the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

infinite jest

In books on June 13, 2009 at 2:36 pm


1079 pages. no discernible chapters. 386 endnotes spread over one hundred pages. It took me three weeks to work through david foster wallace’s novel–not exactly an enjoyable experience. but it was refreshing to live with wallace’s characters for awhile (and i’m sort of in withdrawal right now from  jest‘s hyperconscious and unceasingly witty world).

almost every review of the novel I’ve read started its second paragraph by saying something like “any attempt at a plot summary would do a disservice to the utter aesthetic wholeness of the novel”. whatever: Infinite Jest is about that strange, vivid, and shared memory that families tend to develop. The inside jokes, the nicknames, the invented aphorisms of the novel’s two families–the incandenzas and the occupants of an addiction recovery house–are so personal they become universal. Jest is, simply, these families’ scrapbook: fragmented, multivocal, busy, the narrative seems nostalgic for a time when family videos weren’t edited like a michael bay movie and slapped on a dvd. Wallace sees memory as a visceral (and potentially redemptive) thing.

the novel shares its title with a film, made by the youngest incandenza’s father, so entertaining it renders its viewers comatose. the film’s protagonist is a both a mother figure and a deathly Shade. throughout the novel, but especially when discussing this ‘deadly film,’ wallace reveals our obsession with deriving our life’s meaning from the endings and beginnings of things. jest is about the demands and rewards of living in-between these arbitrary, artificial markers: a beautiful/sad novel that captures just how much we depend on others to pull us through.


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