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Infinite Jest
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Infinite Jest - Spine 2012 > Questions, Resources, and General Banter - Infinite Jest

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message 1: by Jim (last edited Mar 01, 2013 01:33AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is widely regarded as a masterpiece of contemporary fiction. IJ presents a challenge for many readers for its complexity and its use of seemingly endless endnotes. The description in Wikipedia begins:

Infinite Jest is a 1996 novel by David Foster Wallace. The lengthy and complex work takes place in a semi-parodic future version of North America, and touches on tennis, substance addiction recovery programs, depression, child abuse, family relationships, advertising, popular entertainment, film theory, and Quebec separatism, among other topics. Wallace was 33 when the novel was published.

The novel includes 388 numbered endnotes (some of which have footnotes of their own) that explain or expound on points in the story. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Wallace characterized their use as a method of disrupting the linearity of the text while maintaining some sense of narrative cohesion. In 2005, Time magazine included the novel in its list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.

Wallace was a very popular writer before his suicide in 2008 at the age of 46. His tragic death has become enmeshed in much critical discussion of his work. There are many loyal followers of Wallace who defend all aspects of his work. Others think his work is overly esteemed and aren’t afraid to say so (I’m looking at you bretteastonellis!). Whatever your feelings about the man and his work, I believe we can have a constructive, civil discussion about Infinite Jest without letting the drama of the media and critics unduly influence our discourse.

A few links to get us started. Please assume that most of these links will include spoilers, so proceed cautiously if that’s an issue for you:

Wikipedia for Wallace

Wikipedia for IJ

IJ page at The Howling Fantods site

The Infinite Jest wiki

Feel free to post questions and links to resources about DFW and Infinite Jest.

Also, if you’ve written a review of the book, please post a link to share with the group.

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
This is a New Yorker article by Jonathan Franzen that ruffled some feathers:

message 3: by Lily (last edited Sep 29, 2012 06:42AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 295 comments

In Msg 9 at the link above I comment on the links below, related to Wallace (more specifically to The Pale King), but current news enough (Friday) to possibly be of interest here:

September 28, 2012
D.F.W.’s “Pale King” Archive, Now Open

Read more

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 248 comments Jim wrote: "This is a New Yorker article by Jonathan Franzen that ruffled some feathers:"

Why did it ruffle feathers? It seems to me a personal response to the suicide of a friend-an act that always leaves the friends and family of the person filled with painful and difficult to resolve feelings.

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
A little bit past the half-way point, there is a paragraph that begins "He was sick, yes,..." That paragraph, and the next two, state Franzen's opinions in a way that left some readers feeling angry, I suppose because they are being somehow "accused" of not understanding their beloved hero DFW. At least that's what I imagine some found offensive.

I agree with you, however, that it is an honest expression of grief and anger over his friend's death.

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "

In Msg 9 at the link above I comment on the links below, related to Wallace (more specifically to The Pale King), b..."

Are you reading The Pale King? I've thought about reading it, but I spent many years in the corporate world doing financial management and analysis as a major part of my job, so I'm wondering if TPK might cause flashbacks - LOL!

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 248 comments I spent some years in the corporate world & even the thought of the thought of remembering it gives me agita. The boredom was so intense I'm not sure I could take reexperiencing it, even literarily!

But I've been thinking of reading it after I read IJ. The subject of boredom has been on my mind again recently. I've always thought of myself as someone who doesn't really get bored (except when trapped in a cubicle forced to do mind-numbing tasks) but lately I've been wondering if all my interests and activities are motivated more by the need to be sure I'm never bored than by any other talent or desire. It seems as though to be bored=death for me. And my meditation has become, appropriately enough, agonizing; I can barely sit at all-and then...well, talk about monkey mind!

But I think IJ will take all my energy for now. I've reread the first 52 pages & what seems different to me than the last time I read them was I remember laughing out loud for most of them & now it seems-well, still funny but also somehow sad. Or maybe I'm just in a sad place right now.

It does irritate me when fans of a book, no matter how well they understand and love an author's writing, thinks that makes them a "friend." Or maybe they are a certain kind of friend-I think reader/text/author is (are?) a complicated set of relationships but certainly qualitatively different than actual face to face relationships. It might involve mental work but the emotional toll is minimal.

message 8: by Lily (last edited Sep 30, 2012 10:01AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 295 comments Jim wrote: "Are you reading The Pale King? I've thought about reading it, but...."

Jim -- no, I am not reading The Pale King , but the conversation I excerpt below convinces me that I will continue to consider doing so:

Msg 69 Will wrote: "I read books amazingly fast, like superhuman fast. With one situational exception...If it's a book which contains a chapter, section, even just a passage which is so amazingly good, I will immediately put the book down, and walk around in stunned pleasure, overstimulated, and it can take me days, weeks, even months to summon the ability to pick it back up again, not from fear, but still floating on the high of that pleasure. This is why I still haven't finished The Pale King. Chapter 5, I believe it was. So good. Haven't picked it up since...."

Msg 76 Carl wrote: "Will, I understand just what you mean about stopping after a good section, but you stopped too early on TPK. I've read all DFW at least once, and I believe Section or chapter 8 of TPK is the finest piece of writing he ever did. It is the most astoundingly beautiful writing I've ever read, period."

