Thoughts on Infinite Jest (Part 2)

If you haven’t read it, here’s part 1.

  • The footnotes at the end are a pain in the butt to read but Infinite Summer’s brilliant suggestion of using multiple bookmarks (one for footnote, one for main text for example) made it easier. Given that some footnotes run into pages, the publishers wouldn’t have had a choice.
  • You can read IJ even if you are not literary minded. (I find it hard to read literary books actually.) But, you have to trust DFW and he makes you wonder where he’s taking you sometimes and you realize that it’s the journey that makes the book incredible.
  • Clearly not everyone will read or will even want to read IJ and those that don’t will have missed out on something great.
  • If you are a writer, IJ will make you want to jump off the nearest building, preferably a very tall one. When you read writers like DFW, you realize that there are lots of good writers, some really good ones, but there are very few great ones. He was one of the greats. In Stephen King’s On Writing, he says that the great writers are at a different level and when I read IJ, I realized what King meant.
  • The character that I liked least in IJ was Orin Incandenza. Somehow his way of thinking and acting didn’t endear him to me.
  • I don’t know how DFW dreamed up Mario Incandenza, but he’s a beautiful character. He’s physically challenged in the most grotesque way but has a spirit that makes your heart ache when you read about him.
  • After reading IJ, I think most people feel like they want to be better versions of themselves. It’s hard to explain because IJ isn’t an inspirational or a motivational book — parts of it are horribly dark — but that’s the feeling you get when you read the book.
  • I don’t know how good The Pale King (DFW’s next novel, to be published posthumously obviously) will be but I’m pretty certain that I will read the book. Not a chance that I’ll pass up something he’d been working on for such a long time.
  • IJ affected my reading style. My reading list has become more diverse, especially in the fiction area. I’ve always found literary work hard to read but in the months after finishing IJ, I read Dracula and 1984. I’ve got Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein in the to-read pile and I will look at the classics that I’ve missed out.
  • DFW’s writing makes you want to be more earnest in your writing. Also, only after reading a book like IJ would you want to write such a long review. I hope it was as interesting reading for you as it was writing for me.

End of part 2. Series concluded.

An Infinite Summer ends (at least for me)

I just finished reading Infinite Jest (IJ), David Foster Wallace’s monumental work of fiction. Regular readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of Wallace’s work and if you read the links section — over on the sidebar — you’d have noticed several links about him or his work from time to time.

Infinite Jest is a huge book and it took me months to finish it. The sole reason for being able to finish the book was a wonderful initiative called Infinite Summer. My thanks to the guys behind the website for doing this – I really don’t know when / if I would’ve read the book. It had been sitting on my to-read pile for a few months.

I will post more about the book and about reading the book later. I just wanted to share a few preliminary thoughts.

  • IJ is the longest work of literary fiction I’ve read (1000+ pages including footnotes).
  • It is not the toughest work of fiction I’ve ever read. Contrary to many people’s experiences, I’ve found other novels much harder to plough through. True History of the Kelly Gang is one book that comes to mind.
  • It is the most haunting book of fiction I’ve read. (And, No, it’s not a ghost story.)
  • It is the most non-linear work of fiction I’ve read. The book’s structure apparently has fractal-like qualities.
  • It is a book that, initially, I couldn’t wait for to get going but towards the end, I didn’t want it to end. (I have a sneaking suspicion that Wallace made the book harder to put down towards the end when you don’t want it to end. Think going down a hill on a bicycle with no brakes.)
  • It is the only book that I started re-reading (the first few pages) immediately after I had finished the book. Seriously.
  • It is a book that makes me want to try giving literary fiction a chance again. (I’m a notorious non-reader of all things literary.)
  • It is a brilliant, earnest, and an enriching piece of fiction. Every time I read pages in the book, I was always amazed by the sheer genius of David Foster Wallace. He was truly a great one.

I don’t know how to end this post.