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Infinite Jest (2014)

by David Foster Wallace

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,765209436 (4.26)9 / 950
A spoof on our culture featuring a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation house near Boston. The center becomes a hotbed of revolutionary activity by Quebec separatists in revolt against the Organization of North American Nations which now rules the continent.
  1. 90
    A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace (pyrocow)
  2. 70
    Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (AndySandwich)
    AndySandwich: Books that cause neuroses.
  3. 81
    Ulysses by James Joyce (browner56)
    browner56: You will either love them both or hate them both, but you will probably need a reader's guide to get through either one--I know I did.
  4. 60
    Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (owenkeegan)
    owenkeegan: Set at an Irish boarding school, this book shares a sense of humor with and has a narrative disjunction similar to Infinite Jest.
  5. 61
    Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky (blahblah88)
    blahblah88: Get to know DFW.
  6. 30
    A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava (DaveInSeattle)
  7. 42
    Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: It's all about what people do for entertainment, status, and sport. Along the way, the entire spectrum of society is satirized.
  8. 21
    The Man Without Qualities: A Sort of Introduction; Pseudo Reality Prevails {Vol. 1 of 2} by Robert Musil (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung meint, dass 'Unendlicher Spass' von Foster Wallace für den Beginn des einundzwanzigsten Jahrhunderts das sei, was Musils 'Mann ohne Eigenschaften' für das vergangene Jahrhundert war.
  9. 10
    The Instructions by Adam Levin (hairball)
    hairball: If you liked Infinite Jest, you will like The Instructions, but even if you didn't like IJ, you should try it.
  10. 10
    Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick (ateolf)
  11. 00
    The Sellout by Paul Beatty (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: Books share a hectic, erudite wordplay and sense of the outrageous.
  12. 00
    The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over the World by Tom Feiling (DLSmithies)
    DLSmithies: I know that Infinite Jest isn't "about drugs" - to reduce it to that would be insulting - but nevertheless, I read these books around the same time, and found they both have really interesting things to say about drugs and addiction in modern society - so if you liked IJ, Tome Felling's book might be worth a look.… (more)
  13. 00
    The Dissertation: A Novel (Norton paperback fiction) by R. M. Koster (absurdeist)
  14. 55
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (owenkeegan)
    owenkeegan: David Foster Wallace based the structure of Infinite Jest on a fractal. Cloud Atlas similarly transitions from one story to the next as though zooming in on a corner of one world to reveal a whole new universe, related but unique.
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English (203)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (208)
Showing 1-5 of 203 (next | show all)
When a person is about 200 pages into a 1000+ book by an author whose short stories and essays they don't like, but which they are reading to see what all the fuss is about, and then they get a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, they have to make a decision: Do I really want to finish Infinite Jest? My friends, I decided yes. And I'm glad I did.

I won't say that I'm 100% team DFW, but after devoting the time to this book, I can understand his cheering section a bit more. I think it took me at least 300 pages to stop being irritated by his DFW quirks, which explains why his shorter works never got through to me! I never will quite gel with that 90s dude / McSweeney's "smartest guy in the room" humor, and the many lists of of things and high octane vocabulary words are not my idea of a good time, but this is a unique piece of literature and damn but the man can write a cool set piece culminating in a memorable piece of action (and since the book is so long, there are a lot of those!). And, of course, there are the footnotes. The footnotes initially feel like a kooky authorial indulgence, and I think they are about 60% of the time, but when they are used effectively, they do some neat retrospective exposition and very deftly tie together parts of the wild narrative. You would think that in a book this long, we could have more than 1.5 well developed female characters, but: no. There is also a serious pattern of characters saying racist and sexist things because that is in keeping with their character (which, sure, that can be fine), but it happens so often that I feel like Wallace was a bit gleeful about it.

I think that if I had read this in college when I was a little less familiar with Wallace's personal life and a little more forgiving of crappy female characters, I probably would have liked it better. All in all though, I was a little surprised with how much I enjoyed this one. ( )
  kristykay22 | Jun 28, 2020 |
Review three: Why, oh why, did I bother, when there is this:

Girlfriend stops reading David Foster Wallace Breakup Letter at page 20



Review two, written after I took this book off my to-read shelf.

What happened to me while I was proofing Manny’s review of this book.

I had an I, Robot experience.

On the one hand, as a copy-editor it is my sworn duty to read every word with due regard. On the other, as a human being it is my moral imperative to stay alive. It was clear to me as I read his review that I was in mortal danger of falling victim to OOIJR – overdose of Infinite Jest review – which, you can see, just by trying to pronounce it, is a nasty way to go.

Still, I have solved the mystery of Wallace’s demise.

He discovered, just after he had finally put the last word to the page, that he had misread his contract. He was not being paid by the word. You can hardly blame the guy for what happened next.



