Jasmine's Reviews > Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
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Dec 05, 10

bookshelves: american
Read from November 17 to December 04, 2010

When I started thinking about this book yesterday after I finished it. I mostly thought about it in my own head, my experience of the book and my understanding of the book. I don’t think this was wrong. I don’t think it was wrong when it was recommended that I quit reading the book in a status update I declined the invitation. I don’t think that It is reasonable to assume for any reason that everyone will like this book, or that there is even something fundamentally wrong with some or some’s reading style who didn’t enjoy this book as much as you did. My favorite book, yeah I just actively have one (and it has been since I was 15 about I think), is the stranger by albert camus. Sometimes I get this wrong, but if I say another book I made a mistake, my favorite book hasn’t changed. I bring this up because I know plenty of people who fundamentally dislike this book, I don’t understand exactly why they didn’t like this book, but I do as a general rule assume that their dislike is justified. I am not at this moment feeling like my opinions on this book are being respected in the same way that I would prefer all opinions are respected. Yeah I’m being a bit stupid pointing this out, but it has been bothering me since even just a couple hundred pages into the book. Whatever, moving on. I’d like to actually look through, outline a review and well if people are still angry there is nothing more that can be done after that, and I won’t have the energy to care if you are pissed at me anymore I’m expending it all here in an attempt to make people less angry. [On finishing the rewrite if you were angry with the first one do us both a favor and don’t read this one, while I think it is clearer for future readers I have never met, I think it is more negative than the last one and will be more upsetting for people I know who are already angry, but feel free to rescind any and all votes]


So I guess the best way to talk about the book is to talk about what DFW actually says are his goals with the book and how he thinks the book should work. I watched some interviews while thinking about this book and what I found was Wallace says in regard to this book that the avant-garde has a responsibility to make a reader want to read the book. Great he and I agree here, you can’t just do something weird and new you have to do it in a way that makes the reader enjoy it and want to be involved in it. Now I read the new foer book and that is avant-garde and for me that really met this criterion. I read the book and I immediately wanted to sit down and read it again. Now maybe you think foer is stupid, maybe you think that isn’t at all the same, maybe you think foer stole the idea and it doesn’t even really count, but this is my review and my rules. I learned something really important from this book. I learned that even after hundreds of pages a book can surprise you, I learned that even in the darkest moment of reading a book there can be moments of beauty and light. And you know, I learned that I actually want to go back and see if maybe Gaddis and I just needed a break. I mean after all I liked so much of that book before I got frustrated and annoyed, maybe he could pull it back. On the other hand I learned from this review that I don’t know that I want to tell anyone that I’m reading it again. In the case of infinite jest, well there are these things in psychology called reinforcement schedules. There are a bunch of types. The most effective type is something called intermittent reinforcement. This means that an animal is reinforced periodically but not on any kind of a set schedule. This book felt like that for me. There were these scenes that I loved, the first eredy scene, the first Kate scene, the first real explanation of Mario’s place in the family, the explanation of avril’s manipulation of her children (almost every time this became a topic). Every time this happened, even when 40 pages from the end of the book I had one of these moments I thought, yes, Wallace is bringing it all together I’m going to enjoy the rest of this book, whatever it was that was causing the distance we’ve bridged it, we’ve fixed it, thank god. Then it would fall apart again, the book would move back into these long sequences of things that weren’t quite interesting to me and I would read huge numbers of pages, waiting hoping, maybe next time I can sustain it, maybe next time I can figure out how to keep loving the book after those 10 pages. And I guess Wallace succeeded sort of I kept reading the book. He also says he wanted people to want to reread the book, at least in my case I don’t think that was a rousing success.


For me personally the experience of reading this book had super intense ups and downs. It was like when you are on a roller coaster and you go down one of those straight hills and your stomach drops out from under you. Connor has been trying to convince me this is important to the novel, it is suppose to be like this, it needs to be like this. I actually do buy the first half of that. Wallace definitely did it on purpose the man isn’t stupid. I don’t think it’s necessary. So the argument I was given for why this happens is that the highs wouldn’t be so high without the lows. Okay this is not something that is good enough for me. The fact is that the highs aren’t going to be in relation to the lows in the book in an overall perspective they are going to be in relation to my overall lows and the fact is whether or not Wallace included his lows I would have read torn and the highs would have seemed awesome compared to that. Maybe there is something about the non-existence of all outside reality in the perspective of the novel, but I buy that as much as I buy the death of the author, so I’m just going to go ahead and walk away from that one. I think a reasonable argument for what’s happening in the book is that the book is on some level making an attempt to mimic life. Life has highs and lows, and life has ups and downs, so the book does. Of course the books has ups and downs like a rapid cycling bipolar not like a normal person, if you intend to mimic life I think you have to include the slide from low to high. I suppose there could be some kind of argument that the book is actually shooting up and maybe the book is gately and when I find it boring is when he’s on Demerol. I’m trying to remember if in any of the main scenes of this book anyone was on anything to explain the highs in this book, Lenz does cocaine, there is at least mention of mdma. I’m not really sure, I might be hanging out with the wrong drug addicts but the highs still feel way more manic than drug addled to me. I’m just not really sure even trying to imagine a scenario where a person would cycle the way this book cycles hurts my head. Maybe this is the problem maybe I’m not enough of an addict to understand why the book insists on doing this. I kind of want to insert this entire thing about hans fallada and the drinker and writing the hungover mind and that open library book, but I don’t know that I should actually bother you with that, so I’m not going to at this point.


