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Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest (original 1996; edition 2006)

by David Foster Wallace

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,820147429 (4.29)9 / 735
Title:Infinite Jest
Authors:David Foster Wallace
Info:Back Bay Books (2006), Edition: 10 Anv, Paperback, 1104 pages
Collections:June 6, 2012
Tags:fantasy, portion control

Work details

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (1996)

Recently added byapostate, e-zReader, irunsjh, claudio8, stevenamitchell, katie44, ZedAmadeo, private library
Legacy LibrariesTerence Kemp McKenna
  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 (144)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (147)
Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
i tried i really did but it was unnecessarily prolix and i gave up when he used the word quincunx
  mujinga | May 2, 2015 |
I am not going to go back and add ALL the books I have read but this one came to mind because, well, it is probably the greatest piece of contemporary fiction I have had the pleasure to read. ( )
  DavidCLDriedger | Apr 22, 2015 |
A difficult book to understand, but one that will live in your memory for every. One of my favorite books of all time. ( )
  m.t.sPace | Feb 3, 2015 |
Some great passages, particularly about drug use, but overall way too long and sprawling. Maybe that is a postmodernist point, but that in any case makes me lose interest. Quit after about 1/6. ( )
  ohernaes | Jan 26, 2015 |
In 1996, Dave Eggers wrote a review of the recently published Infinite Jest. Eggers called the novel “frustrating” and said it buckled “under the weight of its own excess.” “Besides frequently losing itself in superfluous and wildly tangential flights of lexical diarrhea,” Eggers wrote, “the book suffers under the sheer burden of its incredible length.” Now, Eggers also extolled Infinite Jest for the potential rewards it offered a reader; further, Eggers praised Wallace for being “a consistently innovative, sensitive, and intelligent writer.” Nevertheless, the review largely painted the novel as a chore to get through.

Fast forward to 2006. The reaction to Infinite Jest went over pretty well. In ten years time, a cult of devout Wallace-loving fanatics has sprung up all over the map. Reviews are largely favorable and the fans have taken to guerrilla tactics, armed with a very thick book and a mission to convert the nonbelievers. Little, Brown and Company elects to publish a tenth-anniversary edition of Infinite Jest and invites none other than Eggers himself to write the introduction. Eggers' tone is different. “The book is 1,079 pages long and there is not one lazy sentence,” he writes. This new Eggers declares Infinite Jest is a pleasure to read and not one bit daunting.

Maybe Eggers had a change of heart. I mean, he wasn't completely snubbing the novel in '96, but to go from “lexical diarrhea” to “not only lazy sentence” is a drastic change. It's certainly possible that the text marinated in Eggers mind, he gave it another read, and he had a much different experience. It's also possible Eggers was influenced. For one, readers and academia had adopted Infinite Jest. The cult of Wallace was on the move. And I'm sure the publisher was offering a decent check for the five-page forward. And maybe Eggers just wasn't sure what he thought. It is a confusing work, unlike anything else. Maybe he read it and simultaneously loved it and hated it. Or perhaps I'm projecting my own reaction to Infinite Jest on Eggers. Such a grab bag of emotions possesses me. What did I think of Infinite Jest? Well, a little bit of everything.

⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ - Though long and confusing, Infinite Jest is brilliant. Everything about it is wildly unique. The structure, the language, the methodology—it all comes together to make something original and untried. As Eggers' wrote in his foreword, “This book is like a spaceship with no recognizable components, no rivets or bolts, no entry points, no way to take it apart. … If you could somehow smash it into smaller pieces, there would certainly be no way to put it back together again.” And while other authors may emulate the style with varied success, the fact is Infinite Jest will probably always be the only book of its kind. Whether you love it or hate it, such a distinction is significant.

⋆⋆⋆⋆ - The characters and scenes are memorable. Sure, there are long gaps devoid of these wonderfully drawn scenes where characters ramble on and on about nothing of importance, but the accumulation of the many parts are unforgettable. Although Infinite Jest is the sort of book no one could ever make a film based on (I said the same about Cloud Atlas once), there are scenes which impossible not to imagine on the big screen. They're so wonderfully drawn and the characters are so uniquely styled, that I often imagined the moments in a detail few other books elicit from me.

⋆⋆⋆ - Infinite Jest is horribly wordy. Sometimes it works for it—it is part of the style that makes it unique—and sometimes it just drags. While some of the scenes are interesting in themselves, the detail in which they're described is both refreshing and excruciating. Could Infinite Jest have been shorted? Hell yes. But doing so would've robbed it of much of its uniqueness and allure. Does this justify its “lexical diarrhea”? That probably depends on the reader.

⋆⋆ - The end notes are ridiculous. I've read reviews or guides regarding Infinite Jest where the author stated every end note was vital and worth reading. 388 end notes spread out over 96 pages. How many were important in my opinion? Only a handful. Not only that, but I didn't understand why specific scenes (such as the phone conversation between Hal and Orin) were end notes in the first place. The text is already saturated with these long conversations. Why were some made into ten-page end notes? Why separate them from the text? If I ever find myself reading Infinite Jest again (unlikely, but I won't rule it out), I'm skipping the end notes. I really didn't need them.

⋆ - That's some racist bullshit. I see racism in literature for what it is. A work written at a much earlier time may be riddled with racism, and I can accept that without embracing it, because I realize it is a product of the time. A work written with racist characters or tones is also understandable if it is relevant to the story. Certainly, we should not simply cover up and ignore humanity's flaws. The problem here is, I don't think Infinite Jest qualifies for either of these conditions. Its setting is the near future and the characters have no obvious reason to be so incredibly bigoted. We're not dealing with a single narrator with a chip on his shoulder here. Infinite Jest is peopled with eccentric, but otherwise average, New Englanders and Canadians. Maybe I just missed something, but I don't think the rampant racism was relevant to the story. It's more than the name calling (ie, chinks, spics, ragheads, etc.), it's the stereotype. The black characters (rarely referred to as anything but the n-word) are a bunch of dumpster-diving, fighting, illiterate hoodlums. I'd be more forgiving if these were merely the thoughts of one ignorant character, but even the more intelligent, open-minded characters seem quite bigoted. For what aim? At least the honkies had their issues with substance abuse—I'd hate for them to seem too perfect. (Did someone say misogyny? Yeah, there's that too.)

So, yeah, I'm confused as to how I felt about Infinite Jest. It was good and it was bad. It seems I'm not alone in my confusion. I'm glad I read it if for no other reason than to know it. Maybe in another ten years my tune will change and I'll sing its praises with fervor and without hesitation. I hear it's happened before.
3 vote chrisblocker | Jan 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 144 (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)

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