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Genius Found, Genius Lost
by Moserary on January 15, 2009What genre of novel is Infinite Jest? Spy thriller? Coming of age? Science fiction? Pot boiler? Psychodrama? Sports tale? Political satire? Pharmacopoeia? Action adventure? Side-splitting comedy? Great literature? YES, to all of the above. I'm recommending this book to all of my friends because I want to have people to talk to about it. Infinite Jest has been listed as one of the top 100 All Time Greatest Novels of 1923-2006.
Logophiliacs, lovers of words, will revel in this appetizer, salad, entree and piece de resistance of an entire word meal. Rather, each reading is a meal -- the whole tome is practically a steady diet. Whether you are a word gourmet or gourmand, Infinite Jest provides it all for you. If you have ever spouted a pun that went over heads or offered sarcasm that was taken literally, then this book is for you. You can practice catching word plays thrown at the speed of light and I can almost assure you that even YOU will fumble a few. The author was appointed to the usage panel for the American Heritage Dictionary and was a fan of The Oxford English. It seems clear, after several trips to the 'net for diction assistance, that he wanted to get in the OED himself. I hope he makes it, some of his new word forms and usages are dynamite.
Infinite Jest introduced me to style breakthroughs that I hope will be emulated: fictional endnotes, even meta fictional endnotes (if that is what you would call the fictional endnote containing the fictional footnote.) This author fears no new literary device and mixes them up with wide-grinning glee. Mr. Wallace also has developed stream-of-consciousness writing to it's finest degree yet. Previous authors have written the stream-of-consciousness of the protagonist in the language of the author; David Foster Wallace has written the cognitive processing of his characters in the very language of the characters themselves including the misspellings and vocabulary peculiarities that would be used by the character. This technique took me right into the cortex of the characters; I could feel the pleasure and the pain almost better than second hand.
I am a new David Foster Wallace fan: somehow, his name never stuck in my awareness files until I read his obituaries in a magazine this Fall. Since excellent writers were so distraught at
Mr. Wallace's untimely suicide I needed to see what I had missed. Through the thoughts, feelings and experiences of several of his characters, Mr. Wallace has shown us poignantly the pain of his own life which was stalked by intractable depression and substance addiction. I join many of his students in forgiving him for depriving us of more of his spellbinding work -- the hurt was too large.
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