Benji's Reviews > Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
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's review
Aug 24, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010, all-time-favorites, potentially-life-changing, read-in-morocco, time-100, carpe-diem, favorite-by-this-author, nonsequential-rereading, read-in-tn, 2011, the-less-you-know-the-better, read-again-and-again
Read 3 times. Last read August 24, 2010 to January 6, 2011.

** spoiler alert ** Second time through:

SO, two epiphanies earlier today, one minor and one major.
1) Philosophy -wise,
2) What about the hill? ETA and Ennet House? I used to see it as, this tennis academy is the factory that makes the unhappy drug addicts of later. They start, they try to reach the heights (they're literally on a hill, described around page 150 as being at a 70 degree angle. But reading this book again, I'm reevaluating what I think, and so something came to me today: with one, it is very much people that are taking the long-road to happiness. The ''this sucks now but later it'll make me happy''. Whereas the second are people that in the past have taken the, ''this is the quick-road to happiness''.

Seen another way, you could say they are both sets of people that are actively killing their present happiness. One group because they have to-- once you're in AA/CA, etc., you either get sober or you die, and it's not a lot of fun. The other, it's not it's not as obligatory, but they make think of it that way.

I kind of feel that the tennis academy can be a positive force, but it's a very fragile possibility. You have to have the right kids, with the right attitude, the right means of support. The rest leave or are broken by the time they finish. According to the Urine trouble? Urine luck! -scene, the ones that need clean urine is 25 percent. Then you figure it's that many more that are deeply unhappy but are not resorting to chemicals just yet. Or more? Seemingly John Wayne and The Darknes are the most normal ones there, but... is that just because at this moment they are playing extremely well? That they may find themselves taking the Pemulis route, who himself was a tennis prodigy until the others caught up and he fell behind... Lots to think about.

The same section of the book has one of my favorite lines, where he takes a common saying and rewords it so that it's half-veiled and you might miss it if you're going too fast.

''he nearly lost it by a very small dento-dermal layering''
Only by the skin of his teeth did he not lose it.

The short story OBLIVION is the best, though, where he very actively points our attention to the strange and halfway nonsensical things we say, where he's using quote marks at anything that is not literally accurate.

This is one of the bigger questions raised in the book, and you see it nowadays in the media with issues like the Tiger Mom debate.

Watching him now on Charlie Rose talk about IJ:

''The reviewers seemed to get it all wrong. I wanted to make a really sad, cohesive book, and they seem to think its all funny and disjointed.'' For me, yes, I laughed a lot, but the kind of laughs that I've never goten anywhere else: laughing and feeling very guilty about laughing at the same time. And you can take Hal's story and te drug rehab part and make it a very clear trajectory from one to the other. But its certainly super-tragic and so human, to me. Damn.

The less you know the better, for sure . It does explain everything but let it do it, not someone else.

I first heard of this book when I read in TIME about the Infinite Summer, the 2009 summer online communal reading that got so many new people interested in reading the work.

The Dave Eggers intro is especially good -- I try to stay away from intros until I am at or near the end of the book. He describes this one as Proustian. I feel like that is a good adjective for all of the Hysterical Realists.

But for me, the bigger similarity is with Dante. The Yale class on Dante , their professor mentions how Dante meant for his book to be a sort of encyclopedia of everything the students needed to be a good Middle Ages scholar. ; the lives, the lessons, the ideas, the values, the language, the vision of this place. We do the samething, but we do it in Boston, via DFW.


On a physical level, this is one that becomes part of your scenery for so long -- you use it as a pillow, it stares at you menacingly, it's an Everest you cross, but even as you scale it you wish it wouldn't end. Probably every copy gets destroyed by the end of the first or second read. Holding it is different than to have it on my Kindle (i have it in both places).

NO! It erased all of my updated review.
So to summarize that quickly:

-wow, wow.
-I figure it took me 80 hours (five minutes a page), but they were hours lovingly spent
--picked up steam after the first 500 pages, then read straight through.
--helps to think of it as a collage that doesnt require a grand unifying theory of everything. So, in that sense it actually doesnt ask too little of you. but its fun when you can connect the dots. why pick up steam? Specifically, when he divulged more info on the concavity and its drastic changes. Then everything else has more meaning.
--ill be glad to go through this again, not necessarily straig ht thru but di pping into it here and there.
its very much a love or hate book, but that's perfectly fine. i loved it and am happy i stuck with it. I almost never was bored. every sentence does have muscle and literary interest.

dont think twice, it's alright!

the original time review

time 100's review

The title is a sly wink at the book's massive girth—it's 1,000-plus pages in most editions—but the reference to Hamlet is well-earned; moreover, it's a damn funny book. The action takes place in Boston at two separate but curiously similar venues—an elite tennis academy and a drug rehabilitation facility—in a near future in which calendar years are available for corporate sponsorship (the Year of the Trial Size Dove Bar, the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, and so on). The plot of Infinite Jest—which revolves around, among other things, a lost, unwatchably beautiful art film and a conspiracy among wheelchair-bound Quebecois secessionists—is decidedly secondary to the painfully funny dialogue and Wallace's endlessly rich ruminations and speculations on addiction, entertainment, art, life and, of course, tennis.

Read more: #ixzz1AGPKIPuW
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 24, 2010 – Started Reading
August 24, 2010 – Shelved
August 24, 2010 –
page 40
August 27, 2010 –
page 60
September 1, 2010 –
page 95
December 27, 2010 – Shelved as: 2010
December 27, 2010 – Shelved as: all-time-favorites
December 27, 2010 – Shelved as: potentially-life-changing
December 27, 2010 – Shelved as: read-in-morocco
December 27, 2010 – Shelved as: time-100
January 6, 2011 – Shelved as: carpe-diem
January 6, 2011 – Shelved as: favorite-by-this-author
January 6, 2011 – Shelved as: nonsequential-rereading
January 6, 2011 – Shelved as: read-in-tn
January 6, 2011 – Shelved as: 2011
January 6, 2011 – Shelved as: the-less-you-know-the-better
January 6, 2011 – Finished Reading
March 17, 2011 – Shelved as: read-again-and-again
April 28, 2011 –
page 200
May 18, 2011 –
page 650
May 20, 2011 –
page 800
Started Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
May 27, 2011 – Shelved (Other Paperback Edition)
May 27, 2011 – Finished Reading (Other Paperback Edition)

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