Thursday, March 10, 2011

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

I have been away for almost two months. This hiatus was caused by a desire to read Infinite Jest. Do not expect that I have much to add to the innumerable reviews. Whole dissertations and readers' guides are available to help you take it apart in detail.

As a speculative fiction reader I am most interested in those aspects. And it is definitely strong there, with social (auctioning off calendar years for sponsorships) and technological (predicted the availability of nearly all media digitally). The novel makes several top-10 literary SF lists . It is, of course, a truly massive read, not just in pages (1076) but that it is densely packed and baroquely footnoted. At one point I required three bookmarks. Everything ever said about it being a tour-de-force is true--it holds one's interest all the way through.

That said, it left me less than satisfied. I'll have to give something of a spoiler here, but really it's hard to say it spoils it. After all thousand pages, the book ends utterly unfinished. Pace-wise, it probably had another third to go. This is making me think very hard about endings, and developing more of an appreciation for authors who can bring a big difficult effort to a close. Wallace doesn't even try, it obviously wasn't in his mind. Robert Jordan mananged to die out from under all 12000 pages of The Wheel of Time. The Gormenghast trilogy, the Worm Ourouboros--all began well and ended poorly. Am beginning to think endings are perhaps a truer indicator of the talent of a writer--thus Infinite Jest begins to look like possibly one of the author's less effective works, even if it has had more influence.

One dives deep into this work. I have lived the detailed lives of a tennis academy student, drug addict, special agent, assassin, and film director/physicist/schoolmaster for months now. Having it end in midair this way just seems weird. Back to my faves at Free SF Online for some relief.

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