Infinite Jest – an Unconventional but Hard-Hitting Novel Meant for Thinking Readers

Written by the American author David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest is a mammoth work of fiction, both literally and figuratively. The voluminous book of 1079 pages with 388 endnotes and innumerable footnotes is a sweeping novel included in Time Magazine’s 100 best English novels for 1923 and 2005. Besides being a prolific writer of novels. Foster Wallace had written short stories, was a professor of Creative Writing and English, and an essayist who died by suicide in 2008. The unconventional narrative structure of the novel makes it difficult to read, but mostly its length does not make it the stuff meant for subway reading. Instead, the book seems to be more suitable as an emergency doorstop. The giant book is a mind-altering tragi-comedy that describes people’s journey in Pursuit of Happiness.

Infinite Jest – Clarification from The Writer

Readers have been curious about the writing style and what prompted the author to choose the unconventional narrative structure of the novel. David Foster Wallace was perhaps aware that he owed an explanation to the readers. During a post-publication interview, he admitted the intentional inclusion of the endnotes to interrupt the linear progression of the story while ensuring that the narrative did not become incomprehensible. The longing for genuine connection amid the post-modern detachment is one of the recurring themes of the fiction that touches upon the pervasiveness of pop culture with skillfully manipulated language that lends immense flexibility to the novel.

Here is a brief infinite jest review.

The Plot

The complex plot of the story is hard to describe within a small space. Instead, treating this article as an infinite jest summary should help gather some insights about the novel set in a dystopian future that sees ONAN or Organization of North American Nations forming with America, Canada, and Mexico being its members. In the novel, Massachusetts is at the center of most of the action between MIT, Enfield Tennis Academy, and a Boston area –AA group.

‘The Wheelchair Assassins’, a radical fringe group, is trying to liberate Quebec and help it achieve independence by destabilizing ONAN. The group’s target is to seize a copy of the film ‘Infinite Jest,’ referred to as Entertainment in the novel, and spread it across the US. The fascinating film is so entertaining that it turns viewers into addicts who lose all interest in life and are left to die. The addictiveness of the film upholds the author’s view on pop culture. Agents of ‘Office of Unspecified Service’ (OUS) go all-out to foil the attempts of ONAN to seize the Entertainment by creating disruptions or by creating an antidote in the form of anti-Entertainment.

Against this backdrop, the story revolves around the protagonist Hal Incandenza, whose family owns the Enfield Tennis Academy and whose father, late James Incandenza, was the creator of the Entertainment. Hal is a talented tennis player, and most of the events of the novel take place during his stint at the tennis academy. Hal struggles to adjust to other people, has a problematic relationship with his parents, and finally commits suicide.

The novel Infinite jest ends without solutions to the problems and leaves the readers to draw their conclusions.

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