David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel, Infinite Jest, represents realism as a function of banality. It’s narrative rarely resolves, disrupted by a seemingly boundless lexicon and an erratic temporality, and the impulse, after more than a thousand pages, is to start back at page one. Not contextualizing it as within a specific style makes the novel seem like a sadistic joke, but because “Infinite Jest” exhibits a tenet of postmodernism, specifically the acknowledgement of banality as a defining characteristic of artistic form, such a consideration is worth exploring.
It’s nearly October and I’m nowhere near finished with The Jest (as one of my friends calls it). I can’t remember why or when I decided to read IJ but I started May 29th and am currently on page 772. A month of debate camp (basically where you spend a month on a college campus(…)
That’s a goddamned lie. “Everybody is wrong about everything, just about all the time.” Or, “… no matter how smart you thought you were, you are actually way less smart than that.” (p.201) That, I think, about sums up all the chatter about David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest, especially when it comes to the(…)
So, you just finished reading Infinite Jest and now you’re trying to make sense of the much lauded comedy. It’s likely that you’re confused and just bursting with disappointment. You read the last page and you sat for a few split seconds contemplating Bimmy’s indestructible body sinking into the rain-soaked beach before you hawked a loogie on the book’s cover. However, IJ is NOT about the plot; it is a meta novel about ideas. This is the true genius of the gargantuan tome; it was purposely written in a manner that does not allow a clear ending to be extrapolated from the 1,079 pages of data.
Courtesy of the inimitable Mark Jabbour, using images uploaded to the Summer of Jest Facebook group (Jul-Sept 2013). Slideshow #1, aka “Global Chaos,” can be found here.
I turned the last page of Infinite Jest around two weeks ago. I hadn’t meant to get so ahead of the group’s schedule; up until the mid-500’s I think I was on target (or not far off anyway), but there comes a point in the book shortly after the big hoo-haa outside Ennett House, all guns and punches and stiletto heels, that’s like sitting in a homemade go-cart at the top of the steepest hill in your town, you haven’t got a clue what a mess you’ll be in when you get to the bottom of the hill but you know that one way or another you’ll definitely get there, and fast. It wasn’t long after the “Gately versus the angry Canadians” scenes that I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from whizzing down that hill and reading as much as I possibly could each night. I had to know how things would end…
When I read the last line of Infinite Jest the first coherent thought I had was: “well, I kind of wish I had been wearing pants for that.” Was I angry? At first – yeah, I think I was. After months of reading, referencing, looking up words, having intelligent discussions (and some not-so-intelligent ones), THIS(…)