David Foster Wallace, you've gotten the better of me.
I started reading Infinite Jest shortly before my daughter was born. I've continued to plug awayDavid Foster Wallace, you've gotten the better of me.
I started reading Infinite Jest shortly before my daughter was born. I've continued to plug away at it for three months.
Now I'm at page 499, and I've decided I'm going to put it down for a while, and to be perfectly frank I can't imagine when I'll ever be motivated to pick it back up again.
I'm only halfway through the damn book! It's a monster. It's got almost a hundred pages of footnotes. Some of the footnotes actually have their own footnotes.
This is a huge (some might say epic) tour de farce concerning competitive tennis, avant-garde filmmaking, radical Canadian separatism, substance abuse and twelve-step recovery programs.
It's written in a post-modern style which apparently turns some people on, but which I find indicative of an utter contempt for the reader. He likes to use the word "like" a lot. He likes to start sentences with strings of conjunctions. And but so what really bugs me are the parts that seem like purposefully convoluted, almost aggressively so. Consider this gem from page 228:
Joelle's never seen the completed assembly of what she'd appeared in, or seen anyone who's seen it, and doubts that any sum of scenes as pathologic as he'd stuck that long quartzy auto-wobbling lens on the camera and filmed her for could have been as entertaining as he'd said the thing he'd always wanted to make had broken his heart by ending up.
It hurt me to type that.
Which is not to say it's all dreck. Certain passages I've found very rewarding, such as the diagnosis of medical mannerisms, a speculative future history of video telephony, an account of the great tongue-scraper craze, a debunking of some myths surrounding fame, and so on. Probably the most consistently interesting thread has been the exploration of what recovery programs like AA feel like from the inside.
But it's not enough. I found myself staring down yet another five-page paragraph, and I realized I just can't take it anymore. I don't care about the characters or situations depicted in the book, and I've got a stack of other things to read that all look ten times more interesting.
I hate giving up on a book halfway through, but I can't see spending another three months on this.
I got about a quarter of the way through Babylon Babies before giving up. The first chapter was a brutally boring account of one man's love affair witI got about a quarter of the way through Babylon Babies before giving up. The first chapter was a brutally boring account of one man's love affair with his AK-47, but I slogged through it. I waded through faux hardboiled lines like:
It was fucking hot.
Romanenko scanned his screen with fucking intensity...
I don't mind the f-bombs, but this just seems poorly written. Still I slogged on. Here’s the passage that did me in:
She was pretty. Her color was coming back. A mysterious glow played in the blue of her stare.
Toorop felt a kind of bulldozer turn on in a deeply buried excavation.
Something knotted at the base of his stomach.
Now is not the time, a warning light displayed on the dashboard of his consciousness.
Get this shit into program self-destruct right away, another voice screamed.
Imminent threat of sentimentalism, the alarm siren wailed.
He stared at the young woman with a strange smile…
I think the protagonist, Toorop, is falling in love with the other main character, Marie. But I’m not really sure, because I gave up shortly thereafter.
The author’s name is Maurice Dantec. I have to wonder if something got lost in translation. I gather he's big in France. This book has been made into a movie called Bablylon A.D. which I will studiously avoid....more
The Atrocity Exhibition was originally published in 1970, but it was shredded by a distraught Nelson Doubleday, or so the story goes. It was publishedThe Atrocity Exhibition was originally published in 1970, but it was shredded by a distraught Nelson Doubleday, or so the story goes. It was published again by Grove in ’72 under a different title, and then again in 1990 by Re/Search.
It still reads like it was shredded. The text is composed of paragraph-sized chunks, more or less disconnected from one another and not building any kind of linear narrative. This was my biggest problem with the book. I couldn’t make any connections or trace any developments. The author actually recommends dipping in and reading at random, which I eventually did. The simultaneous advantage and disadvantage of this method is that you can never really tell when you’ve read it all, and consequently can never know if you’re done. Conversely no one can say you haven’t “finished it.” I don’t think I read the whole thing, but I don’t think that matters.
Or maybe it does. Maybe I missed all the good parts. But in my random sampling, all parts seemed generically equal, and as mentioned I couldn’t connect to any of it. My eyes moved mechanically across the text but I didn’t seem able to hook on to anything, and therefore absorbed nothing. I felt like I was ice skating.
I do feel like my cognitive bandwidth is somewhat reduced these days by the demands of parenting. I don’t have as much uninterrupted time to devote to a book. But in a sense that fractured mindset would seem perfect for reading a work like this.
Much is made of the violent and sexual content of this book, but I didn’t even notice that. To me, the form seemed to overwhelm the content entirely. On the one hand I found it interesting to encounter such an experimental approach, especially since I’m fiddling with a nonlinear narrative in a top-secret side project. But on the other hand I found the result soporifically boring. I’d call it a failed experiment.
This Re/Search edition features a commentary on the text by the author himself, running in the margins alongside the original. I found these comments paradoxically engaging.
And, given the accompanying illustrations and the intro by William S. Burroughs, I’d have no problem recommending this edition to anyone interested in avant-garde literature. But it’s not my cup of tea....more
Could not penetrate this one. That may say more about my mental state at the time. I was selling our house, buying a new one, moving — in other words,Could not penetrate this one. That may say more about my mental state at the time. I was selling our house, buying a new one, moving — in other words, supremely distracted. This book may have been too subtle for me at that moment. Or maybe it just wasn't my cup of tea. I have some respect for what the author was trying to do, but I found the story depressing and not at all engaging. I got about 3/4 of the way through and don't plan to finish it....more
This is the book I was reading when Katrina hit. I took it with me when I evacuated but could never bring myself to finish it. In our book club we calThis is the book I was reading when Katrina hit. I took it with me when I evacuated but could never bring myself to finish it. In our book club we call this one "The Book of a Million Years."...more