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on 3 February 1999
Well I just finished the exhausting yet entertaining novel Infinite Jest. (1000+pages!?) I found the book was like a really long jog. Fun and almost exhilerrating at first, but after a while you start to get that pain in your side. Wallace's epic starts out strong but is consistent only in its inconsistency. Although I have nothing but respect and admiration for his talent, I think maybe Wallace was just a little too ambitious this time around. He attempts to tackle so many subjects, with so many characters in so many places, that it makes for a very trying read. I'm normally a very fast reader but with Infinite Jest I had a hell of a time getting anywhere. Especially those chapters where he decides to add no punctuation whatsoever, challenging you to decipher a six-page-long run-on sentence. Infinite Jest is the most ambitious work I have ever read. And although it has its disorientating moments, it is for the most part a display of just how far Wallace's talents go. He is insightful and writes with a style all his own. Maybe if I get a month off work I'll read it again.
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on 21 November 2012
I began reading Infinite Jest on a suggestion of a friend who I had asked to recommend me not something long or in any terms a classic in conventional literature terms, but a challenge. My hardest experience reading a novel was with Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time", mostly because of the complex nature of the book and the sheer emotional involvement it required. Since then I had not been confronted with something so deeply personal on the part of what the author meant to convey, and what had been rendered into art with such patience and obvious empathy. Whilst it is sometimes difficult to empathise with Proust the man, Foster Wallace reminds me more or less of a latter- day Dostoesvky who he immensely involved in his writing and is not overwhelmingly concerned with the presentation.

The density of language in Wallace is set in the background of street terms and abstract acronyms and symbols which Wallace himself has coined but it is barely the point. Wallace means to be artistic by confronting language with experience, or trauma against language, and his intention is made clear by opposing conventional language. The reflections of Proust worked well because of their involuntary nature and this is popularly known in neuroscience and literature. Proust's mirror of society is a detailed and involved personal perspective, and is meaning-forming within the reader because of its honesty. The reminiscing is obviously restrained and comes through despite the author's initial impressions of the nature of other people. But both authors write from experience, and both try to penetrate the veil that lies between integrity and veneer. This is why it was difficult to absorb this novel without taking it personally; it is honest, and hugely self-sacrificing.

Both authors use their lives as the sketches with which to recall and artistically weave their significant genre-passing thoughts into a narrative which is not a narrative. I reading of Proust as not being a novelist at all, and the same seems to carry through with David Foster Wallace, though this seems to be the point. The novel, of course, is invention and artifice and in terms of honest rendition it is difficult to introduce all the realistic elements of daily life into a proper focus with the novel's tendency towards familiarity and conscious recognition. Both Proust and Wallace look at the unconscious, the unseen, and their narratives are highly inaccessible because what they mean to evoke is latent feeling and get closer to universal values or a certain truth politics.

There are clear reasons for Wallace's highly complex and symbolic text here, with most references coming from within Wallace's earlier work and his experiences in alcoholics anonymous, weaving in ideas from science fiction, classic authors such as Dostoevsky and even theories of complexity from within mathematics, literature and philosophy: they are all part of a personal and, therefore, nonlinear communication which taken place at conscious and subconscious levels. This acts as a bridge between the perception of reality and the reality itself which can often take individuals by surprise. If we long to be entertained by a text we might choose to read a novel which might communicate a set of morals or ideas without quite reaching into unfamiliar depths.

However, if we choose to take the offering of an intense personal experience on Wallace's part rendered into strangely positive light, we are of course experiencing what he intended (or what I recognise he did). The trouble is that it is a strange and formidable claim on the author's part that everything makes a certain sense and that in order to see that we must render all possible events out of their likeliest trajectories. That it might be possible to render a world possible where guilt was not established as cause, but rather another, less expected root, is what Wallace communicates here. Like Proust he renders into a torn yet complete canvas the many sketches of his life which serve to establish that life might be understood, given that understanding was the objective of life.

