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David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide, 2nd Edition 2nd Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
I especially liked his understanding and analysis of IJ's literary context: rather than simplistically comparing Wallace's work to Pynchon or DeLillo, as many have done, he explores the richer tradition of myth materials and 20th-century literature that informs Wallace's brilliant novel.
My only criticism is Burns' failure to comment on Wallace's sense of humor, which was one of the reasons I loved IJ so much, and why I find it worth re-reading from time to time. I've enjoyed other writers endorsed by Wallace, like Irvine Welsh and Dave Eggers, but some literary analysis of Wallace's effective use of different varieties of humor would have been helpful. Still, given the lucid and concise analysis Burns provides, this criticism should be understood as part of my wishlist, not any negative take on Burns' sense of humor.
1-9: Title page, acknowledgments, dedication, table of contents
10-22: Description of Wallace's overall point of view- interesting, but doesn't get in to the meat of Infinite Jest
23-65: Analysis of the book- good quality; this is essentially what I wanted, just not enough of it
66-71: An overview of what book critics said about Infinite Jest when it came out. Not useful to me.
71-76: "The Novel's Performance"- a subjective discussion of whether Infinite Jest is a good book. Not useful to me.
77-79: Further reading and suggested essay topics
80-92: Chronology of the plot- useful as a reference, but lacking any analysis
So in the end, there are only 55 small pages of large font analysis, and only 42 of those pages are actually about the book itself. Counting the words on a random page and multiplying out, there are approximately 12,000 words in the section that discusses the book. According to some internet sites, that's less than 10% the length of an average novel (or 2% the length of IJ itself). I believe this would be better off as a magazine article or web posting than an actual book. I haven't read any of the competing guides to Infinite Jest, but I don't believe this one is worth the money.
This study guide goes a long way toward answering lots of questions I had about the story, the plot, the characters, and how they interrelated. This was such a big help to me that immediately after finishing the study guide I started reading Infinite Jest yet again, only this time a lot more of it clicked, and made it so much more enjoyable. I only wish the guide had revealed more, but I suppose there's something sort of magical about not being able to figure the whole book out. It would be lots of fun to have more of these guides for great works of fiction!
In any case, if you have been moved at all by Wallace's work, which for my money is some of the most authentic, recognizable, and original of the turn of the century, then Burn's volume is a handy guide with some interesting theories about the characters, themes, and general structure of Infinite Jest. It is brief, which is precisely what you'll want after (or alongside) the immense length of the novel. Necessarily, Burn gives priority to certain scenes (he has a particularly strong interest in the passages about the game "Eschaton," which I never thought were the most interesting parts of the novel, but even so, it's worth a read), and this is best paired with Marshall Boswell's Understanding David Foster Wallace (Understanding Contemporary American Literature), which is equally helpful but quite different in emphasis. Together, these two books helped me tremendously in putting together a dissertation chapter about Infinite Jest, but they are not at all outside the grasp of the curious recreational reader (put another way, if you can wade through IJ, you can definitely understand this work, and you won't find it pretentious). Recommended for casual or ardent fans of IJ and the contemporary fiction scene.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My grandson had wanted this and he was very pleased to get it. aid he loved it!Published 3 months ago by Carol
I didn't realize this was a guide to the book. :( It's now donated to the local library.Published 4 months ago by Geoffrey A. Sergeant
I bought this book hoping that it would help me read more deeply into Infinite Jest, a book I have read before and aspire to complete a second time. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Emigre author
It was readable and helpful, especially the forty or fifty pages devoted to the novel and the timeline at the end. But I think the subtitle, "A Reader's Guide etc. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
It could indeed be the best of the "reader's guides" to IJ. My objection is to the terminology; I don't think it qualifies as a reader's guide. Read morePublished 7 months ago by G.S.
As small as Infinite Jest is large, and as inconsequential and poorly-written as IJ is profound, and painstakingly and brilliantly written. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Never Youmind
As someone already said, the book is too short. Lots of content are not exactly what one wants after reading Infinite Jest: I was looking for an exploration of the book's... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Bruno Laze