My first impulse after finishing this epic was to comb the internet for theories and other data regarding the novel's ending. I realized it'Holy shit.
My first impulse after finishing this epic was to comb the internet for theories and other data regarding the novel's ending. I realized it's kind of a forest-for-the-trees kind of deal:
In Infinite Jest, Hugh Steeply's father becomes disastrously obsessed with M*A*S*H. He records every episode and keeps an entire room's worth of journals filled with cross-referenced timelines, character evaluations, and conspiracy theories. This obsession doesn't end well for him or his family.
There is a lot going on in IJ, and the need to connect every hint and finish the scavenger hunt can be misleading. The danger of the novel is its cyclical pull, the desire to read and re-read until all loose ends are tied. I don't think the novel's title is shared with the samizdat accidentally.
My advice to anyone who's read IJ is to let those maddening carrots go for awhile. To really consider the amazing importance of the real messages instead of turning IJ into an episode of Scooby Doo.
Every character (and as we later see, every object) in Infinite Jest is important. There are no figurants here. While the weaving between time periods and characters (many of whom seem to be extras at first) may seem disjointing to some people, the interconnectedness of everyone in the novel is essential to one of its central themes. There is a major argument against solipsism here (which critics find in most of Wallace's work). Wallace somehow managed to create dozens of characters with nearly unbelievable backgrounds and in incredible circumstances, characters we somehow learn to identify with. This identification is serious business; all of the book's talk of AA and other programs emphasizes the necessity of sharing honest emotion and identifying with others. Not just empathizing with, but identifying with. Identifying the generally lonely and solitary existence (a "hell for one") we all somehow share. The book's first and last scenes reassure you that you're never the first, you're never the last. Hal's musings towards the end of the novel, his experiencing the accumulated energy of all of the kids who have ever showered, stretched, and been taped-up in the locker room, add to this feeling of timelessness. I kind of feel like Wallace is saying that if the human condition is misery, then misery is shared, and at least you're not alone.
That being said, there really is a lot to digest along the way, and even an attentive reader will miss stuff. I just finished an hour ago and I feel like starting all over again. There is a lot of talk about Wallace's missing editor, and the seemingly egregious amount of footnotes, but there is no wasted space in IJ. Much of what is in the footnotes is a deft way of revealing backstory or detail through outside sources (the filmography, the essay on Le Culte du Prochain Train).
IJ is about communication, and how rare and difficult it is to truly speak. It's about misery, and loneliness, and sharing those feelings along with the good. About Identifying. It's about addiction, and the soullessness of entities like a government, and giving yourself away. It's about asking for help. It's about art (I couldn't help thinking Wallace's ficitional criticisms of Incandenza's films were reflections of his feelings about his own merits as a writer). It is about some truly screwed up families.
It's a beautiful novel, much more easily read than its bulk suggests. I could write a book as long as Infinite Jest /about/ Infinite Jest....more
The work of Carlos Wieder haunts me, the banality of it, the ferocity of it. Bolaño weaves something like a detective story, something like a nightmarThe work of Carlos Wieder haunts me, the banality of it, the ferocity of it. Bolaño weaves something like a detective story, something like a nightmare, and the lonely sad tone of an exile permeates this novella. It feels like an epitaph to the arts (to poetry) from a man who had all the beauty of his craft stolen from him (as in a literal sense occurs in Distant Star)....more
A book about what it's like to find yourself born into the wrong body, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. That persistent feeling of ghosting throA book about what it's like to find yourself born into the wrong body, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. That persistent feeling of ghosting through the world that blooms in adolescence and lingers into adulthood. Grossman illustrates how games help some of us connect with parts of ourselves that are lost or suppressed, but ultimately we are responsible for creating and living the Ultimate Game (as the author calls it).
I imagine You will appeal to a small audience, but it is fun, brave, and heartbreaking enough to give it a try....more
These stories have a unique velocity and Delaney's style is lyrical. There is real reason to read these tales regardless of setting or plot; unpredictThese stories have a unique velocity and Delaney's style is lyrical. There is real reason to read these tales regardless of setting or plot; unpredictable and atmospheric, they contain more character in the space between words than many contemporary sci fi writers jam into an entire novel....more
The Terminal Beach and The Atrocity Exhibition alone make this collection worth having. A majority of the stories included experiment with time in somThe Terminal Beach and The Atrocity Exhibition alone make this collection worth having. A majority of the stories included experiment with time in some fashion; the reading experience is disorienting to say the least. But, you know, in a good way.
Some of the most terrestrial and meaty sci-fi I have read. Even when dealing with the fluid and variable nature of time, the stories are grounded and personal, human. All very atmospheric as well. They'll stick with you....more
I thought a lot about Infinite Jest while reading this in regard to the theme of our desire for easy entertainment. 2666 is challenging and sprawlingI thought a lot about Infinite Jest while reading this in regard to the theme of our desire for easy entertainment. 2666 is challenging and sprawling and nonlinear like IJ, but more like Sjon's From the Mouth of the Whale in its density and the complicated nature of its payoff.
Bolaño's aggressively lyrical tongue and the Homeric scope of the novel kept me engrossed. While intrigue is a central pull, I didn't get the sense that all the pieces of the puzzle are present in 2666. Whereas Wallace created a Rube Goldberg device in Infinite Jest, each component hidden meticulously in the novel, it seems Bolaño has described to us the dream of a mystery. It's something you can't shake off, a pervasive feeling that you've forgotten something you never knew. Bolaño's penchant for mythologizing compounds this feeling.
I didn't fly through this; it wasn't a breeze like IJ. The Part About the Crimes is notoriously difficult: nearly 300 pages of unflinchingly cataloged murders. I've seen many reviewers criticize Bolaño, calling the violence gratuitous, and the common argument is that you don't need to read 300 pages of detailed descriptions of femicide to understand the murders were horrific. But the implication is that we as readers only want a glance; we don't want to be challenged, we seek plaisir over jouissance and want to look away before we're haunted. Bolaño very intentionally exhausts us and illustrates that by no means should we be allowed to peruse brutality for our enjoyment.
There is a very dark beauty to be found in 2666, and while it is haunting, it is not hopeless. ...more