I’ve been thinking about what I was going to write in this post for (almost) the entire time I have been reading Infinite Jest. I knew that I was going to have to come up with some assessment of the book. Even after thinking about it for that length of time, and having 5 days to reflect since finishing the book – I’ve got bupkiss.
I guess there are really three questions to answer:
- Did I enjoy this book?
- Was this a good book?
- Am I happy I read it?
So let’s get #1 over with: NO! That’s a simplified answer to a complex book. I enjoyed parts of the book, but I will say that I think a large percent of the book is unreadable. The verbal diarrhea, the seemingly disparate story lines, the ragged narrative style, and let’s not forget the footnotes (there are over 388, btw). Beyond that stuff, this was a pretty depressing and at times graphically gross book which also made it a difficult read.
On to #2: that is a difficult question to answer. And this is probably the question that I have thought most about during this entire project. I can say with no hesitation that David Foster Wallace is a brilliant writer. He is extraordinarily insightful into the human condition. His vocabulary is unreal. Sometimes his writing is just so perfect. The problem is, on the next page, or even in the next sentence I am shaking my head not understanding a word that he is saying.
My conclusion is: DFW = good writer. But, he is not a good novelist. I think that in small doses, he is brilliant. You know, he’s like that friend you have – you like to hang out and have a few drinks or dinner, but if you spent the weekend together you would have to punch them in the face. Reading infinite Jest is like that.
So no, I don’t think that Infinite Jest is a good book. There I said it.
And #3: you know, having said all of that, I am glad I read it. It was on my to-read list for a long time. I do feel like it’s an accomplishment. Also, there is 0% chance I would have finished it, or even got past page 100, if we didn’t do it as a project.
Would I recommend this to other people? Probably not. Here is the thing, if it’s on your list to read someday, go for it. Just know it’s a slog and somewhat painful and you really do have to commit to it. But if you are a casual reader and are looking for something to read: pick something else.
I struggled on what to rate this on Goodreads. Using my system – I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. That is what I give books that I wasn’t mad that I read them, but I would definitely not recommend to my friends and family. I toyed with a 2 star rating – but I thought that was a bit harsh.
So our second reading project is in the “books” (see what I did there?) We are still debating on what next year’s book will be.