Infinite Jest

David Foster Wallace

I’m hesitant to say much about the end of Infinite Jest, mostly because I feel not having much knowledge about the book before I started reading it made things more interesting — though I guess the How-to on the Infinite Summer blog did say some pretty specific, though not plot-oriented, things about the book.

I’d heard rumblings that the ending was a disappointment to some and must say I felt much the same. After 980 pages and another 100 of endnotes (and endnotes with footnotes!), you’d hope at least to have a sense of finality about the act of reading the book (if not the story itself) upon finishing. But instead I found myself cycling back to the beginning to see if there was anything I missed in those tantalizing first 30 pages or so. I’d bet most people who read this book immediately start again on the first page, which actually makes brilliant sense.

The structure is challenging, even once the story comes together and each different point of view seems to somehow be moving in the same direction near the end, there are still seemingly irrelevant digressions that go on for what feels like too many pages. And as the remaining pages of the book dwindle, it can create some anxiety about how much will be left unsaid. I’m not sure if in time I’ll come to consider this one of my favorite books (favorites in the sense of being a book that you wish everyone would read — I know not everyone would enjoy this), but I can say that it wasn’t just an exercise in persistence. This is definitely the funniest, epic book that I’ve read, and I came away with genuine fondness for the characters and a recurring ability to relate aspects of this book to everyday life. The annoyance that some of the best stuff in the story isn’t divulged in Wallace’s extra-fine detail speaks to what he created here.