Jacob's Reviews > Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
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's review
Oct 03, 2009

it was amazing
Read in December, 2009

Apparently you either love this book or hate it. (I perused the goodreads reviews, because I want to read everything everyone thinks about this book) Which, considering that clocks in at 1088 pgs, 100 of which are tiny footnotes, probably isn't too surprising. If you finished it, you probably loved it, or you have to profess that you like so that you don't feel like you just wasted several months of your time. Which leads to why people hate it. I will now speculate the reason why people might hate it: They read all these people profess how much they loved it (whether they really did or were just saying they did as allegiance to that aforementioned large chunk of time), and they started to read it, and they didn't like it (for reason soon to be discussed), but they kept trying because it's 1000pgs, so maybe it changes, or something unexpected happens and then they'll start liking it. And so they slog (and if you don't appreciate his use of language, I would imagine "slog" would be the right verb. You can't skim or read this very quickly) through 50 or 200 or, if they are very persistent and bullheaded (e.g. me reading Brothers Karamazov), they read the whole damn thing, hating it the whole time and anger gradually increasing. So here is my first thought: I wouldn't give it more than 200 pgs or so. Let's say this: if you've started to get to know the recovering addicts at Ennet House and are still hating it: stop. Not much about his style will change, you will meet many more characters, but no one major (though you'll just barely be getting to know Don Gately--who is amazing) and the there won't be some big reveal in the last 20 pages to make you suddenly feel like you get it.

I had thought the goal of my writing this review would be to help me collect my thoughts about the book, to wrestle all the pages into a sort of understanding that I've now gained. But it seems more like I'm trying to convert you: I want you to read this book, because I love it, and want to read it again, but maybe if you read it than we could talk about it
So why do I love it? I'll just share a select few passages with you:
"She needed somebody chivalrous to pick her up and carry her and lay her back down 24/7/365, it seemed like. She was a sort of sexual papoose."

"His was the creepy businesslike face of someone carefully picking up glass in the road after an accident in which his decapitated wife's been impaled on the steering wheel."

"It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end. Could dedicate their lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are dying to give our lives away or something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately--the object seemed incidental to this will to give one-self away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person.Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging-into. Flight from exactly what? These rooms blandly filled with excrement and meat? To what purpose? This was why they started us here so young: to give ourselves away before the age when the questions why and to what grow real beaks and claws. It was kind, in a way."

This book is about how to live in the United States without going crazy. About what happiness could possibly be. It does so in language that is shockingly, beautifully precise. The characters are endearing, funny and sad. It makes me think about what I do with me life and why, but it doesn't depress me, it reminds me that we have so much in common. It has wheelchair assassins and undercover agents in terrible drag discussing the philosophy of entertainment, reflects on humanity's true nature via a story about a head trainer who takes his soon-to-be-a-priest brother's dare to be homeless and ask people to simply touch him, it makes me see some beauty in tennis and it has a hulking recovering drug-addict former convict painted as a paragon of modern masculinity (albeit, still a struggling, fumbling masculinity). It makes most books I have read seem like light blips. I might have to revise this review, because I'm not yet doing it justice.
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Reading Progress

10/03/2009 page 3
12/20/2009 page 900
83.41% "...almost done"
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Becky (new)

Becky I appreciate your long review of this book as well as the advice about starting/finishing it. I've read a few essays by David Foster Wallace and have enjoyed them, thus have been considering reading Infinite Jest. While the book's length is quite daunting, after your review, I think I will give it a try.

Jacob Becky wrote: "I appreciate your long review of this book as well as the advice about starting/finishing it. I've read a few essays by David Foster Wallace and have enjoyed them, thus have been considering readi..."

Good luck! I really hope you like it. I'm almost certain he is Dave Eggers' favorite author, and it's clear he was influenced by him (in the version I read, Eggers writes the forward). But he is definitely different and it's not the same as his essay (I just finished Consider the Lobster). Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!

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