The other thing that Wallace says I find interesting is that art is about loneliness and conversation between human beings. I am totally onboard here. I mean I really think I feel this in books like the jenn ashworth. I mean what is it really like to connect to really be there with a person who is maybe just a little bit wrong, a little bit off. This is totally it, I read books to connect to human beings, just like I listen to music to connect to human beings. I think I haven’t been this onboard with a theory of fiction in quite some time. Stephen Pinker, yeah I’m quoting him even if I’m not really a fan, says "Fiction is empathy technology." We connect to human beings through fiction because we are confronted with the raw humanity of another person and we are asked to accept that person maybe even to love that person. We somehow have to find a way to relate to that person, probably on a level that we don’t walk around relating to people on a daily basis, to forgive them for flaws we wouldn’t usually forgive to tell them things we wouldn’t tell our closest friends. A book is a better thing to chat with than anything else on the planet. But what happens when you read a book and you find that you can’t have empathy for a character for whatever reason. The book ends up failing you, or perhaps you fail it, if you can’t be there with the character well you can’t converse with the book. But what if you can be there experiencing the overwhelming horizontality with Hal, if you can experience the intense craving with Eredy, if you can understand the choice between principles and pain with Don Gately, if you understand the fear Joelle has of revealing herself to gately, but then you just fall out of the relationship. Well can you maintain? I think that this probably differs on a person to person basis, but I know for myself that I had to constantly reestablish that relationship with every character in the book except eredy, probably because he was in the book so little, and here is the thing in the real world after you try to empathize with someone and you get slapped enough times you stop trying, or at least I stop trying, and when you have the opportunity to empathize you have to put in so much effort that you resent the person you are trying to empathize with, and then you feel like a terrible person. Yeah there that’s one of the fundamental problems, reading this book makes me feel like a horrible awful terrible person. Maybe this is the point maybe Wallace wants me to feel the way a drug addict feels (drug addicts have trouble recognizing any facial expression besides contempt because it is the only one they tend to see). So do I congratulate him for making me hate myself, and I’m not fucking around he really did I have been more depressed in the two weeks I spent reading this book than I have been since I was in high school, I don’t blame him directly but it was book related. Okay, that isn’t an experience I like, maybe if I had been given this at 15 I would have liked that about it, maybe it would have made me feel justified in self hatred and I would have loved the book. In this circumstance, that didn’t occur. Instead the book and I have developed a beautiful cycle of mutual hatred, this is not a conversation. On the other hand, as he says his goal was to write a sad book, job well done. This is what I was talking about in the last review when I said the book leaked sadness.


Okay now what I actually thought I was going to talk about when it comes to the conversations this book attempts is that as far as the ones I am interested in they felt extremely one sided. Now when I actually sit down with my friends and engage about a topic, not like fucking around over beers like actually talking, I tend to sort of fall into a more motivational interviewing approach to the world. I don’t like to just look at the world from my side no matter what it looks like to people. I do know people see me that way. But I brought up in my last attempt that the papers I’ve written on AA have all been about the positive aspects of AA, when I write about disorders I writing about how to define and treat disorders, I don’t actually fundamentally agree with either of these positions I just think it is so important to unpack positions to really think about them and understand them. I didn’t just flippantly dislike this book without thinking about it and I didn’t do that to gaddis either and it kind of bothers me that people would assume that I had done that. But that isn’t the point. The fact is that there were so many really great issues that came up in this book AA was just one of them, an example, there was the metaphor of the cartridge for drug abuse, there was the sense of defining identity of any single human being outside their personal actions, etc. Now I get that maybe my last review misrepresented, maybe it seemed like I was saying my problem was that I disagreed with Wallace and it is true on most of these issues I do. But that isn’t my problem, my problem is if I am going to sit down and really compose myself and commit to a thousand pages about these types of issues, I want to really unpack these issues I want to really look at them from all angles. I want to pick up the carpet and see what’s under there. I didn’t feel like I got that here. I felt like what I got was at best a Nietzschesque aphorism. Like hey look suicide, and then I was left to sit down and think through suicide myself. Hey look AA. And yeah I did get a really solid one sided view on some of these issues but I really think there was enough room in this book for both sides. This is the problem for me not “dude likes X” it’s “dude didn’t thoroughly consider the issues associated with all positions on X.” And you know I might be being picky cause I’ve read his essays, but the DFW that wrote host, I just didn’t feel like I was interfacing with the same person at all. I felt like at best I was being lectured to and at worst I was being given discussion topics for a speed dating session where the date never showed up.


