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Sui Generis book club #9

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

I'm not sure I know what to say after reading this book. It's going to take a bit of time to digest, maybe. Instead of trying to sum up some kind of plot or write a thematic critique, I'm going to just write about what this book is like. It's hard for me to pin it down; it's easy to make comparisons, but something this big has a gravity and atmosphere of its own. A blurb on the back cover calls it "a Naked Lunch for the nineties." That's the closest thing I can think of to compare it to, format-wise (and subject-content-wise in the case of the drugs and addicts and whatnot). Except I liked Infinite Jest a lot better than Naked Lunch. Naked Lunch was good, but I couldn't have read 1,000 pages of it.

But otherwise there's no other book I know of to compare it to. I think that DFW himself defines the book's tone perfectly in the early and ominously foreshadowing footnote on anticonfluential cinema, which is described as an "apres-garde digital movement... characterized by a stubborn and possibly intentionally irritating refusal of different narrative lines to merge into any kind of meaningful confluence". When I read that, I thought, "uh-oh." And it's true: the book never really comes together in the end. Has he kertwanged us? Was it all a big joke? After reading all of that, and loving it all along, does it even matter? This is a book that provides more questions than answers, and that's just the way it ought to be. Awesome.

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