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Infinite Jest (2009)

Infinite Jest (2009)

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4.34 of 5 Votes: 4
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Back Bay Books

About book Infinite Jest (2009)

This is one of those "great" books that is just too smart for me. At the end of the day, I still crave a compelling story that hooks my heart as well as my brain. I couldn't finish this book. I am sure the story structure, characterization, and themes are all at the cutting edge of modern literary theories of what a novel can be. And that may be intellectually interesting, but I was left emotionally uninterested in the characters and the world they inhabited. “Infinite Jest” has just about the biggest heart of any book I’ve ever read. Deeper, richer, with characters treated more as human beings than as characters, its a novel that clearly understands that its a novel, but it never pushes its people around, never do they seem like products of DFW’s imagination. They speak, act and think uniquely. And what characters: Hal, Orin and Mario Incandenza; Don Gately and Joelle van Dyne; Michael Permulis; Hugh Steeply; Randy Lenz; Ortho Stice; and so many more. You come to know each one of them, and each one breaks your heart in their own unique way.“Infinite Jest” is epically sincere. DFW is no ironist, flattening his characters, sapping their stories to skewer culture, making satire by tweaking narrative convention. If anything his quirks and twists are ways to focus the reader’s sympathy, to draw out the reader’s affection for each character. They’re junkies, addicts, sad, broken, suicidal, depressed. These characters are often juxtaposed to expose deeper currents of emotion. Mario Incandenza, for example, is used to sharpen his brother’s depression. Yet, DFW never lowers him to the status of a narrative device. Somehow, DFW avoids nearly every trap of writing, taking conventional modes, turning them on their ear, shattering expectations. There’s long sections on tennis, on addiction and recovery; digressions on philosophy and math. There are jump cuts, abrupt transitions, stories that wind far afield from what seems to be the main narrative. There are dull sections, exciting sections, huge walls of text that you might be tempted to skip or skim. However, I’ve never read a book so unskimable. It’s so good you’re afraid to miss out, even when embroiled in a shot-by-shot description of a tennis match, or the disassembly of a bed.I’ll admit that “Infinite Jest” has sat on my self for years. I’ve taken it down a few times and tried to read it, but put it back after a few pages. So this is my first time. I know I’ll read it again because there are so many pieces to keep straight. It’s a great, great book.

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If you like Thomas Pynchon, you'll probably like Wallace.

Fine. I didn't finish it.

Ah, yes.


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