You know it’s really fine with me if people think I’m too stupid to get this book, or I’m not putting in enough effort, or I’d be happier sitting around reading sophie kinsella. I’m confident in who I am as a human being and I don’t think this is going to shake that. I’m sorry that I’ve disappointed everybody and I’m sorry you don’t like my opinions, but the fact is they are my opinions and I don’t really see them changing based on peer pressure.



Okay so on the endnotes. I still don’t like endnotes, this doesn’t mean I can’t like a book with endnotes. And yes I have considered when the endnotes where there and honestly I came up with nothing except what I said in my other review, (paraphrased as to fuck up the smoothness of my reading experience). Well I googled till I found David Foster Wallace talking about the endnotes and he says that the point is that reality is fractured and they are suppose to mess with the flow of the novel. So not only did I consider it, but I actually had the purpose of the footnotes right. Wallace says that he needed the right amount so they fractured the novel but weren’t completely disorienting. Here is my problem. I found them completely disorienting. Probably this is related to my dislike of end notes and therefore my complete lack of practice using them. And maybe there is some way that I could have read the chapter and the end notes and then reread the chapter, and then reread the chapter and the endnotes and fixed this, but considering the reading experience I was having this doesn’t seem like something that I would have been likely to do now does it? I think a lot of this could have been solved by making the definitional endnotes footnotes on the pages. I’ve said, I didn’t mind the long endnotes, I got the point and I liked them even the filmography one, but the flipping back and forth four times in a paragraph so the meanings of abbreviations, I’m sorry I can’t do it, and I’m not going to apologize for the fact that it severely disturbed my reading experience, it isn’t like Wallace didn’t know that was a possibility.


***********************

When I was probably about 16 I had been playing the clarinet for something like seven years (and the harp for 11, so I mean I was entrenched in the whole music performance thing) my band instructor, Daniel Granholm gave a lecture about how you can tell if you have played a piece of music well. The main point being if the audience starts clapping the second the music ends you have performed poorly. If you play a song well the audience should get lost in the music and it should take them a second or two to come out of that to applaud for you at the end of a song. If they applaud exactly when a song ends it means they are waiting for the song to be over (in the case of our orchestra because listening to them was painful, but that is long story about some intense mistakes in the organization of the orchestra rehearsals, and of course the retarded lack of talent of most high school string players).


How is this relevant to mr. Wallace, well I have been looking forward to the end of this book, since, well not exactly since, more like mostly during all the words in the book. Now don't get me wrong I think there is a really amazing 200-300 page book buried in there (I didn't mark he pages I thought were good, I kind of think I should have now). In between those, lets estimate high and ignore the footnotes for the moment, there were 681 pages that I read wishing they weren't there at all, or that I took long naps while reading so I wouldn't have to read them anymore (I will give this book credit, I have slept more while reading this book than I have in probably 15 years). I spent most of this book skimming ahead for stops asking myself, "how much more of this do I have to read before I can take a break?"


Okay this book was actually not recommended to me by greg and Karen, although I think greg recommended it once. This book and dfw in general were recommended to me by Connor multiple times, over a couple years, in a specific order (which I didn’t follow, but I know enough about sports so he stuff about tennis didn’t bother me). This is Connor’s favorite book.Correction this is a book connor really likes. Connor is now reading Ulysses. Ulysses is not my favorite book (which I can’t specify at the moment but he hasn’t read any of the choices) but it is seriously up there. I love Ulysses because it is not a novel of things it is a novel of thoughts. What I mean is, I read Ulysses as joyce’s personal quest to define his own identity is he bloom or is he Stephen. And the conflict of uniting these two characters, or these two aspects of his personality is impossible. No matter how many times he brings them together one insists on fundamentally rejecting the other. I could go on for days. On the other hand, dfw. Okay I don’t like most of these characters, I don’t really think they have a whole fuck of a lot going on inside their heads. I do see a bit of Wallace spread out among maybe 3 of the characters, but it seems heavily accidental and not actually imbedded in the plot line. Here is where Wallace and I differ, I love the scenes that he gives almost no importance in the book. I love the explanation of Kate’s depression, I love the description of Eredy trying to get high, I love Mario trying to figure out how to interact with other people. I don’t like pemulis. Michael specifically, I like Matt a lot. I don’t think he has a whole lot going on as a human being, if he came up to me on the street I wouldn’t talk to him, so why the fuck is he in the book so much more than all the interesting character. Right, so connor doesn’t like joyce like I do, and he doesn’t get why I like it so much. I’m in a more complicated place, I get why people like Wallace, I just don’t get why this book wasn’t edited better and why anyone would want to read a version that was less edited. Why is the game of eschaton an obsessive topic in the book. Okay, I don’t like action in books I know this is weird. I like stories, and philosophy and the whole debate about where the snow is really falling, but I don’t need to be reminded ever ten pages that someone got hit in the head with a tennis ball. I just don’t give a flying fuck alright. Punish them whatever, but I’m not terribly interested.