Review one.

Being a completely ignorant sort of person when it comes to anything modern, I'd never heard of this book until I read Manny's review which made me so curious, if only because of its fabulous last words. I take a look at Paul's and see fuck, it's been on his currently reading shelf since 2007.

I'll love it, I'll hate it, love, hate, love, hate, I'm completely dizzy from running circles in my mind. But.

But....I happened to come across somebody quoting a letter Wallace wrote him in 1993:


I’ll tell you why I dislike writing on a computer. It’s just as you say: it makes each line too easy, too provisional. There’s none of the pressure to perfect a line before moving on to the next that script and typewriter enforce. And so on a p.c. I find myself writing way faster, more facilely—I literally think out loud onto the screen. And this fucks everything up, because I can write better than I can think. I like to write not to ejaculate thoughts but to transfigure them through labor and care and the pressure of putting them down on paper where they can’t be taken back. I am not a particularly smart or imaginative man, but I find that after much suffering [here Wallace draws one of his signature smiley-faces:] and several drafts I’m sometimes capable of producing smart and imaginative prose. Writing by hand and typewriter not only brings out the best in me—it brings out stuff I never would have dreamed was there. It is this—not improvement but transfiguration of the contents of my head that I am addicted to. It is astonishing when it happens—magical—and it simply doesn’t happen on a computer, which makes editing too arbitrary and spatial a business. (posted from Bloomington, Illinois, November 10, 1993)


David Foster Wallace is my man. Writing with a computer is exactly as he says. There must be people reading this young enough that they never had an option, but if you did, you would realise that you could do so much better. Using a computer changes the very nature of writing and not for the better.

Lately I've taken to a practice I used to follow all the time, carrying around a notebook. One of the bad things about computers is that you begin to get into the habit of equating them with the writing process. Pre-computer I would write anywhere and everywhere, but after I had one for a while I suddenly realised that it had become something I only did in a particular seat in front of a particular screen. How wrong is that!!!!

So, for a year I've been carrying around a notebook and writing on the tram, in the coffeeshop, crossing the road. Some of this gets onto goodreads and I am quite sure that what gets onto goodreads from my notebook is far better than anything I write straight onto the screen (yes, some of my drivel is better than other bits, I can tell, even if you can't)....takes moment out to sigh and admit this is what I'm doing right now, no notebook in sight. In fact I even purposefully go out with my notebook so that I'm forced away from the screen and the keyboard.

I see Infinite Jest was published in 1996, so most likely written on a computer. Bugger. Manny nicely suggests at the end of his review:
'Hartston comments: just imagine how good you have to be for people to think that, when you make bad moves, you're doing it on purpose. Well, I think Wallace was that good too.' But...what if it is just as Wallace thinks, that his bad moves are a result of bad practice???? I do wonder.

PS: the quote comes from an online article called 'What Remains'by Sven Birkerts in which he discusses Wallace and Updike. If you are interested in either or both authors, I imagine it is worth your while checking it out. You can find it here: http://www.bu.edu/agni/essays/print/2009/69-birkerts.html
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
There are Wallace Wikis and whatnot all over the internet, so you don't need a formal layout of the what the book is about from me.
The hype will not prepare you for this looonnnnnnng thing, and how weird it is. It’s really an abstract exercise masquerading as linear narrative entertainment, but it's stucturally more along the lines of what Burroughs, Robbe Grillet, Pynchon, or Beckett would do. For those not familiar, it's an anti narrative.This guy does not care that you need a straight narrative, so if that’s an important part of your criteria, don’t even bother.
IF you are a Burroughs/Hunter Thompson/Vonnegut/Heller/Southern/Celine/Pynchon fan, he’s as funny as those guys. There’s some hilarious stuff in this book.
IF you have a low threshold for scenes with hideous, violent content, stay away. This is a book about the hollow place inside, the addictive substances that are sought to fill it, and how that doesn't work. In general, it's a sad book. With ugly things. But funny.
The other important thing I’d say is -you don’t have to read the footnotes during the book. If you read the novel reasonably fast, you can read the footnotes afterwards and it won’t make any difference.You'll remember what is what, or it wont really matter. It didn’t for me (the only one I stopped and read while deep into reading the book was footnote 269, and that's because that was WTF -obviously you were supposed to stop and read that one).There’s supposed to be something structural about going back and forth in the book that’s like a tennis match. If you've got to do something like that, just squeeze a tennis ball instead while you’re reading.
Some of the funniest stuff you’ve ever read, some the most appalling hideous stuff you’ve ever read, some the saddest tear inducing stuff you’ve ever read. Character driven , but not all the stories are resolved -you are definitely left hanging. Some character things are resolved in the footnotes, but not as many as you would be led to expect...
MOST.CERTAINLY.NOT.FOR.EVERYONE.
One more thing...if you are a serious film freak (and by that I mean full spectrum -from main stream to avant garde), this book will be easier to understand, with regard to a lot of it's themes...just saying... ( )
  arthurfrayn | Jun 15, 2020 |
Why does the ending make me so uncontrollably angry? I won't tell you. Read the book.

