Infinite Jest

It took me a few months, but I finally finished (the late) David Foster Wallace‘s Infinite Jest. I enjoyed the writing, and found the stories of the main characters — Gately and Hal — affecting and moving, studies of sinking into and struggling out of various addictions. This was a writer, it seemed, who saw his craft as a way into the unavoidably cliché-ridden human condition. Comedy and tragedy combined as in that “poor Yorick, … a fellow of infinite jest” appropriately lifted from Shakespeare, refracted throughout the novel.

And but so I admit being put off by the high-concept comedy science-fiction bits of the storyline. Obsessive-compulsive crooner President? Subsidized years to add to government revenue? The infamous giant babies and feral hamsters stalking the (former) northeast USA? All cheap shots, really, and not that funny. (I’ve got nothing against science fiction; just a couple down on my bedside pile of books is Ian M Banks‘ newest Matter.)

One response to “Infinite Jest”

  1. Marc Weidenbaum avatar

    I read it when it came out, and I will read Pale King, his (incomplete) third and final novel when it comes out, but I remain convinced that his best material is his short pieces, whether fiction or non-fiction. The (relative) brevity gave some form and closure, which his novels, in my mind, never really found a parallel to.