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Quotes Jasmine Liked

David Foster Wallace
“Te Occidere Possunt Sed Te Edere Non Possunt Nefas Est" ("They can kill you, but the legalities of eating you are quite a bit dicier").”
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest


Reading Progress

11/17/2010 page 28
3.0% "Implore's a regular verb, transitive: to call upon, or for, in supplication; to pray to, or for, earnestly; to beseech; to entreat. Weak synonym: urge. Strong synonym: beg. Etymology unmixed: from Latin implorare, im meaning in, plorare meaning in this context to cry aloud. OED condensed volume six page 1387 column twelve and a little bit of thirteen"
11/17/2010 page 37
3.0% "I like the part about the pot head because he reminds me of my mommy, but this book makes my head hurt." 48 comments
11/18/2010 page 60
6.0% "I can read about 7 pages of this on a subway ride. That is around a third of the slowest pace I read and a ninth of he highest pace, in short, it's frustrating." 3 comments
11/20/2010 page 95
9.0% "I would read to page 100 as a benchmark but I am too sleepy to concentrate."
11/21/2010 page 193
18.0% "It's feeling a bit like reading peter hamilton without liking any of the various plot lines."
11/22/2010 page 242
22.0% "I'm starting to feel like a very complicated very mean practical joke is being played on me." 13 comments
11/23/2010 page 308
28.0% "i have almost mastered strumming up and down on guitar in rockband."
11/26/2010 page 352
32.0% "I don't really get aa meetings." 19 comments
11/28/2010 page 428
39.0% "11 days and 400 pages later, I'm finally on board, not the parts everyone else likes, but come on mario is one of the best characters in the history of fiction." 11 comments
11/29/2010 page 508
47.0% "almost halfway. Mr. wallace and I are still have disagreements about appropriate pacing, but I'm wondering if it might be related to a psychological (add vs. MDD primary disorder) type difference."
11/30/2010 page 620
57.0% "peopleareweird" 6 comments
12/01/2010 page 650
60.0% "I mean to do this yesterday. fifty pages a day. very important, fifty pages a day."
12/02/2010 page 723
66.0% "sometimes you reading along and there is a moment of, "really, that's an interesting thing to point out.""
12/03/2010 page 795
73.0% "I realized something today. I hate 6 page long footnotes." 4 comments
12/04/2010 page 845
78.0% "I need to finish this so I can study for finals"
show 1 hidden update…

Comments (showing 1-50 of 99) (99 new)


FabulousRaye I have yet to entirely get through IJ. The endnotes/footnotes/whatever irritated me to no end. (I've read and loved "House of Leaves, which is infinitely more irritating)

AA somehow worked for my grandma. I've never been keen on the whole higher power thing. I have a lot of issues with it.


Jasmine i loved house of leaves.

There are a lot of psychological explanations for why AA works specifically in the existential theories of psychology. It's about validation, acceptance, and knowing you aren't special. Nothing you can't do without the 10 or so steps about making yourself feel like shit.


The Crimson Fucker WOW! you got balls!!!!


message 4: by Courtney (new) - added it

Courtney Congrats! Now i have confidence that maybe I can get through it.


Jasmine Alfonso wrote: "WOW! you got balls!!!!"

or I'm a shitty liar.


message 6: by Jen (last edited Dec 05, 2010 08:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen I love Mario and Gately best as well.

One of the good parts for me was being gut-punched by the Drano drug part...it totally felt to me like it came out of nowhere and I liked it even though the whole thing assaulted me and was so disturbing.


message 7: by Msmurphybylaw (new)

Msmurphybylaw Very good review. I have tried to finish this book and failed a couple of times. The footnotes and AA thing may be the problem for me, but I think DFW is just over my head.
But congrats to you for finishing it.


