Just how inaccessible is this book?
Well. It’s a 1000+ page tome of convoluted absurdism and narrative mania and temporal entanglement, a formula which does not lend itself to popular reading. “Twilight” it is not. I bought Infinite Jest several weeks ago and diligent, obsessive reading on my train ride to and from work has brought me to page 300 thus far.
David Foster Wallace, the suicided author/genius behind this vast instruction manual for insanity, created a tale composed of layers upon layers upon layers upon layers of ambiguous quasi-tales which marry sinuously to tell a unified tale about something which we can’t quite describe in the mundane language of reality.
My gf asked me what the book was about and I attempted a verbal explanation which ultimately proved inaudibly feeble and inevitably degenerated into suffocating knots of dead-end unearthly attempts to describe story narrative that could never have been born of this Earth.
Paragraphs the size, and volume, of densely packed urban hellholes of teeming humanity suffuse Infinite Jest, the novel; it is not merely a reading experience. It is immersion in the author’s private portal into madness. Only a madman can have written such a work, and sadly, Wallace proved to be that.
If I had to sum up the book in one visual representation, I would advise you to examine any of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. Take any of them…they are Infinite Jest, adapted to canvas. A staggering cornucopia of insanity and dystopian surrealism that glares back from a blackened soul.
Now my purpose is not to write a treatise on Infinite Jest.
I don’t think I ever intend to write a comprehensive piece, or anything approaching comprehensive, about this book on this blog. I want to lay out a new plan I have for this blog that echoes one of Wallace’s peculiar tools from the novel. He uses footnotes. The novel is complete, utter, surreal fiction; there is little basis in our recognizable reality. But so intricate and nuanced is the story, so much detail begs to be unraveled that it can’t all fit in the traditional narrative of the story, so Wallace chose to create footnotes which, in effect, deepen and broaden the intricacy of the story “offscreen,” in the murky plot’s background. So even though Wallace might have spent many pages describing a single AA meeting in Boston, and the individual cast’s histories and quirky presentations, it doesn’t imply that he told us everything he needed to tell us. Recognizing that the structure of his story threatened to explode like a balloon, he chose to footnote certain passages with further sub-layers of convoluted narrative which sharpen the focus of the madness we’ve read on the “surface” of the novel’s pages.
After periodically switching to the back of the book to digest a very detailed and self-referential footnote, one returns to the main story and feels as they are coming “back for air,” for each footnote subversion seems like you are going underwater, or underground, for a few minutes to witness the subdermal chaos lurking beneath the lighter sense of chaos to be found in the stories superficial layer.
I am thinking that I may try a similar ploy on this blog.
Some posts might have no footnotes, while others could have 1 or 5 or 10…the post’s content will dictate it. And I will create a footnote page where all footnotes will live. A compendium of my sub-layers of thought that live and propel the madness that are the front pages of this website.
It’s my Infinite exercise in blog Jest.