Wallace's morality is a sort of overwhelmed and tattered morality which reveals the less shimmering and desirable explanations for suffering and seeks a compromise away from being enamoured of the power of control, responsibility only for the self, or of the infallibility of intellect or already garnered knowledge. Wallace simply took the time to write this down and hopefully the reader might take the time to pick it up and understand some of the devastating yet ultimately profound things that Wallace so determinedly sought not to be washed out at sea or, in the words of the philosopher Michel Foucault, not simply written for himself as if on sand before the tide comes in.
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on 2 February 1999
Reading this novel, I constantly felt I was engaging a powerful, phenomenally imaginative mind. This guy has like 300 footnotes. The footnotes have footnotes. One footnote to a footnote consists of a 17-page small-print filmography of a (deceased) character. Phew.
About 200 pages in, the disparate themes and plot threads started to coalesce, and around page 800 I could feel that it would come to a remarkable, cohesive conclusion around page 1100.
Unfortunately, the book is only 1000 pages long.
It just plain STOPS. All the main characters are on the brink of major resolutions, all are coming together for the final conflagration (or whatever). And it literally stops, seemingly at a completely random point.
Now maybe this is an infinite jest, dragging you through 1000 difficult pages then dropping you, but I didn't get it. I just felt like the author got tired and quit, or the editor said, "it's time to print this baby," or the printer forgot to print the last 100 pages.
Damn shame, this.
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on 14 April 2010
It's a bit marmite this book, it's either loved or hated it seems. Without going over the plot again, put it this way, Infinite Jest might not end (or even start) that conventionally, it might not adhere to normal book writing rules and might demand a huge chunk of your time and energy, but it is unique as it is refreshing. It's like delving into a world that fully immerses you as the reader, it's like dropping in and visiting Enfield, Boston for a few weeks then leaving as life goes on.

There's very little to say about this book that hasn't already been said other than don't expect a nice linear story where each character plays a neat part in plot development. Infinite Jest isn't about that, it reflects real life and real people so well (as well as being at times off the wall surreal) that it's more a collection of people and their emotions as they face the daily grind, rather than a regular novel. The storyline of the "hypnotic" film itself plays second fiddle to the enormity of the characters and their regular lives as David Foster Wallace manages to explain in crystal clarity the complex emotions we all feel in the face of minute as well as humongous personal challenges and the neurosis and internal monologues this can sometimes breed.