Jasmine Jen wrote: "I love Mario and Gately best as well.
"


I actually like joelle better than gately, I'm probably spelling her name wrong


karen your review makes me sad. i am sorry you didn't like it as much as i do. but i think every book has its reader and if you couldn't get into the formatting of this or the theme of addiction and all that that entails, then - yeah - there was no way you were going to like this book. so - thumbs down to your experience. and i haven't read ulysses, but except for them both being big books - i don't think there is much overlap between the two, is there? except your having read them both. and connor, i guess. as far as your choice of characters to love is just... oh, jasmine - this is spielberg all over again.

this is your new shirt, weirdo:

http://www.zazzle.com/i_think_pemulis...


Jasmine It's okay Karen. Yeah the only thing they have in common is that connor and I had complete opposite experiences of the two books.

I like tiny toons


Jasmine I get what you are saying elizabeth, but about halfway through I actually though that I was going to like his treatment of AA. And you are probably right, my review probably does sound a bit like I'm attacking AA, but I was actually trying not to do that and to just explain why I don't like the approach of the book to AA. I mean in the book a couple of characters question the principles of AA but then they just sort of accept the problem and drop it. "I don't know what the higher power is but I'm sober so what the hell." I think that this is actually an issue that has a lot of potential for exploration in fiction he just wasn't willing to commit to it. I don't know that much about him personally, but if I had to guess, it seems like AA probably got him sober and he was scared questioning it would hurt his sobriety. I have no right to speculate like that though.

I mean as a rule I think most grief counselors are idiots but I like the part about grief counselors. I wish I could think of a book about drug treatment I like as an example, but the best I can think of are the rational recovery books.

I read the endnotes because everyone told me they were super important to the story. When I suggested not reading them, people got angry. I included that in my review, among other reasons, to tell people who haven't read it yet, a lot of them aren't important.

I read the book because I've spent 4 years being told how much a genius he was. But don't worry now I'm getting told how much more I'll like it the second time I read it.


Jasmine I will consider that for the future. I didn't know I wasn't going to like it before hand. I like Wallace, and I didn't know it was primarily about drug abuse. I will do more research before taking recommendations next time.

Actually considering that, I will have to check if there is anything I should know before I commit to gravity's rainbow


message 13: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 05, 2010 11:47AM) (new)

I've often said the same thing about the AA step about the higher power, since you can't get sober without converting from atheism. Your point about AA and cults, while inflammatory, helped me realize how I believe AA works.

I believe AA and cults work because of the parts designed to make you feel like shit. It's designed to break your spirit and your will so you can be filled with new ideology. Brainwashing. Boot camp in the military works exactly the same way. The religion inherent in US boot camp and AA is incidental, a reinforcement of Authority-with-a-capital-A, internalized.

I have a sister who is a Catholic nun, and while I was raised Catholic I never really saw the cultish nun and monk side of things until she took her vows. They gave her a new name, isolated her from her family, isolated her from anyone except the other recruits and the drill sergeant, and within a few months she was more committed than ever. And she loves it. Hell, she seems happier than she was.

It starts with a calling: I need to get sober, I need to fight for my country, I need to serve God; all noble purposes, and none fully attainable without serious brainwashing—removing your critical and analytical thinking when it comes to their respective demesnes.

We give AA, boot camp and motherhouses a pass because they're mainstream, but it's still brainwashing.

Which is not to say that using therapy for restoring recurring sobriety wouldn't be brainwashing either, just more personalized. But therapy breaks down barriers of the conscious and subconscious mind and until those barriers are broken, therapy won't effect lasting change. I'm not a psych major, so I'm open for schooling on this point.

Brainwashing isn't always evil or wrong. Obviously, I'm not ranting against the US government for how it trains its troops to martial discipline, without which it would be more difficult to get guys to run into a firefight. I don't think I'd rant against AA (except for the higher power part) because it has worked for people. I'm not going to yell atheist rants loudly against nunneries in public, or at least not where my sister can hear.

Perhaps if we called it brain hacking instead of brainwashing it might help people understand the legitimate uses of it.


Jasmine Richard I totally agree.

And the fact is, it isn't like the people behind 12 step philosophies don't know this. I was reading a book on cults at the same time as a book on drug addiction AA style and the instructions to get clean are the same as the instructions to create a cult. These people aren't stupid they know that.

Therapy is brainwashing, but it is a more personalized brainwashing. I mean if you have a good therapist you go in say, this makes me feel like shit, and they help you feel better about that not by changing reality but by changing how you think. This eventually wears off and you do it again.

