Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace

Well, I tackled one of the great giants of daunting fiction of the modern era, and while it isn’t as grand a time as something like 2666 is, I still feel that Infinite Jest by David foster Wallace is a book every person who describes themselves as a serious reader should at least attempt, because while it is not as readable as some other challenging post-modern novels, it is still a lot more fun to read than anything Thomas Pynchon writes. Yes, it will challenge you probably like no other book has (unless you’ve read Finnegan’s Wake, which I assume no one has, so you don’t have to worry about that) and will require an extra resource of fortitude to finish, which makes a long break a good time to attempt to read this book. And you for sure will not get a good portion of this book and understand fully what a book of this length and scope means, but within your journey of reading this book, you will find parts that you do enjoy, and possibly enjoy quite a bit that you will find yourself pondering a well-known yet unspoken truth and giggling to yourself like a madman, mostly within the same paragraph. While this book is not a page turner, and some of the things Wallace describes about math, tennis and pharmaceuticals is some of the hardest and dry things to get through, it is the little moments in this heavyweight novel that allow you to complete the journey alive and well. From what I could grasp through some of the sections, the main story is that of a film cartridge so funny that it kills the viewer, who’s unable to do anything but watch the tape. The maker of that film, James Incandenza’s (who left this world with his head in a microwave) family attends the Ennfield Tennis Academy, where Hal, his son and one of two main characters, spends time smoking pot and worrying about getting tested. Down the hill from this place is the Ennet House, where recovering addicts live and try to regroup with the help of supervisor Don Gately, whose journey to this place is truly spectacular. But a plot synopsis is practically useless. Like I said you will never fully grasp this book as a whole unless you read it many times (which is crazy and you should not do), but through select scenes, you will see what kind of ideas Wallace is trying to convey in this complex web he has weaved, and I’m glad to say you’ll have fun doing it. Through scenes where people die under horrific yet funny circumstances, such as being gagged with tape with a head cold and having your purse that held your artificial heart snatched by a thief, they provide a well-earned respite from some of the harder sections in this book. That is what I fell separates Wallace from someone like Pynchon. While some things are unreadable (like the a majority of the footnotes, I am sad to say, with Incandenza’s filmography and the reason the wheelchair assassins exist being exceptions), the things that are are filled with life and feeling you don’t get out of other books like this. Through the struggles that occur within both places, Wallace confronts this idea of addiction and uses it to speak profound truths about what we do to entertain ourselves, and the pursuit of happiness that can sometimes destroy ourselves and how we connect with one another. While it is a book that takes time and I know some people will not finish it, it is at least worth a try, it is one of those books begs to be discussed. At least you will read about the pride one addict has after his first solid bowel movement.
Rating: 5/5

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