it is not necessarily the soul of fiction. The discussion of how many words should have been pruned or how many should have been added is moot: IJ is what it is. Although structure and form are valid critical criteria, one should not wag a finger and tell Tolstoy to slim down because of the trim physique of "The Old Man and the Sea." The minuet does not invalidate the symphony. If you feel that the material does not warrant a lengthy treatment then criticize the author's instincts, but in the case of IJ that approach again belies a too-literal interpretation. Either read it or don't, but "too long" is a criticism that should be reserved for cafeteria lines and dental procedures.
The endnotes are a literary device, nothing more. Perhaps they're a satirical comment on academia, maybe they're a metafiction tool to bring a measure of physicality to the reading process, maybe Wallace just digs the way they look, but don't get annoyed because they make it inconvenient to read the book with a drink in hand. Wallace uses endnotes in his prose (nonfiction as well) for asides, omniscient-author commentary, and lengthy exposition that he has for some reason determined inappropriate in the context of the novel's body, and in IJ they conform to Wallace's structural scheme. In fact, late in IJ the endnote device itself becomes significant in demonstrating characters' psychological conditions. If your inerpretation of the novel leads you to conclude that Wallace made an unwise choice in the endnote device, like a poorly chosen adjective or clunky sentence, then criticize the device and its subtext; it's laziness and poor analysis to just gripe about the page-turning.
An examination of IJ's narrative form is probably somewhat illuminated by an essay Wallace wrote on David Lynch (it appears in his recent collection, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again"). In the essay, Wallace cites an axiom about conclusions and meaning in fiction (and art in general, I suppose): if you point something out to a dog, the dog will stare at your pointing finger (it's actually more elegant than that in the essay, but I'm paraphrasing). The implication is that in Lynch's work and, by extrapolation, in his own, a created item is not necessarily intended to be analyzed in terms of pure form (that is, form isolated from meaning). In short, IJ means more than the sum total of its characters' experiences.
This would be a perfect place to launch into an attack on the insidiousness and occasional dishonesty of the neat conclusion, especially as exemplified by the 23-minute sitcom minidrama, but that kind of argument is really disingenuous and kind of snobby. Of course there's a place in fiction for the neatly wrapped plot line and the satisfying denouement. But the fact that an author has chosen to write an elliptical novel (which, incidentally, IJ inarguably is) doesn't imply that the author was lazy, or inept, or hurried, or incapable of wrapping up his own story. Accept ambiguity as a legitimate and, in many cases, desirable quality of art. The fact of the seemingly inconclusive ending should be taken into account in assessing the work as a whole and, ultimately, looking farther than the finger. And besides, the book isn't inconclusive or really all that ambiguous: if you didn't get it at the end of the last page, think about it a little bit and try harder.
To once again paraphrase and interpret the Lynch essay, IJ, like Lynch, occupies a peculiar space in the pantheon: it's a novel that uses familiar devices of entertainment, accessible language, humor and cultural references both high- and low-brow, and traditionally developed characters to tell a tale that is more complex than its components suggest. Therefore it falls somewhere in the no-man's-land between amusement and challenge, drawing on each tradition and befuddling many.
But having said all that, let me encourage you to just forget it. The book is a good read. Here's what it comes down to: I'm not a patient reader, I'm not exceptionally astute, and I'm really intolerant of hackneyed writing, but I found myself unwilling to put down "Infinite Jest." Even when I was finished, I didn't want to stop reading (yes, a joke on me and ironic in the context of the novel, I know). The lazy-reader part of me wanted someone to take me by the hand and walk me step by step through the novel, answering all my questions, pointing out to me all the sights and following each narrative to its terminus. But the more mature part of me, the part that wants to appreciate art and be expanded by it, realizes that such intellectual indulgence would only spoil my fun and ultimately disappoint (like the first time you get to eat all the ice cream you want). Forget about the finger; enjoy the view.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 1997
So why does the catalogue entry for Infinite
Jest describe it as "Vol. 1"? Read closely.
The whole story, with its heartbreaking
conclusion, is in your hands. After you finish
your first read, go back to the first ten pages
and look for the one sentence where Hal and Gately
are both mentioned. Just imagine what happened
in between, and think about Gately's hallucinations/
reminiscences. Let Infinite
Jest entice you to think, and you may find
yourself picking it up and, like the unfortunate
cartridge viewers in the story, reading it over
and over and over . . . .
In fact, is this what makes entertainment addictive?
That on the one hand we find enough to entertain us
the first time through, and yet have so many questions
that we need to re-enter Hal's and Don's nightmare?