Thoroughly existential, consuming and all encompassing, it's truly a work of genius.
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on 2 November 1997
If an infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of typewriters struck randomly on the keys for an infinite length of time, they would end up with the "novel" Infinite Jest. Like Inifinite Jest, the monkeys would occasionally write something brilliant or hilarious, but mostly they would just write nonsense. Wallace's book does have enough humor and insight to carry a determined reader through, however, I was left at the end thinking that noone has written so very much to say so very little. For those of us readers who have not found Infinite Jest to be a work of "genius", it is not that we all have a short attention span or that we just don't "get it". Many of us do get it, we just don't find it brilliant. Most of the insights are not new or that profound, in fact I was stunned for such a supposedly "insightful" book how little true understanding of human nature was evident in the dialog or character construction. For readers considering this book, if you enjoy long, occasional witty essays or writing for the sake of form rather than content, you may love this book. But if you are looking for fiction, with viable characters, and a worthwhile story to tell, search elsewhere.
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on 15 August 2010
A comic tragedy of gargantuan excess, its 1079 pages are what it is - a philosophic and literary tome borne of its social origins of more is more: a society which had everything - food, shelter, mobility, health, endless entertainment, leisure, sport, and lots and lots of stuff - and blew it. Not for nothing does this stupendous work end with character Gately being injected with pentazochine hydrochloride and mefenamic acid aka "pharm grade Sunshine" for this is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a drug enduced haze and hallucinations alone on a beach,in the freezing sand, and it's raining out of a low sky, and the tide is way out. Perhaps it is "this appetite to choose death by pleasure if it is available to choose P319".
It's language is cornucopic, lavish, rich with technical names, jargon, slang,and a worthy study in itself.
It's structure is episodic or more understandable if we relate it to Jazz (improvised music) where the soloist (author) uses the notes (words) to create a long solo, sometimes wandering off, sometimes making such astonishing music (phrases, paragraphs, sections) that raise it to the level of exalted art. Waiting for these high points, ploughing through what some might see as digressive padding, is worth it. Sample " Every year at ETA, maybe a dozen of the kids between like twelve and fifteen - children in the very early stages of puberty and really abstract-capable thought, when one's allergy to the confining realities of the present is just starting to emerge as weird kind of nostalgia for stuff you never even knew - maybe a dozen of these kids, mostly male, get fanatically devoted to a homemade Academy game called Eschaton. Eschaton is the most complicated children's game anybody around E.T.A'd ever heard of. No one's entirely sure who brought it to Enfield from where. Bt you can pretty easily date its conception from the mechanics of the game itself .... it takes eight to twelve people to play, w/400 tennis balls so dead and bald they can'e even be used for service drills anymore, plus an open expanse equal to the area of four contiguous tennis courts, a head for data-retieval and coldly logical cognition, along with at least 40 megabytes of available RAM and wide array of tennis paraphernalia.p322" and so on etc for 20 or so wildly comical pages reminiscent of the cut from the movie pie fight in the war room of Dr Strangelove the movie - it's a massive world war game played with tennis balls by children. Sound familiar? Iraq? Vietnam?
Sample of the other side: (In an alley lined with dumpsters) " someone cried out aloud, a sexless figure lying back against a maybe duffel bag or pack against a dumpster, its hand moving furiously in its groin and its feet pointed out into the alley and turned out like a dead body's, its shoes two different shoes,its hair a clotted mass around its face, looking up over at Lenz going past in the faint light from a broader alley's intersection ahead, chanting softly what Lenz could hear as he stepped gingerly over the rot-smelling legs as "Pretty, pretty, pretty." Lenz whispered to himself, ' Jesus, what a lot of f...ed-up ass-eating f...ing losers!" p 729 Some deep irony here as Lenz is there, maybe a step away from BEING there.
But dear reader, this work takes dedication, commitment, and effort, to get through, wouldn't it be easier to wait for the movie? Or better still, have a drink? Or light up some Mother Nug, rail some White Lady, or shoot up some Mexican Mud?
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on 2 July 1999
Why do people keep groaning over the length of this book? Grow up. I wish it was longer.
I won't go into all of the reasons I love this book, I will just tell you one little one. When DFW lists the many things you learn while in Recovery and/or a resident at Ennet House, one of them is "That there might not be angels, but there are people who may as well be." Yes, it is corny. But when someone as jaded, addicted, and cynical as I am (as many of the characters)folds down the page and breaks the binding to open to that page, I think that's something.
That plus I want my movie-making friends to film "Blood Sister: One Tough Nun" for our next project.
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on 25 December 2008
I'm a third of the way through. Extraordinary book, amazingly entertaining on every page, with a huge breadth of styles and subject matter.

This book is fabulously immersive. It's taking over my life, and I'm ok with it. I'm an open-minded guy, but the people who have chosen to give this book one star, in my mind, deserve to be ignored. I don't get defensive over other people's work a lot, but this one needs to be stood up for. Maybe because I'm English I missed the hype when it was released so I'm immune to the zealous backlash that can be the only explanation for low ratings. Not sure. But I love it. I'm sure you will too.
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on 1 January 2016
Fabulous book
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on 12 May 1999
It took me two months to read (i also had to do stuff like go to 11th grade) but it rocked my world and i give it a lot of credit for my very-high SAT verbal score as it is a pretty good excersize in vocab. I' ve been reading the rest of his stuff for my big end-of high-school research paper (i have no idea what to say about all his stuff! some of it's trying pretty hard to be cool, but it's sooo fun to read and so intelligent) And i'll i've come up with for a thesis statement is "this is soo cool" anyway, READ IT. (Check it out by the way) and IJ is worth any time you gotta spend on it.
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