Personally I am more comfortable with a more self directed manner like this because there are plenty of things about me, that people hate, that I have no desire to change.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio There are AA meetings for agnostics and atheists. I just think it's so obvious to educated, at least moderately intellectually sophisticated people that AA has creepy cultish qualities to it and that it "covertly" removes personal responsibility by invoking a higher power, etc, etc, etc. Pointing this out is passe and boring to me, while exploring the actual consequentialist ethics and the cognitive psychology of the matter is more interesting to me. My friend went through the AA motions for a bit and it really helped him a lot and he's just as hardcore an atheist and an astute critical thinker as anyone else.


message 16: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Dec 05, 2010 12:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio In other words, you don't necessarily have to buy into a load of horseshit about higher powers and supernatural forces of Addiction and Sobriety in order to get sober through AA. You can still retain your critical faculties while sitting through AA meetings. Yet, something about sitting in these meetings helps even the non-gullible change their habits. What exactly that is, I can't say for sure. I imagine it's just being attentive to keeping certain behaviors in check, being dissuaded by stories and continual reminders of the misery brought by substance abuse, and so on.


Jasmine I have an atheist friend who went to one of those meetings. and I agree completely about exploring the consequences. I just wish I felt like I'd gotten more of that.


I just want to state definitively: I don't think removing AA from this book completely would have made it better


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I wasn't aware that there were atheist versions of AA. But my point about the other eleven steps, I think, is still valid. It's the equivalent of going door-to-door, asking people if they want a copy of the book of Mormon, and getting the door slammed in their face. It breaks you down to a point where you're willing to accept whatever alternative is being offered to you, whether that's eternal salvation, following orders, or sobriety.


message 19: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Dec 05, 2010 12:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I just don't see the automatic connection between being obedient to authority and getting sober. Yes, there is some authoritarian creepiness in the AA program and frankly, there are better programs than AA that focus on building personal responsibility and self-control but they still involve an admission that they are powerless to use certain substances responsibly and therefore have to give them up completely, just like AA. I tend to believe that certain people really cannot learn moderation, even though I tried to persuade my friend to try that out in a group setting because I selfishly didn't want to lose my drinking buddy. I also tried to get him away from AA and into different types of programs* for similar reasons as the ones you and Jasmine give for being anti-AA. But I ultimately realized that simply talking with people and being surrounded by people dealing with the same basic problems must've had some positive effects on him, despite the fact that we'd sit and talk and he'd be shaking his head in disgust with all the flimsy logic and stupid religious bullshit being promulgated in those meetings. Yet, it got him through that crucial beginning phase of radically altering his thought and behavior with regards to booze.


* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_Re...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LifeRing...


Jasmine Mfso I'm feeling a little bit like you aren't paying attention. But maybe we are talking past each other. I never said people shouldn't go to aa I said there were better options. Which rational recovery was one I had already mentioned, which has many of its own problems but is at least based in personal responsibility. What I'm trying to say is if you are a guy as smart as Wallace you need to get over fear and really engage in the problems of a situation like aa. I do think it is possible to moderate, but I think it's a hell of a lot harder, but I recognize that my relationship with drugs is different than mist peoples. I mean I am the only one of my friends who told someone not to call me if he wanted to do coke because I wouldn't stop him. I mean I explain rationally why he shouldn't, but that isn't the same.

Richard there are specialized aa's for everything even bsdm lesbians so yeah there are atheists versions that generally use cause and effect as a higher power. It fucks with the general principles. And all those other 12 steps Mfso posted RR is definitely not inherently religious I don't know much about the others. Also state recovery centers tend to use 12 step formats not all of which are religious. I think seeking safety isn't religious either.


Jasmine A side note if you friend still wants to moderate there are some programs you do with a therapist like harm reduction that are helpful for that. But you generally need cbt so a support group isn't enough. And he'd need to avoid traditional drug counselors because they mostly went through aa and are very my way or the highway.

Basically if you want information on that I can help you out.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

MyFleshSingsOut wrote: "I just don't see the automatic connection between being obedient to authority and getting sober."

I really think it comes down to submission to your internalized conception of Authority as that's the one that you carry around with you at all times, when actual authority is not around.

Not that I necessarily agree with that, but I think that's the reasoning behind it.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio My point is that I think there can be a useful type of ignorance or delusion and that AA might be one. If most religious ideologies weren't having such disastrous effects on the world I'd having no problem just politely letting people hold on to their various untruths as existential comforts. As important as truth is to me, ethical consequences take precedence. I'm just not so sure that AA is creating more problems than it's solving, even though I'd prefer to see some of the more explicitly secular recovery organizations make it a thing of the past.


Jasmine Ninja Sock Puppet wrote: "You know what I do when I find myself in times of trouble?"


I am so glad that's what that was. You're awesome

Did anyone notice norm was consistently spelt wrong in this book


Jasmine MyFleshSingsOut wrote: "My point is that I think there can be a useful type of ignorance or delusion and that AA might be one. If most religious ideologies weren't having such disastrous effects on the world I'd having n..."

