Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

What is there that can be said about this book? It is the best thing ever written in English.

Yes, it’s 1100 pages long (give or take) and a lot of them are footnotes (one person who saw me carrying this remarked “David Foster Wallace? Even his name is verbose”). But it contains everything. Including tennis. But also love, fear, depression, some really funny stuff, more depression, terrorism, entertainment, more tennis, wheelchair-bound assassins from Canada and an absolute string of messed-up, beautiful, broken characters.

Because we’re all messed-up, beautiful and broken in some ways.

It’s about why do we choose to do the things we do every day. Who are we trying to please? What are we trying to avoid? It’s about a film. It’s about addiction. It’s about a film so addictive you can’t stop watching it and you’d do anything to watch it again. It’s about achieving, and potential, and about hitting bottom and trying to get better again.

It’s got some really deep pain, tortuously drawn out and laid completely bare; so raw it will make you despair. And it’s got characters who don’t or can’t or won’t admit to their pain, and drive themselves in curious directions to avoid confronting it. And it’s got the reasons why it’s worth getting through the pain, the glorious and tender and fantastic things in life.

It is difficult to read – not just the painful pieces. It’s wordy, both in terms of the length and complexity of the sentences and in terms of the vocabulary. But the structure of the sentences makes it essential to concentrate on every word, forcing you to appreciate them all. For 1100 pages, give or take.

This is the second time I’ve read it. The first time, I really struggled through the first couple of hundred pages. I didn’t know what was going on, or why these people were involved or what year it even was. This time, it all became much clearer. There are references that couldn’t ever make sense for someone reading it for the first time, the action isn’t really all that jumbled up, and everyone plays their part in the story. It’s a book that was written to be endured and enjoyed over and over again.

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