When I established this blog, I intended to semi-regularly review novels. Instead, I’ve spent the last six months reading through the same novel – David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, a thousand-page epic set in the near future and concerning a film so entertaining that it drives anyone who views it to permanent, drooling catharsis. The writing is dense but superb, hyper-detailed and featuring hundreds of footnotes (some of which are essentially short stories themselves). Wallace writes with authoritative talent on topics as broad as tennis, mathematics and – tragically, given his suicide years later – clinical depression. His writing is insightful; even prophetic.
The novel begins with a large number of disparate, seemingly unconnected narrative threads that eventually commingle and intertwine but, interestingly, never coalesce into the coherent storyline that the introduction seems to promise. It’s perhaps surprising (and, for me, slightly disappointing) that such a long novel doesn’t have a traditional narrative or clear conclusion; nonetheless the novel is a rich execution of the twin themes of consumerism and addiction (and how the two interact).
Infinite Jest is undeniably a rewarding read. It’s also a lot of work, and, honestly, the reward isn’t necessarily worth the commitment such a demanding novel requires.