Okay. I see what you're saying. I say agree to disagree because this is a local vs global issue. And in the larger picture not actually a disagreement.


message 27: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Dec 05, 2010 12:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Ninja Sock Puppet wrote: "I really think it comes down to submission to your internalized conception of Authority as that's the one that you carry around with you at all times, when actual authority is not around."

Okay, but then you'd have to extend this to any sort of introspective attempt at changing something about yourself, especially something that you feel conflicted about changing. I.e., the meat-eating part of my personality has to submit to the vegetarian part of my personality if I want it to win out.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

MyFleshSingsOut wrote: "My point is that I think there can be a useful type of ignorance or delusion and that AA might be one."

I agree, and I think that's a good point. My mis-stated point way back up there was that comparing AA to a cult made me realize that it's all just brainwashing, for good or bad. AA happens to be brainwashing for good (even though I thought they wouldn't let you stay an atheist). I really should have been clearer about that initially, especially because I kept lumping it in with things that have more negative consequences like religion.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio And I'm off to Milwaukee to get drunk now, by the way. I'm submitting to the urge to drink. Jim Beam is my higher power.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I'm still very skeptical of AA, I just had to rethink a few things after seeing the positive effects right before my eyes, with two of my friends in the last couple of years.


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

MyFleshSingsOut wrote: "And I'm off to Milwaukee to get drunk now, by the way. I'm submitting to the urge to drink. Jim Beam is my higher power."

Drive safe, man. Did you guys get dumped with all that snow too?


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Thanks. Finally got hit with it, but it was only a few inches. Roads are pretty clear now. My friend in Minneapolis has been keeping me updated about the winter-hell up there for the last few weeks. Him and his girlfriend are already making plans to move before next winter.


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

I've been on a Salinger kick lately, and I think there's something in Franny and Zooey that kind of deals with this brain hacking idea obliquely in her single-minded recitation of the Jesus Prayer which clears her brain and readies it for a Zen-like enlightenment at the end of the book.

I'm sure when I read it years ago it wormed its way into my head and informed my ideas about brainwashing. I actually forced my sister (who hadn't yet taken her vows) to read it at one point, hoping she'd find the enlightenment of Franny, but I don't think she did.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

i am so upset by this thread. and i know the two of you can talk circles around me so my saying anything is completely and utterly useless.


Jasmine you can feel free to say whatever you feel. I won't debate it with you. promise.


Jasmine Ninja Sock Puppet wrote: "I've been on a Salinger kick lately, and I think there's something in Franny and Zooey that kind of deals with this brain hacking idea obliquely in her single-minded recitation of the Jesus Prayer ..."
I stopped reading that book after the stupid jesus prayer. I find salinger disappointing also.


message 37: by Sparrow (last edited Dec 05, 2010 03:02PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sparrow Ninja Sock Puppet wrote: "I wasn't aware that there were atheist versions of AA. But my point about the other eleven steps, I think, is still valid. It's the equivalent of going door-to-door, asking people if they want a ..."

Maybe I need a little clarification here, though. Because I feel like you're comparing AA to a lot of really negative things in which people lose themselves, but if it is a venue through which people regain their lives, isn't that sort of the opposite of brainwashing? Or maybe brainwashing in the sense of cleaning up and reprogramming to be back to who you are? I mean, I think addiction itself is much more similar to actual cult experiences in which you lose your identity, and I'm speaking with some substantial life experience with cults.


message 38: by MJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

MJ Nicholls Very interesting debate. I think this book will be a really amazing brain workout (when I read it). I need one of those.


message 39: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 05, 2010 04:00PM) (new)

Meredith wrote: "Or maybe brainwashing in the sense of cleaning up and reprogramming to be back to who you are?"

First, I'd like to apologize for bashing AA, and implying it was a cult. I do not think it is in any way cult-like, but the juxtaposition that Jasmine created between AA and cults helped me understand techniques we can use to reprogram people for good or ill. I think now that 'brainwashing' has too many negative connotations to use so flippantly, even as I was trying to redefine it. Hell, even 'reprogram' in this context sounds pretty negative. Why? I suspect that it steals individuality, says that it's something being done to you against your will, and it's not. But what is it called, then? That thing we do when people admit they have problems and need help changing their behavior?

What you just said there is what I meant to say, but badly. Incidentally, I'm not bashing boot camp or nuns either. Well, I might be bashing nuns, but I love my sister dearly and while I disagree with her life choices on ideological grounds, I can't dispute her happiness with her chosen profession. And I'm a military brat so I've got no problem whatsoever with the way the government trains our military, or the necessary function and purpose of our military. I'm not a pacifist, and if I were alive in WWII, there's a good chance that I would have enlisted.

I understand that AA does good and not harm, but I had a chip on my shoulder about the 'higher power' bits ('God', as originally worded), implying that you cannot be a rational atheist and also sober up, like our soup kitchen downtown where you don't get free food unless you pray first where helping people is a cover for evangelizing. I've been set straight on this account by MFSO and others.


