235 of 295 people found the following review helpful
The other dimension of my life.
, March 5, 2000
This review is from: Infinite Jest: A Novel (Hardcover)
How is it that one novel can cause half its readers to put ZERO STARS - I HATE THIS BOOK and the other half to write I WISH I HAD 100 STARS TO GIVE? I am, obviously, in the second category. I found a copy in an outlet bookstore for 6 bucks and thought, "What the hell?" Since I am a literature student and already have to read 3-4 novels a week, it took me months to finish, but now that it's over, I am genuinely sad. The entire time I was reading it, I felt like my life had another dimension that was going on while I attended my university classes, saw friends, etc. Everyone I spoke to knows a couple of the plotlines of Infinite Jest because that's all I could talk about.
So many of the readers who did not love this book from deep in their hearts (as I do) want to compare and categorize and throw off Wallace as being pretentious. How sad! Unlike pretentious referential authors like Joyce, everything you need to understand Infinite Jest is there on the page. Sure, maybe it helps if you have some basic knowledge of theoretical physics and mathematics, but any reading on any topic requires a different level of previous experience, and that experience is not even necessary to enjoy the beautiful, sensitive, funny, HUMAN stories in IJ. This is not a cold scientific something -- this is pure human compassion and frustration and reminds me of what it means to be an American at the turn of the new century. (This is, of course, to say nothing of Wallace's prose, which sends me, as a writer, into alternating fits of jealousy and lust.)
I'm not trying to sell this book to all people everywhere -- it is a fact that most people over a certain age will find this book philosophically and structurally incomprehensible. I am 20 years old, and this kind of writing and the themes it deals with are closer and more real to me than hundreds of years of historical fiction. Having grown up in an age when entertainment is fast and hard and omnipresent (a fact which, like Wallace, I am slow to comdemn harshly), a novel like this reaffirms my belief in the medium. We haven't outgrown our literary past, and, much as films are becoming less linear (making less sense to the old and so much more to the young -- see "Magnolia"), the novel itself is learning, through authors like Wallace, to become the new animal that the upcoming generation needs to allow the medium to survive. The old avant-garde is tired now and needs to be put to bed.
Thank God for David Foster Wallace. Its because of him that I haven't quit writing yet.
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