Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – DNF

Life’s too short –  even with an added 50 years it would be too short to read this book.  I did a permanent  DNF on it.   – (Did Not Finish) –    But I got about 150+ pages before I caved.

The references and assumed identification (imagined ideal reader)  tend to be entirely male oriented.   What if a book were written with make-up and dating and fashion at the center with a myriad of fashionistas and references to husband-getting methods and luncheons and bridal boutiques and so?  – Baby showers with wine and weed tasting?  –  (yes)  –   What if it were written with incredible attention to detail – like “footnotes” for them?   What if the dysfunctional families were paramount but instead of tennis the big challenge were getting that engagement ring or winning Homecoming Queen or the sorority  pledge?  –

But perhaps being a nearly 70-year old woman in 2017,  I’m likely not the ideal reader.   That said,  it’s been a goal to read this so-called masterpiece since it came out in 1996 and I was 48 then – much more likely to have appreciated it,  but I doubt I would then either.   At this point,  I have a 1996 paperback edition,   a Kindle version from a couple years ago,  and an audible version from a few  months ago.   I’ve tried to get through it several times,  but I never seemed to get past page about 50.  Actually,  had I been in any way interested I would have read it by now.   But I tried again.   (sigh)  This time I got to about page 150.

Infinite Jest
by David Foster Wallace
1996 / 1104 pages
read by Sean Pratt – 56h 19m  (yes!) 
rating:   3  –  postmodern US 
(read and listened to about page 150 / inc associated notes) 

That said,  I did find it kind of funny in a few places – at first.    Then it got really boring,  possibly because I’m not male,  not a drug addict (or interested in pharmaceuticals) and I don’t play tennis.   I hope I’m not so self-obsessed as I find the characters and the narrator to be.

The thing is,  I’ve read Thomas Pynchon and let me tell you,   David Foster Wallace is no Thomas Pynchon or even Don DeLillo (or even Sergio De La Pavo – A Naked Singularity).   Wallace is a lot of sophomoric wanna-be,  using his version   and hobby-horses for a few of the techniques and devices Pynchon masterfully uses  in several novels.

It doesn’t work – not for me.   I’m just not interested in Wallace stuff – drugs and other addictions,  family dysfunctions,  sex,  tennis, rehabs, etc. stream of consciousness ad nauseum on these subjects – repetitive to the point of one hammer pounding.   I don’t honestly think Wallace wants to talk about new ideas – he wants to use the ideas of others on his own little subjects.  Completely derivative.

It’s like the druggie in-jokes,  the folks who “get”  them on some level feel “cool” and superior in some way for understanding something –  I did that until about 1970 or so – then it got old – I was about 22 years old –   and I looked for a more meaningful understanding of my “fish”-self and its relationship to “water.”

Alas,  it totally rang true when I read what A.O. Scott said in Vanity Fair,   “The novel’s Pynchonesque elements…feel rather willed and secondhand. They are impressive in the manner of a precocious child’s performance at a dinner party, and, in the same way, ultimately irritating: they seem motivated, mostly, by a desire to show off.”

And I agree with Harold Bloom’s assessment,  “You know, I don’t want to be offensive. But ‘Infinite Jest’ is just awful. It seems ridiculous to have to say it. He can’t think, he can’t write. There’s no discernible talent.”

The characters:

“The novel touches on many topics, including addiction, withdrawal, recovery, death, family relationships, absent or dead parents, mental health, suicide, sadness, entertainment, film theory, media theory, linguistics, science, Quebec separatism, national identity, and tennis as a metaphysical activity.”

It’s not that I’m not well-enough read –  I’ve read 51 of the 61 books listed at “The New Canon” found at:   (best fiction since 1985)  plus more – (Pynchon is not listed and he should be for several books – and where’s Salman Rushdie?)

Bottom line this is stream-of-narrator’s-consciousness written for immature 20-something,  male college kids with an interest in drugs, sex, tennis, and potty jokes as revealed in gruesome detail.



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