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Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest (original 1996; edition 2006)

by David Foster Wallace

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7,282None483 (4.3)9 / 676
Title:Infinite Jest
Authors:David Foster Wallace
Info:Back Bay Books (2006), Edition: 10 Anv, Paperback, 1104 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites

Work details

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (1996)

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  1. 80
    A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again 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: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky (blahblah88)
    blahblah88: Get to know DFW.
  6. 30
    A Naked Singularity: A Novel by Sergio De La Pava (DaveInSeattle)
  7. 41
    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, Volume 1: A Sort of Introduction, and Pseudo Reality Prevails 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. 54
    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.
  10. 10
    Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick (ateolf)
  11. 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.
  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 (EnriqueFreeque)
  14. 58
    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (Torikton)
    Torikton: Danielewski and Wallace both satirize academic writing by playing with footnotes.

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English (131)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (134)
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
The language, change in perspectives, dialogue and humour make this a worthwhile read. The various plots all which seem to deal with addiction of some sort are okay. Other than Hal and Orion did not really connect with most of the characters. Found it hard slugging in parts and trying very hard to be "the great American Novel". If it had been really enjoyable to read it may have been that - the super talented athletes, the drug addiction, the strife of the inner city folks, the entertainment dependent people. Oh well. ( )
  CarterPJ | Mar 21, 2014 |
Full review here: The Steadfast Reader - Infinite Jest.

My first feeling is elation that I'm done. This is an extraordinary book, but it is difficult and you do have to want it.

I definitely feel there's both 'Catch-22' and 'Brave New World' influences (I could be completely wrong.) There are tons of characters and the POV changes at the drop of a hat.

This definitely delves into the 'meaning' of entertainment, addiction, and possibly where the two intersect. This is a fantastic book, but it's not for everyone.

Edit: "In a 2008 retrospective by The New York Times, Infinite Jest was described as "a masterpiece that’s also a monster — nearly 1,100 pages of mind-blowing inventiveness and disarming sweetness. Its size and complexity make it forbidding and esoteric."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_Jest ( )
  steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
There are two types of people in this world: Those who don't want to be challenged by their entertainment, and those who don't mind so much. This is a big reason a lot of people don't like to read, I feel. That in mind, I would generally classify myself as being in the first category. I don't like mysteries, never have. I don't want to have to figure stuff out; just tell me, preferably in an artful way. And then I read this book.

It's really impossible to consider this book without consideration of the author, I feel. I can understand now why DFW had such a cult of personality built up around him. His voice is so compelling, his pleas so heartfelt, in this book, that the book draws you in and won't let you go. Gosh, what a friggin' cliche; I can't believe I just typed that, but it's true. At times the book is absolutely painful to read -- I was pretty much an emotional mess around page 785 or so. The first 300 pages or so are so filled with jumping from one place to another that it's frankly hard to concentrate on the book, and the author's voice is the *only* thing that kept me going.

It's not that he's particularly good at one liners, a la Pratchett, but that he carefully, oh so carefully (which, given that the book's nearly 1000 pages long, you probably should expect) lays out the situation, and then *boom* hits you with a grand insight. That insight might have been stated in a one liner, but contra Polonius, it's all the more powerful for the situation it's embedded in. And then he does it again.

DFW is extremely good at characterization, with voice, and with individual situations. What he's not particularly good at is plot. Maybe we should blame that on Joyce, Faulkner, Nabokov et al, but he really gets a little too clever in jumping from place to place. I understand that this is by design, but that doesn't mean that I have to like it.

So, he doesn't give me the answers. And I'm a little peeved -- but not really. Because if he had given me the answers, he would have been compromising. And, though at first glance I don't like it, I'm deep down glad that he refused to compromise, and I have a good reason and excuse to pore through this book again, being oh so much more careful the second time! Because it is *that* *good*. ( )
  bradgers | Feb 6, 2014 |
It's a shame that this has become contemporary literature's shibboleth. It's obviously impossible to have a reasonable discussion about the book's merits (which it has) and flaws (which it has). It's also fitting that you can't have a reasonable discussion about it, because the book itself makes any such discussion impossible.

