Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Infinite Jest

Well, so much for posting more in the New Year. Not that I made any official resolution or anything, but still. Not off to a great start on the ol' blog here. Aside from that, 2009 already feels better than 2008, I have to say. Hooray!

One thing I've accomplished in the New Year: I have finally finished David Foster Wallace's masterpiece, Infinite Jest. I began reading it back on September 17. (At 1 AM, as I noted in the comments to that post.) 112 days, to read 979 pages of text and 388 footnotes comprising an additional 97 pages. That's less than ten pages a day. Not very impressive. I blame society. But still -- I finished it!

My immediate impression on concluding Infinite Jest: brilliant, brilliant book; disappointing ending. It feels like it ends too soon, unbelievably enough for a tome of this size; it feels like there are several missing chapters (even though the book isn't strictly broken down by chapters). As petty as it is, I want greater and more explicit detail on what became of Hal, Orin, and the rest of the Incandenzas, Don Gately, Joelle van Dyne, Michael Pemulis, Remy Marathe, Ortho Stice, John Wayne, and more in between the end of the novel and the beginning (the book wraps back on itself, with a chronological gap in between).

Like I say, though, that's petty, and simplistic. I need a little time, now that I've finished, to absorb the book. (And do a little research online, a little clue-hunting, some of which has already been particularly rewarding.) I also feel a strong impulse to immediately reread it. Maybe that's part of the circular nature of the story (the whole book is packed with circular, or "annular," as DFW puts it, allusions and references -- annular: "shaped like a ring"). After all, the titular entertainment, the "Infinite Jest" of the text, is an Entertainment cartridge so powerfully seductive it is impossible to stop watching; it seems DFW intentionally structured his novel in a similar fashion, so that the reader conceivably could keep reading it in an infinite loop.

I really hope those of you who have read Infinite Jest feel like leaving some of your impressions and interpretations in the comments. I don't want to spoil any major twists or conjectures in this main entry, in case some of you plan on reading the book yourselves (and you really, really should; it is a remarkable achievement in literature, and, as dense and lengthy as it is, remarkably accessible). I'll start things off in the comments with a couple of my own observations (some of which I admittedly have gleaned from elsewhere on the internet).

One more thing: I have been struck all over again by what a dreadful shame David Foster Wallace's suicide is. The world is genuinely diminished by the absence of the manuscripts Wallace had yet to write. At least I have the next book on my reading list to anticipate: DFW's Consider the Lobster.

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