Book Report #1: Infinite Jest

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Name: Karl
Date: 19th August 2009

Title:: Infinite Jest
Author: David Foster Wallace

Setting: Enfield Tennis Academy, a junior tennis academy situated on top of a hill in a fictional Boston neighbourhood. Also, Ennet House, an addiction recovery centre in the same neighbourhood. Various other locations feature. When exactly the action takes place is ambiguous because years Anno Domini have been replaced by commercially-subsidised year names, but it is roughly now, as written from the mid-1990s.

Characters: Hal Incandenza, a strong junior tennis prospect. Mario Incandenza, his crippled brother. Avril Incandenza, his OCD-crippled mother. Orin Incandenza, his estranged brother and punter of the Arizona Cardinals. James O. Incandenza, his deceased avant-garde filmmaker father. Don Gately, a recovering opiate addict and counsellor. Joelle van Dyne, a veiled former actress. Remy Marathe, Québecois insurgent and paraplegic. Poor Tony, a drag queen. Michael Pemulis, drug aficionado, maths whizz and teen. Many more.

Problem/Conflict: Americans can’t say no to things they like, even if it’s detrimental to their overall weal.

Main Events:: Hal gradually descends into existential paralysis. Don Gately carries out the duties of Resident at an addiction recovery centre. Remy Marathe considers the nature of greater good. Orin Incandenza has sex with young single mothers. There are rumours of the existence of a film so entertaining that it turns people into vegetables.

Conclusion: There is no conclusion. The end sends you back to the start. I have a feeling that this loop would continue ad infinitum if you let it.

Did you like the book?: Infinite Jest is probably the most completely engulfing thing I’ve ever read. 980 pages are not even close to enough to deal with what’s going on in the world DFW created. 2009 started with the sweeping choice of a new favourite ever album, so I don’t want it to continue with a sweeping choice of a new favourite ever book, but it’s hard to think of a book that could be read straight after Infinite Jest and not be dwarfed by it completely. It’s loads of fun too, for such a weighty tome.

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3 responses to “Book Report #1: Infinite Jest

  1. Moby Dick! I’ve never tried DFW…and I want to now. But I’d better leave it out until after the PhD. Maybe after Christmas, you and I will sit down and discuss infinite jest Karl?

  2. A masterpiece, indeed. The world’s a shittier place without him.

  3. Darragh, I promise I’ll have cogitated Moby Dick properly by then too.

    If anyone’s interested, the Infinite Summer forums/the Infinite Summer project in general (i.e. read Infinite Jest this summer) is buzzing with “wait, what about…” and “what is the significance of…” and “I don’t get…” and so on.

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