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Infinite Jest
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on 28 December 2017
Opening myself up to criticism from the purists, I have to admit defeat and gave up on this one a mere 450 pages in. What is potentially a wonderful premise from clearly a talented writer, the story, if indeed there is one in the book, gets buried in innumerable tangents and enormously long scene setting and character definition, all of which may end up getting tied together in a work of genius later in the book, but for me ended up generating an almost inpenetrable mass of text and a whole heap of frustration. A short 500 pages in, and I`m not sure the story has moved on at all. If I were a vindictive literature professor, this would be a holiday assignment for my class... If anyone wants to take this on, I do suggest reading the Foreword to give you a flavour of what it has in store. For those with more tenacity, and have the time to spend taking this on, good luck, it might be a work of art by the end, I just didn`t have it in me to find out!
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on 20 March 2018
I finished this book last week and yet, according to amazon, I had purchased it in 2012. Admittedly I gave up around halfway through on my first read, after getting fatigued with the dark subject matter which does spike at certain times in the story (knowing the author's path in life added to the bad taste). But I loved the main characters and their arcs - square headed addict Don Gately on the road to recovery, and the failed coming of age of dictionary swallowing, borderline autistic, tennis whiz Hal Incandenza. There are exceptionally vivid passages of writing to be found - in particular the Eschaton game, J. Incandenza's lecture from his father about the ruinous effects of Marlon Brando's body language, and many others - the whole book is filled with a hyper literate wit and yet underneath this elaborate non chronological setup is a real heart of American mid west goodwill.

I would recommend it to a friend even though that carries a 50/50 chance they will get mad at me for doing so, it is a slog but on finishing it I can't wait to read it again - the surest sign of a great book. The exhaustive footnotes and overused slang was a little off putting at first, but I think it is warranted as Wallace wanted to try something new and ambitious here. While the form itself is post-modern, the message he carries is as old as can be, the main crux of D. Gately's struggle being accepting the no nonsense truths that are buried within cliche. Something that didn't quite work for me was reading characters like the endearing Gately, who are written as distinctly non academic types, yet tend to have an inner dialogue of an anxiety ridden intellectual, but perhaps like Joelle remarks in one conversation with him he was 'not as dumb as he pretends to be'.
Once I had warmed to it, the encyclopedic style was an enjoyable a part of the book, Wallace wants the reader to work a bit in order to encourage engagement - reading him in interviews with his not quite manifesto as an anti-ironist, you get the impression that his persona in IJ is not so much the younger Inc. Hal, but the elder James - and here again the entwined darkness of the novel and author's life sours my enjoyment... But there are strong allusions throughout to the Bros Karamazov (as well as Hamlet from which we get the title) - another book of my favourites that I am aware is just as dark. The non chronology and quirky satirical jab of subsidised time, have a disorientating effect on things, which like the footnotes and slang, once you get used to just seems normal, but I am not sure (with the exception of the first chapter) it ever justifies itself.

To make use of another cliché: we often critise in others what we dislike in ourselves. And it comes to mind towards the end of the book as the reader begins to realise Wallace will not be providing something so trite as an ending. Wallace was opposed to the detached cynicism and irony of his generation which is commendable, though his own addiction was tv rather than opiates - yet he writes a heavily ironical novel, was this a deliberate way to appeal to the people he wanted to reach, or simply something he could not escape from?
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on 24 December 2013
I guess this is how it feels to climb a mountain. Just finished 'Infinite Jest' today (some unsettling final pages) and yes I'm glad it's over but YES I'm glad I committed to its completion. Ok so the over-verbosity begins to grate after a while and I began to glaze over at some of the incredibly detailed pharmo/addiction descriptions, and yes, even, I have to say that I really didn't care that much for any of the characters - yet still I come away from it with the impression of having been immersed in and exposed to a book like any other I've ever read nor will ever read again. My abiding memories - and the reason I am happy to lavish a five star review - are of six or seven extended set pieces that had me laughing out loud (and at length). Wallace so often excels at presenting his own sense of the absurdity of existence via a sort of slow motion tragi-slapstick, and in this respect (as in others) the guy was a genius and very, very funny.
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on 7 December 2016
Full of humour and existential trembling, Infinite Jest is next to unsurpassable in its depiction of addiction, depression and isolation. As to our dependence on streaming and the Internet, the book, published in 1996, comes close to being clairvoyant. Not as grounbreaking, but still perceptive, on the consequences of our consumer mentality, and western (American) imperialism.

Yes, some chapters should have been further edited. And yes, you need to read 200 pages to get a real sense of its literary qualities. When you have read the book's 1079 pages, however, it doesn't take long before you begin to miss its company.
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on 14 October 2017
Soaring, glittering prose. Each few pages you wonder, how did he do that? Ideas erupt off the page, and characters are sculpted with obsessive attention to detail and back story. I get why it's a cult classic.
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on 14 August 2015
Virtuosic epic about the sadness of modern culture, by way of tennis, drugs, AA, Canadian separatism, depression, Boston, and Hamlet. Brought up on TV and avant-garde literature, Wallace has something of a unique ability to deal with weighty topics in an entertaining style, without compromising either. That said, there is so much in this book that it is long, dense and detailed as well as subtle, well observed and, despite the author's protestions, funny. One of the most important novels of recent years, but one that demands a good amount of time and space to do it justice.
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on 27 August 2014
Difficult but so, so worth it. All the effort you put into reading this book will be repaid in kind; it's one of the funniest, saddest, most complex, most interesting, endlessly insightful books I've ever read. It's simultaneously clever and warm, and instructive without being dogmatic. It is tough to get into, but once you're in it's maddeningly addictive. Warning: the ending is a bit unsatisfying and perhaps confusing. If you're familiar with DFW (especially Oblivion), then you'll recognise this kind of non-ending and might not find it so alarming. Otherwise, what I recommend is when you finish the book, go and read Aaron Swartz's explanation of the text and it'll help enormously. And get yourself a second bookmark for the footnotes!
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on 7 August 2017
Challenging and often gruelling at times but so worth the effort. Funny, beautiful, sad and uncomfortably easy to relate to.
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on 1 March 2018
Infinite Jest meets the hype. It is very much as good as you've heard. However, it is not for those with a short attention span: it takes dedication and concentration, and is not an 'easy' or lazy read.
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on 16 December 2017
Exellent book indeed I just love it. Thank you amazon.
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