Thursday, March 3, 2011

#28 - "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace

Infinite JestAfter fifty days, I have finally finished Infinite Jest.  It was a gargantuan read, and I truly did try to read it as fast as I could.  However, the combination of small print, large pages, and over a thousand of them, there really wasn't anyway I was going to finish this one quickly.  I guess if I was going to take a ride on the Ark, this would be the perfect book to take with me.

I've read a plethora of reviews on this book, and see that people either really like it or really hate it, there's no in between.  My first instinct is to say I'm in the latter group, but I've been having second thoughts.  At first glance, I didn't enjoy the story (or lack there of), I didn't really enjoy a lot of the humor, and for the most part found myself only reading out of a sense of obligation, not because I had any interest in continuing.

But now I'm starting to wonder how much of my distaste for the book was related to its' size.  By just looking at it sitting on my desk, I felt defeated.  It was heavy to carry around with me, it's uncomfortable to hold up to read, and I grew tired of people saying, "you're still reading that one..."  Of course I'm still reading it, it's over a thousand goddamn pages!

But while the size was a major factor, really it just wasn't my kind of read.  Following an array of different people at a Boston tennis academy and a nearby addiction recovery house, the book would float between the two story lines, often losing this reader in the process.  Yes, I'm admitting I didn't really understand a lot of the book, but I don't put the blame entirely on myself.  Part of it was the meandering-take-four-pages-to-describe-what-should-only-take-four-sentences approach to Wallace's prose, while part of it was the not-too-distant-future setting where society has taken a severe turn for the worst.  I never like these 'the future sucks' type stories and when it's stretched out over a thousand pages, I found myself frequently bored.  With boredom comes a wondering mind and soon I find myself not paying enough attention.

So maybe it wasn't so much that I didn't understand the book, but rather that I found it difficult to pay attention to it.  And like a teacher or speaker, if you have trouble paying attention, it might speak to the quality of the work as much as it does to the attention span of the student or audience.  While I wouldn't put this book as low as my current cellar-dweller, Naked Lunch, it isn't much higher up the list.

Now that I've taken so much time ro read Infinite Jest, I'm going to need to do some serious catch-up in order to continue my pace of two books per month.  I'm starting with Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.  I'm vaguely familiar with the story and I have the feeling it shouldn't take too long to read.  At only 330 pages, it seems like a mere pamphlet compared to #28.

You can read Time magazine's original review from February 19, 1996 right here.

No comments:

Post a Comment