I was struck by the almost never-ending parade of helplessness and hopelessness riding undercurrent through an endless procession of inutile but heroic strivings. In reading this, I was a hamster running his wheel forever.

Putting aside all of the literary arguments, the thousands of mild references to just about anything that DWF thought might be fun to include in the book, or amazingly deep characterizations, I was, in the end, a man who hit the sidewalk.

I kept expecting the plot to go somewhere, but as we all know, literary fiction eschews plot and spits it out without swallowing. Which is a shame, in this case, because there were some rather interesting threads in threes that came within a micrometer of satisfying me.

Am I repeating myself?

I enjoyed the AA meetings the most, with the sequence of 1.5 million words devoted to tennis trailing last. I wanted to see what sparked 1995 and 1996 as the years of literary treatments of self-help groups. I wanted to know if Chuck Palahniuk and DFW compared notes, since Fight Club came out the same year as IJ. The omnipresent feel and the overwhelming need for absolute acceptance permeated both novels, ignoring plot treatment, of course.

The tennis sequence read like the ultimate dystopian literature, all form and serve signifying nothing, a deep 'orchasm' of constant movement representing the ultimate stalemate, a reversible nihilism. It cumulated in Mario shaking a single hand, which either justified the whole thematic battle being waged, or disproved it.

Madam Psychosis probably got to me the most. I don't even have words to describe how I feel, although I wouldn't bother mentioning how being a PGOAT or an ex-PGOAT is like being a woman blown large and absurd, or how those thousands of subtle nuances in her character made her as beautiful as it made Avril so subtly monstrous.

Even the Mad Stork got my sympathy near the end, and he was a really hard sell, pushing me through 60 hours of a novel before I can get close enough to him to even see him through his technical brilliance.

The novel deserves thinking about. I dare say it deserves thinking about, after the fact, a lot more time than it takes to read the MFer. And I might.

But heaven forbid I ever read this book ever again.

I read Atlas Shrugged. Twice. There was a Simpsons episode that had a character saying, "I read Atlas Shrugged, and I'll never read again."
This became my sentiment right after reading IJ, and I LOVE books.

Of course, I've already started a new novel. And it's going to be light. And fun. And it doesn't have an author who hung himself by the neck till he was dead, dead, dead.


Brad K Horner's Blog
( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
It's basically a masterpiece. It's borderline miraculous that Wallace managed to interweave and tie together so many different plots, subplots, asides, flashbacks, dream sequences, and endnotes into one completely cohesive whole. The depth involved here is astounding. The skill with language displayed is astronomical. The poetry and prose of the writing is mesmerizing. It's somehow a book about tennis, addiction, recovery, families, depression, mental illness in general, trauma, politics, art, film, and entertainment all at once, and it never seems scattered, it never seems unfocused. Everything makes total sense, and everything blends seamlessly together to enchant the reader, everything fits. It's just stupid good. Wallace was probably a genius, and he was tragically taken aeons before his time. I (selfishly) wish he was still around so we could get his take on our current world. ( )
  yazzy12 | May 17, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 203 (next | show all)
[I]t is, in a word, terrible. Other words I might use include bloated, boring, gratuitous, and – perhaps especially – uncontrolled. I would, in fact, go so far as to say that Infinite Jest is one of the very few novels for which the phrase ‘not worth the paper it’s written on’ has real meaning in at least an ecological sense [...] I resent the five weeks of my life I gave over to it; I resent every endlessly over-elaborated gag in the book.
 
If Mr. Wallace were less talented, you would be inclined to shoot him -- or possibly yourself -- somewhere right around page 480 of ''Infinite Jest.'' In fact, you might anyway. Alternately tedious and effulgent [...] What makes all this almost plausible, and often pleasurable, is Mr. Wallace's talent -- as a stylist, a satirist and a mimic -- as well as his erudition, which ranges from the world of street crime to higher mathematics. While there are many uninteresting pages in this novel, there are not many uninteresting sentences.
 
"Somewhere in the mess, the reader suspects, are the outlines of a splendid novel, but as it stands the book feels like one of those unfinished Michelangelo sculptures: you can see a godly creature trying to fight its way out of the marble, but it's stuck there, half excavated, unable to break completely free."
 

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wallace, David Fosterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blumenbach, UlrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Covián, MarceloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eggers, DaveForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giua, GraziaContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nesi, EdoardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Villoresi, AnnalisaContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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