Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

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One of the craziest books I’ve ever ever read.  Manic fun!

Something to know when reading

The footnotes are important and are a reason why the option of cutting the book in half for easy transportation really needs to be though out carefully.  I read this book on my Kindle which was brilliant because it made it very easy to access these footnotes and also meant I could carry it around with me.  I love this book though, so, as soon as I’ve space on my bookshelf, it’s going on there and I’ll re-read it with bookmarks.  Seriously, I can’t overstate the importance of the footnotes, even the eight page filmography one.  Especially the eight page filmography one.

Things you may want to know before reading – or you may not.  They will mean things are less confusing, but will also mean you will never get that ‘Wow’ moment when/if things finally slip into place…

1. The book takes place in some kind of future reality.  It is set in what is now the USA and Canada, but which in the book is a superstate which also includes Mexico and is called the Organisation of North American Nations (O.N.A.N).  A sub-plot deals with how badly Canada is treated under this arrangement,what with most of their country being used as a O.N.A.N. waste dumping group (giant fans in place to ensure that the fumes all travel north, away from most of the former United States territories).  I’d say it was a polemic against industrialisation and colonialism, but it’s a massive book and that’s not even the half of it.

2. O.N.A.N is kind of strapped for cash, so in a bid to help the economy the years are sponsored by corporations.  This is called Standardised Time and means that added to the difficulty of an extremely fragmented time structure, the dates used will refer to, for example ‘Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad’ rather than 1998 or whenever.  It is useful to have an idea of the order of years, which you’re not given until quite a bit into the book:

  1. Year of the Whopper
  2. Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
  3. Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar
  4. Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken
  5. Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster
  6. Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office Or Mobile [sic]
  7. Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland
  8. Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
  9. Year of Glad

Most of the events take place in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment (YDAU).  Some bits take place before standardised time…but not many.

Final points:

Enjoy the madness.  This is one of the greatest books of the 20th Century and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

For more tips, I highly recommend http://kottke.org/09/07/how-to-read-infinite-jest.  I found it after the first ten pages of or so of IJ and it was so helpful!  I’ve tried not to plagiarise on this page, but, just, in case, I want to publicly give credit where it’s due.

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2 Responses to Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

  1. Sin says:

    This book has been sitting on my shelf for ages and you’ve just sold it to me. I’m picking it up next.

  2. Pingback: On Starting Infinite Jest | Like Bears to Honey

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