When BJ and I were on our honeymoon last year, we were in California and decided to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway. We were driving enjoying the scenery and the day, and assumed at any point we could just find the highway that would take us back. It wasn’t that simple. It’s like we were trapped. There was no signal for the phones, so no GPS. We kept thinking, we will get to a place where we can turn off soon. That went on for what seemed like hours (I am sure it wasn’t that long), and we finally figured out we needed to turn back and go the way we came.
That feeling, the one where we realized that we couldn’t just turn off, and find another highway back, is what I am feeling reading Infinite Jest. Slightly hopeless, disappointed and fearful.
Here is the deal, I am 400 pages in to this thing, and I am not going to give it up. I keep hoping around every turn in the book, I will somehow ‘get it’. The meandering plot lines, and lexical acrobatics will all become one and I will understand the book and exclaim: NOW I GET IT. I am highly suspect at this point that this is actually going to happen.
BJ and I were talking about the book, and he said: Maybe it’s the emperor’s new clothes. Meaning that maybe there is nothing there at all. I was like yes! that is it!
I am going out on a limb here: this novel sucks.
Wow, that feels better. There are points in the book where I laugh out loud – which I realize is a difficult thing to accomplish in the written word. There are times where I am reading and the language is beautiful and evokes emotions, visuals that are so crystal clear and on point, or he gets right to the bullseye of the human condition. The problem is, those moments are few and far between. It’s like a bad boyfriend, he is a bit of an ass so you want to dump him, then he does something super sweet, and you say, oh he’s not that bad. This is that in novel form.
Look, DFW is a good writer. See above on the humour, descriptive language and understanding the human condition and being able to express that in the written word. I can’t help but feel that the novel is just a bunch of anecdotes and small stories that are strung together by literally spit and some dental floss. There are no actual threads holding the thing together.
BJ and I have discussed at length about what the meaning of the book might be. And I take the stand (which is the opposite of my husband) that it doesn’t mean anything. DFW wrote about the three things he knew about: tennis, drugs and addiction. He wrote about the topics he wanted and in the way he wanted. I don’t begrudge him that. However, what I am having an increasing difficult time with is that this is somehow a great novel. It’s just not.
There are about 600 pages left. Maybe there is going to be some sort of literary miracle that occurs that will make me eat my words here. Truly, I hope so. Honestly, I doubt it.