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No Laughing Matter
on 7 September 2015
It's a decidedly tortuous and tedious journey. The jest is on us. There's little doubt Wallace had it all in the brainbox department: vast lexicon, breathtaking mental stamina. His prose, as well, can actually flow eye-catchingly at times; sharp - clinical even - observations, telling insights.
It does, however, quickly feel like solipsistic fireworks; a marathon pyrotechnic display raging on long after the children have been put weeping to their beds. It's bloody-minded. It sneakingly knows what it's at. Its anti-novel pretensions a stifling vortex. It stretches your wit and patience like a string of gum pulled from clenched teeth.
Character names wave furiously like coloured flags at a holiday parade. Lost in the crowd mostly. Little more than wisps of colour. The most mundane and repetitive protocols detailed in exacting verbosity: the world of collegiate tennis schooling, for instance. The ins and outs of Ennet House, a drug and alcohol addiction recovery center. Then there's the mysterious 'Infinite Jest': a film cartridge so entertaining to view it kills. And the convoluted, turgid plots surrounding the capture of its master copy by conflicting political groups in this odd, elliptical socio-political landscape congested with acronyms… All of it documented with a pathological compulsion to report everything. Every single thing.
For me, it was too rarely engaging or entertaining, the characters undeveloped, one-dimensional, comic book; the plot, a fog of interminable, surplus, digressions and obfuscations. Oh, and I didn't laugh once.