Bold added.

How can an avid reader resist adding such a choice to her TBR, even in a year in which she deliberately set her Book Challenge low in an attempt to rein in an obsession? Even if she knows she shall never live long enough to tackle her entire TBR. Even if life isn't too rich and full to not do some things besides read.

Although the board, 21st Century Literature, from which the above is excerpted, has recently been reading DFW's The Pale King , the sections I quote are really a spill-over to a concurrent discussion of A Visit from the Goon Squad !

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
Here's an excerpt from the new DFW biography by DT Max. Some interesting info on source material for IJ. I didn't read anything that seemed to be a spoiler:

Alex Here's a piece on Splitsider about DFW's humor and his well-documented rebellion against irony. It's a little rambly, but I think it discusses that particular point especially well. It contains no important spoilers.

Will (wjmcomposer) | 118 comments aho, I've been quoted above!

It's interesting, in the group mentioned above that isn't this one (and I shall leave out of this post) we've read The Pale King, The Corrections, and The Marriage Plot in short succession (and the group is currently reading the bio of DFW). I definitely see connections between the three, though I will qualify that by saying I didn't do much reading of the Eugenides. However DFW seems to me head and shoulders above the others, a different class altogether. I'm greatly looking forward to reading (partly re-reading) IJ and comparing it to pale king, which is a brilliant work and I suspect, a little more controlled (less self-indulgent) than IJ.

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
An Infinite Jest diagram - tons o'spoilers - can be found here:

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
Will wrote: "aho, I've been quoted above!

It's interesting, in the group mentioned above that isn't this one (and I shall leave out of this post) we've read The Pale King, The Corrections, and The Marriage Plo..."

You're famous!

Does TPK hold together well, given that it was put together after his death? In other words, does it seem Wallace enough?

Will (wjmcomposer) | 118 comments For me, yes, I really like it...there's quite a bit of discussion about that everywhere you look though, and milage varies from reader to reader. The editor wrote an extensive forward about the process, and I think his efforts (IMO) verge on the heroic, bringing the framework into as finished reality as best as could be hoped for. Whatever it lacks, it's still far better than most authors efforts (again, IMO). It speaks to the skill of DFW, and the sadness I feel in that we won't get to experience whatever he might have written, since to ME TPK implies a tightening, a maturation in process, which unlike many authors who seem to slowly dissolve and devolve before our eyes as they seek to recapture the attention they received as young lions, I think there was at least a slim chance that he had even better inside of him. Of course, he had some issues (to put it in as mild a term as possible) and I seem to recall his father writing a must-read article shortly after his passing that sort of explained his situation. I don't have the link at my fingertips at the moment though.

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
A New Yorker article from March 9, 2009 by D.T. Max:

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
This graphic chart has TONS of spoilers, but I like it a lot:

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
A 28-minute video of Wallace reading 2 excerpts from his nonfiction collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
Text adaptation of 2005 Kenyon College Commencement speech "This is Water" in the Wall St. Journal:

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
Readings of Wallace's works from the opening of the Harry Ransom Center

Matthew | 80 comments Hey Jim,

Somewhere amid the many threads on Infinite Jest you posted a link to a flow chart about IJ and Hipster Status and what your next read on Goodreads would be. I liked it a lot and wanted the image but I have no idea where you posted that. Could you post that here when you get the chance? I assume you might be busy given all the new folders today.


Alex I can help with this. Here you go, Matthew. (My next read: Fun Home, which is actually a pretty good idea.)

Matthew | 80 comments Thanks Alex! Nice to meet you!

I'm not holding myself to the flow chart, just thought it was hilarious. The Bechdel looks good! Use to read a whole lot more comix writers, but I need to finish the newest Chris Ware. Nice to see Choke in the flow chart, read that a few years ago and loved it.

I'm focusing in on Proust in 2013 (The Year of Reading Proust) but may find time to squeeze something in before that, probably should go back to my TRL and see what I wanted to read (and haven't checked back at it in a while).


Ellie (EllieArcher) | 248 comments Alex wrote: "I can help with this. Here you go, Matthew. (My next read: Fun Home, which is actually a pretty good idea.)"

Alex, I loved Fun Home-a wonderful book in many ways and many levels.

Now I have to go check out the other link. :)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 248 comments Jim wrote: "This graphic chart has TONS of spoilers, but I like it a lot:"

Wow-what a blast. Luckily, I could care less about spoilers. I had so much fun with that chart. I love charts. (I'm such a dweeb!)

Thanks for sharing!

Aubrey (Korrick) Again, in regards to Jim's announcement, I have a review of this here.

Mala | 283 comments Thanks Enrique. I enjoy reading your reviews as they appear in my email updates. So far the quality has been pretty consistent though your Finnegans Wake review will make N.R. see red!
Two of my Gr friends are currently reading it .
Thanks for the DFW story link– with your permission, may I share it on another IJ group read thread? Jason opened a discussion there on the story The Depressed Person.

Matthew | 80 comments Also in regards to Jim's announcement above, my own review:

Jim | 2547 comments Mod
Matthew wrote: "Also in regards to Jim's announcement above, my own review:"

Thanks for posting the link. I'll be proposing a read/reread of IJ for 2015. Will send a message in a few days to the group.

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