Friday, January 25, 2013

DFW: Infinite Jest

Report from page 125 = 12%.

OK, it's not terrible, in fact it's pretty engaging. It is weird, however. The prominent critic Harold Bloom hated it, and many seem to consider it a great work - even the great work, of recent American literature. It's sprawling, like the greater Los Angeles metropolis. The author is endlessly self-indulgent, so sometimes it seems like one is reading the words of the world's most obnoxious adolescent show off. He seems determined to put every obscure word he knows into the text, and with 484,000 plus words, he has room for a lot.

There are a few so far poorly integrated themes: a tennis boarding school, drug addiction, mental illness, and a science fictiony plot involving post something or other Canada/Quebec vs. the US. There are also enough characters to populate all of Russian literature, and the author seems either unable or unwilling to sketch them in anything other than the tritest strokes - all seem to be either freakish caricatures or indistinguishable cardboard.

The author is self indulgent in other ways too. Here is a sample sentence:

At which point U.S.S. Millicent stopped them in an unprickly thicket of what later turned out to be poison sumac and turned with a strange glint in the one eye that wasn’t in pine-shadow and crushed Mario’s large head to the area just below her breasts and said she needed to confess that Mario’s eyelashes and vest with extendable police lock he used for staying upright in one place had for quite some time now driven her right around the bend with sensual feeling.

Wallace, David Foster (2009-04-03). Infinite Jest: 0 (p. 125). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Preliminary assessment: Not nearly as annoying as Gravity's Rainbow, even if it is obnoxiously smart-ass.