Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace After 1000 plus pages, the worst thing I feared in a book like this materialized. It ended. And I was at a loss, not only as to the purpose of the book, but to what even happened. I had been so enamored by Wallace’s wordplay and adroit technique on each page that I had lost sight of the story. At least that’s what I told myself. Or I’m just an idiot.

So I thought about it for awhile. Thought about it some more. And then cheated.

I went to Wallace’s own words about the book. Luckily, unlike other great works of literature in history, there are now book tours and promotions. For good or bad, authors are expected to talk about their work. Explaining and dissecting ad nauseam. Fortunately, in the few interviews I read, Wallace doesn’t disgorge the finer points of his story, but he doesn’t hide behind abstraction. In 1996, he said
The manuscript that I delivered was 1700 manuscript pages, of which close to 500 were cut. So this editor didn't just buy the book and shepherd it. He line-edited it twice. I flew to New York, and all that. If it looks chaotic, good, but everything that's in there is in there on purpose. I'm in a good emotional position to take shit for the length because the length strikes people as gratuitous, then the book just fails. It's not gratuitous because I didn't feel like working on it or making the cuts.

It's a weird book. It doesn't move the way normal books do. It's got a whole bunch of characters. I think it makes at least an in-good-faith attempt to be fun and riveting enough on a page-by-page level so I don't feel like I'm hitting the reader with a mallet, you know, "Hey, here's this really hard impossibly smart thing. Fuck you. See if you can read it." I know books like that and they piss me off.

I get the feeling that a lot of us, privileged Americans, as we enter our early thirties, have to find a way to put away childish things and confront stuff about spirituality and values. Probably the AA model isn't the only way to do it, but it seems to me to be one of the more vigorous.

The characters have to struggle with the fact that the AA system is teaching them fairly deep things through these seemingly simplistic cliches….

It seems to me that the intellectualization and aestheticizing of principles and values in this country is one of the things that's gutted our generation…
Wallace dispelled my initial image of an intimidated publisher afraid to cull his work so as not to to look like an obtuse fool. Knowing that Wallace at least sees value in each page is encouraging. It prevents the reader from falling into the trap of seeing great meaning in abstraction, a concept that Wallace ridicules in the book. He's not just playing a prank. He wants the reader to see purpose. In 1997, he said:
Well, it's supposed to be a long encomium to the dead father. But part of the book is about a culture deciding that the meaning of life consists in experiencing as much pleasure as much of the time as possible and what are the implications of that. So it's multivalent, but it's not particularly profound. I'm not very good at titles.
As Wallace himself says, it’s not a terribly profound book. The themes are pretty straightforward. But the structure of this story, to use a word I’m always hesitant to use, is brilliant. It’s not a linear book so don’t expect it to end in a linear fashion. A point that I found incredibly frustrating after reading a thousand pages, but a point I have appreciated more and more as I think about it. The story interweaves with itself. Dropping hints and circling back on itself throughout the book. It seems somewhat flexible as the understanding of the plot seems to depend on what connections you decide (or can find) to make. Infinite Jest lends itself to rereading. I haven’t, and probably won’t for some time just given its girth, but for those who do, there is much to find. For those who have finished the book, I’d strongly recommend checking out http://www.thehowlingfantods.com/dfw/ for all things Wallace and some fascinating interpretations of Infinite Jest.

I haven’t, and won’t, talk much about the plot. It’s about a tennis academy, AA, Canada and wheelchair assassins. Deciphering the plot is what gives Infinite Jest its charm. It doesn’t try to be more than what it is though it could easily try to pass as something more. In the end, it's a story and Wallace is beyond clever in his storytelling technique.