Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

I finally finished reading Infinite Jest. I picked it up for the first time nearly eight years ago but didn't make it very far. I bought a copy nearly seven years ago and made it about a quarter of the way through before giving up again. I finally decided to give it a third try this past September, shortly after the death of its author, David Foster Wallace. I'm not afraid to stop reading a book that I no longer find interesting, so the fact that I made it through all 981 pages (and 97 pages of footnotes) means that it at least held my interest. It's an entertaining story filled with some of the most intriguing characters that I've ever encountered in literature. While I definitely enjoyed the book on a superficial level, especially in the middle portion where most of the characters had been developed but before it became clear that the story was not going to resolve itself in the end, I never really figured out what the story is actually about. After reading the book, the blurbs on the back cover sound plausible, but I certainly wouldn't have arrived at any of those conclusions on my own. I'm sure a lot of this my on fault; I probably should have been reading the book with a dictionary in hand since it had a lot of words I've never heard or seen in print (not to mention quite a bit of Québécois), and I ideally should have tried to finish it in less than four months since it's pretty hard to keep a story fresh in your mind spreading it out over such a long time. So while I agree with the pull quote from the Seattle Times on the front cover of my copy that proclaims Infinite Jest to be "surprisingly readable", don't kid yourself into thinking that you're going to get a lot out of this book without really committing to a serious study of it.

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