5 Minute Book Review (Part 1): Infinite Jest
July 6, 2009 in 5 Minute Book Review
For anyone who hasn’t read it, stop reading this ridiculous review and go buy it. I’ll wait.
Ok. Everyone else, gather round, let me tell you my story about DFW and IJ.
(There will be spoilers, so if you haven’t read it, please know that.)
First off. This is quite the book. At 1,078 pages, including voluminous footnotes, it’s an undertaking. I have been eyeing this book for more years than I care to count, but have always been intimidated, too busy, reading something else; essentially, I’ve always come up with a reasonable excuse to not read it.
Well. DFW took his life. He took his life very near to the anniversary of my brother taking his life. So his suicide had a very, very relevant impact on me. I did a lot of soul searching and thinking about how bad things must be for someone to consider taking their life. Shit must be pretty heavy. I vowed to read this book that had always intimidated me. It’s quite possibly the best book I’ve ever read, in that it took me a very long time to finish it, and it frustrated the hell out of me, but as soon as I finished it, I wanted to start reading it again.
The book has a number of themes, and I plan to put this out in pieces with one thematic emphasis per entry. I’m hoping a lively discussion ensues.
The best review of the book I could find online was this one from Time magazine in 2005 writing up the best English-language novels:
“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.—L.G” (Lev Grossman).
to be continued…