I started the book and it feels like this is the literary equivalent of being shot out of a cannon. (Admittedly, I’ve never been shot out of a cannon.)
The reader is kind of plunked in the middle of a meeting – you aren’t exactly sure who, what or why – and then slowly your questions are answered. It reminds me a lot of The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. In the Faulkner book, he tells (basically) the same story multiple times from the perspective of different members of the same family, with the first chapter being told from the perspective of a character with limited mental ability. As Fury unfolds you get to see the whole picture. I get that same sense from Infinite Jest.
The thing that I learned from reading The Sound and the Fury was, to just sit tight and go along for the ride the author is taking you on. You might not understand the structure of the story, or where it’s going, but you need to have faith that the author will get you there. I will say, so far David Foster Wallace has done that.
Although this novel doesn’t have a traditional structure, I am completely shocked to find it extremely readable, and enjoyable. And, it’s even very funny. I have laughed out loud multiple times.
Here is what I now ‘get’ about this novel, DFW is incredibly insightful and able to use exactly the right words and turn of phrase to transport you, not only to the scene but exactly inside the characters head.
About the footnotes: I have now experienced my first footnote in footnote action. These are actually way less irritating than the footnotes in War and Peace. They are kind of humourous. You don’t know if you are going to get a completely inane two word explanation of something, or a 3 page detailed description (with its own footnotes) about the class of narcotics that the character may or may not be ingesting. It’s like a surprise every time!
Time will tell if this narrative style will get old and exhausting. But for the moment – and the first 100 pages – I am actually enjoying it very much.