Some months ago I asked my friend Bud (not to be confused with my friend Budd if he had read David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” He said he had not, and if any of his friends had, he expected it to be me. I, in fact, had tried once and failed early. Now I decided to live up to the burden of my reputation.
My goal was 10 pp./day, which would have taken me 107.9 days, including 96 pp. of footnotes, some with their own multi-page footnotes. But I could not hold that pace. The type was small (and the footnotes smaller); my eyes tired. The content was thorny; my brain ducked and dodged.
About p. 200,I turned to Wikipedia for a summary of the plot(s). Once I knew what was going on, I relaxed and enjoyed myself. I don’t think I was cheating. It situated e more than it revealed secrets. Besides this is a book that deserves multiple readings, not that I expect to do that. On the other hand, I don’t know what novel with which to follow it.
There are, I would say, three story lines running toward but never quite connecting with each other. (Wallace says they do, only not between the covers of the book.) One involves a tennis academy, one a nearby addiction treatment center, and one a terrorist group of legless assassins. The time is a not-too-distant future, when naming rights to years, like bowl games, have been acquired by corporate sponsors and much of the northeast US has been turned into a toxic waste dump in which mutant creatures proliferate.
It is a hoot. The book is very funny and very smart. Wallace employs an amazing mind. His interests and areas of knowledge are vast. No moment, no skein of light or sound, escapes his senses. And despite his interest in minutiae, he delivers some heavy shit. There is, for instance, the reflection from a character in hideous pain that since he can bear if for this second, he can bear it for the next second, and then, second by second, he can endure.
Keep that in mind and inauguration day approaches.