* Are you frustrated by the footnotes, digressions, and hyper-complex structure? World says: you don't, like, get it. Book says: they're there to make sure you know I know you know you're reading a book. I always intended to frustrate you. I'm not falling back into realism like a certain contemporary with designs on greatness.
* Are you frustrated by the wild and often pointless silliness? World says: you don't, like, get the humor. Book says: it's there to make sure you know I know you know I'm in conversation with DeLillo, Pynchon, Barth and co. I am very much au courant with literary theory.
* Do you think the oft-praised prose is only praise-worthy about fifty percent of the time and is, the rest of the time, pretty much unedited goop? World says (spot the trend): you don't, like, get it. Book says: I am a step beyond the modernist trickeration of irony and ambiguity, I don't work like that anymore. All that irony gets in the way of what I'm trying to do. Also, see my footnotes where I mock critics who complain that my prose is unedited.
* Do you splutter at this response from a book that is so rampantly and unendingly ironic and self-reflexive? World says what it usually does. Book says: that's the point, yes. If you're frustrated by it, consider how much worse this would be if I was ironic without ironizing my own irony and reflecting on my own predilection for self-reflection. My point is that all that irony and self-reflection often works as an escape from the task of actually living in the world with other people.

Okay, there's no doubt that this is kind of clever. But I wonder if all 1000 pages might end up, with some hindsight, looking like a very clever case of first-world-problems?* DFW tries to take on contemporary literary norms and big existential questions at the same time, which few people do. There's a definite bravery involved in trying to use irony to move past irony towards sentiment. But the book is either self-defeating (if you value sincerity and human connection so much, why fuck around *at all* with intellectually bankrupt and emotionally sterile pomo trickery? don't you see that resorting to meta-literary criticism-forestalling footnotes is the same distancing crap that you say is such a threat to human life?** You have a delete key: delete them) or, like Wittgenstein's 'Investigations,' really only suitable for a very small section of the human species: those who have been taught their whole lives that they have to write and think like John Barth and Mark Leyner, but (quite rightly) feel bad about it. You can get the same thing from Wallace's 'Little Expressionless Animals,' at one fortieth of the length, and with substantially more emotional impact.

As such, my suspicion is that this is our time's 'Clarissa' or 'Doctor Faustus.' Intellectually impressive, cutting-edge in both form and content, initially popular, but destined to be written about rather than read. Wallace was immensely talented. I'd trade everything Franzen has ever written for another Wallace novel, even this one. But he never got to write his Magic Mountain, or even write a Tom Jones (yes, I know Richardson did not write Tom Jones).

* e.g., there's a good debate to be had about whether the parallels the book draws between the upper middle class, hyper intelligent, artist's son Hal and the lumpen proletarian, self-consciously foolish, addict's son Gately is an interesting one or a scary, ideological one. Is DFW really suggesting that Gately's problems and Hal's problems are the same? Because they're not. Gately has been roundly fucked by society. Hal is privileged, talented, and had a less than perfect father.
** this is by far the most irritating feature of the book: its incessant need to avoid actual commitment to its own formal features by throwing out a meta-literary comment on those features... while shitting on realism because it tries to 'fool' you into compassion. The former is a much more repulsive manipulation of the reader than the latter, and may be the root of all the silly 'you just don't get it' rubbish. Although it's true that sometimes people just don't get it. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Imagine George R.R. Martin watched Pulp Fiction and wanted to bring a similarly tangled, non-chronological narrative to Song of Ice and Fire-length. Now imagine he set it in the tennis academies and halfway houses of post-apocalyptic Boston. Now imagine he was obsessed with adverbs (especially "complexly"). Now imagine he was incapable of imagining an interaction between two or more people that consisted of anything other than each character completely ignoring the others while spouting exposition at frantic paces. Now imagine that instead of finishing out the seven-book series, he petered out after the first two installments. Infinite Jest is the result. ( )
  _________jt_________ | Nov 14, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (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 (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wallace, David Fosterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eggers, DaveForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giua, GraziaContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nesi, EdoardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Villoresi, AnnalisaContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316066524, Paperback)

In a sprawling, wild, super-hyped magnum opus, David Foster Wallace fulfills the promise of his precocious novel The Broom of the System. Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction, features a huge cast and multilevel narrative, and questions essential elements of American culture - our entertainments, our addictions, our relationships, our pleasures, our abilities to define ourselves.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:43 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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