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Customer Review

49 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great themes & ideas but lacking in great writing style, January 14, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Infinite Jest: A Novel (Hardcover)
I read "A Supposedly Fun Thing...," Wallace's collection of essays and loved it. He is a very bright man who wrote with great wit, humor, and introspection. So I decided to tackle his 1000+ page novel. Once again, I found myself deeply in-touch with Wallace's themes, ideas, and fears about life; unfortunately, I am not in-synch with the style he uses to express them. His writing is inconsistant. He'll write a very emotional and passionate section and then the very next paragraph he'll launch into an incredibly (and tediously) detailed section on something else, devoid of emotion and heart. (To me at least), the book is filled with dorky tangents such as 30+ page explanations of ficticious games and needless technical data, and has endless footnotes that were an interesting novelty for the first 50 or so, then just became annoying to have to keep flipping back. I wanted so badly to love this book, because I feel a kinship with Wallace and his ideas but I finally gave up at page 350 when I realized I didn't care what was going to happen to anyone in the book. When you can read 350 pages and not give a sh*t about what happens, there is a problem. Ultimately, your themes become irrelevant if you can't draw the reader into your story. Great writing is the combination of substance and style. Unfortunately, Wallace has full command of the former but not the latter.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 9, 2010 12:43:09 PM PDT
Is this a joke? His style is completly original and what makes this book readable for the 1000 pages that it is. Its supposed to sound the way it does, like an absurd character from the 90's having a conversation with you. The narrator is ironic because of his ridiculous voice yet profound knowledge, artistry, and insight. Re read it please, its great.

Posted on Aug 23, 2012 2:53:39 PM PDT
i really enjoyed wallace's style and am surprised to hear that people do not. the footnotes are a great interruption to the text. i remember reading somewhere that wallace used them to break up the narrative and make it less linear. that aside, and perhaps this is from reading more academic essays, i'm used to reading footnotes and enjoy the little bits of information they provide. they're not dissimilar from having to, in the middle of reading, look up a concept or word that you don't quite understand. wallace provides additional information for you that would bloat an already heavy text, especially where additional information is essential to complete understanding of a sort of alternate history.

beyond the footnotes i find the exact opposite of what you find with his style. you find parts of it cold whilst i find huge amounts of humor and action in his writing. oh well.

Posted on Jul 4, 2013 6:54:37 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 4, 2013 6:54:53 AM PDT
Toni Mack says:
This book is a Kindle $1.99 deal today, but your review convinced me even $1.99 is no deal if I won't care for the characters.

I know of Wallace as erudite and highly praised, but I'm not going to take on 1,000 pages without an expectation of being able to invest myself fully in his fictional people.

Thanks for your observations.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 4, 2013 10:39:31 AM PDT
This is one of my 2 or 3 favorite books of all time and I cared very much about almost all the main characters. That said, I think anyone wanting to read this should invest in a paper edition rather that reading it on Kindle, since going back and forth between footnotes and text (not to mention the footnotes to the footnotes) might be cumbersome on a Kindle. (I have one of the original Kindles--maybe going back and forth is easier with the newer ones.)

Posted on Aug 6, 2013 12:58:52 PM PDT
I have read a couple of books of his essays and just bought U.J. based upon my enjoyment of them. I read the first twenty pages and scanned the rest of the book, and then stopped because the writing is not very good here. I will try it again, though. He is a great journalist; I don't know that he is a great fiction writer but I can already see what the above reviewer means.

Posted on Sep 1, 2013 12:05:13 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 1, 2013 12:05:31 PM PDT]

Posted on Sep 1, 2013 12:06:25 PM PDT
I agree completely. I gave up at almost the exact same point after realizing the exact same thing.
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