Sparrow I did think that was what you meant. I just wanted to make sure. Thanks for clarifying!


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Jasmine wrote: "I stopped reading that book after the stupid jesus prayer. I find salinger disappointing also."

Why was it stupid?


message 42: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg I agree with what Elizabeth said earlier. I can understand not liking this book, but I can't understand not liking a book because the author didn't agree with you. This review is annoying to me. Jasmine, I don't think you are mature enough of a reader to read Gravity's Rainbow. The book isn't going to conform necessarily to what you want the book to be, it also doesn't spoon feed, it's tough to follow and it expects the reader to do some of the work. If you didn't like Infinite Jest and you didn't like the style of someone like Gaddis you aren't going to like Pynchon. What it sounds like to me is that with DFW you don't like that he isn't concise and that he expects you to do work in the book. For example did you ever stop to think why the footnotes are there? I mean really think, like for more than the time it takes to turn to them and get annoyed? And why he would give you the chemical make up of MDMA, and that if you already know the make up of it or not is totally irrelevant.

These aren't the types of books that you like. Move on and spare us having to read another review where you complain about the writer not writing the type of book you want to read. Go find those books.

I feel like I'm being kind of a jerk but I think you are reading books that are not for you and then you are blaming the books for not being what you want. I'm going to suggest if you see the word meta-fiction attached to any book you steer clear of it, especially if it is a thick book.


Jasmine okay, I feel like I am pretty sure my review is either not at all reflective of my actual position on this book, or I have completely misunderstood my own position.

I may or may not attempt to fix it, but everyone can feel free to not read the revised version it will be just for me.


message 44: by Courtney (new) - added it

Courtney I hate footnotes too but the ones in "The Instructions" are entertaining.


Jasmine some of the footnotes in this book are really entertaining, I mean like I said the one about the train is fun and there is one other thing I remember that might have been a footnote, but it was early in the book so I can't actually remember.


David Greg wrote:

Move on and spare us having to read another review where you complain about the writer not writing the type of book you want to read.....

I feel like I'm being kind of a jerk but I think you are reading books that are not for you and then you are blaming the books for not being what you want.


Well, yes. That first comment is inappropriate (and, I should add, completely uncharacteristic for Greg). Anyone has a right to post their opinion of any book - nobody is forced to read it. So what's with the "spare us having to read" part?

I don't agree with everything Jasmine wrote, but I certainly appreciate the time and effort she put into writing a thoughtful, measured opinion.

I don't understand why someone would give up on "Franny and Zooey" just because of the pilgrim prayer. But then F & Z is one of my top 5 books ever, so I may be reacting too defensively


Jasmine David wrote: "I don't agree with everything Jasmine wrote, but I certainly appreciate the time and effort she put into writing a thoughtful, measured opinion."

in greg's defense I rewrote the review after his comment, because I felt heavily misunderstood.

as far as franny and Zooey, I was expecting the book to go somewhere else, and I have a generally poor relationship with salinger historically so when he in effect "ruined" the really good plot that was going in the book, I over reacted and stopped reading it.


message 48: by Greg (last edited Dec 05, 2010 10:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg My issue is with the original review not the new review.

My problem with the original review was with the tone. I have no problem with people not liking Infinite Jest or with friends of mine not liking something that I think is really great. I've re-read your review and I think it's really good now, I understand what you didn't like about it and I don't necessarily agree with everything you've said, but I totally see where you are coming from. I'm actually really fascinated that the book produced such a strong depressive feeling for you. I think there are quite a few very interesting points in your review.

I probably came across as much more of a jerk than I intended. I don't think you should read Gravity's Rainbow though. It's not that I don't think you are smart enough or anything like that, I think that this particular style isn't to your liking. There are too many other good books out there for you to read that I think you will enjoy a lot more. I'm certainly not suggesting you read Sophie Kinsella.


Jasmine Thanks greg, I think you are probably right, the first review was definitely not clear enough. I think that there were issue with it being 5 am and immediately after I finished the book.

I definitely won't be starting gravity's rainbow any time soon, but I'm also not ruling out metafiction because on perusal of lists, there is plenty of meta fiction I like.

I am sorry about the tone of the original review.


karen i think part of the problem is that you said you fell asleep a lot, and stopped reading the footnotes, and maybe skimmed a little bit?? it is a close-reading kind of book - not a difficult book, but a book that is rewarding to someone who is paying attention. it is a very detail-oriented kind of book. my heart kind of broke when you said it is not important to read the footnotes because that is just not true. there are huge chunks of plot advancement in some of those footnotes. and you can't just read them after - that is terrible. some of those footnotes have seeeecrets in them.


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