Wallace, David Foster. Infinite Jest. New york: Back Bay Books, 2009.
Reason read: I picked this up in honor of Wallace’s birth month. Take note of the date.
To be honest, the sheer size of this book was daunting even before I cracked it open. Add to its heft four complicated subplots, over 380 footnotes, corporate sponsorships, and a futuristic timeline and I waved the white flag. I didn’t feel bad about my decision after I came across a YouTube video of Bill Gates explaining why he couldn’t be bothered either. the one element of Infinite Jest I thought I was missing out on was all of the references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I think I would have enjoyed teasing out those details.
Plot One concerns a group of radicals from Quebec who plan a violent geopolitical coup.
Plot Two centers on a group of students in Boston all suffering or coping with substance addiction.
Plot three takes place at a tennis Academy in Connecticut.
Fourth plot is the history of the Incandenza family. All plots are connected by the movie “Infinite Jest” by James Incandenza, but are not in chronological order.
As an aside, when Bill Gates says he can’t be bothered to read Infinite Jest it makes you wonder why you’re reading it.
Author fact: Wallace attended Amherst College just down the road from me. The fact he committed suicide is a tragedy.
Book trivia: Infinite Jest has made an impact on pop culture with references in television and music.
Nancy said: Pearl called Infinite Jest an “excellent pomo book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in one of my least favorite chapters called “The Postmodern Condition” (p 190).
Wallace, David Foster. Oblivion: Stories. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2004.
Reason read: June is short story month
The complexity of “Mr. Squishy” has been compared to a Magic Eye poster. Reading and rereading will yield varying results. Getting up close will show you something different than if you backed away or circled it, growling like a battle-ready rabid dog. As readers, we step into the scene as it is already underway, a focus group talking about an initially unnamed product. Then we discover we are focused on a chocolate dessert food product under the brand name of Mr. Squishy. The company is trying to market a chocolate dessert with the name “Felonies!” At the same time, unrelated to the scene on the inside is an individual climbing the outside glass wall. The duality of scenes implies an inside looking out/outside looking in desire.
“The Suffering Channel”
There are more ironies in this story than I know what to do with. when faced with writing a review for “The Suffering Channel” I soon found that I was suffering. How do I even begin to describe this short story? Having said all that, here is my feeble attempt:
Brint Molke is an artist. His medium is not oils or watercolor. He specializes in his own excrement. Not to say he is a sculpture in sh!t. He just happens to defecate art. This astonishing feat caught the attention of Skip Atwater, writer for Style magazine. The title of Wallace’s short story comes from Skip’s coverage of a cable channel called…wait for it…the suffering channel. A 24/7/365 channel where, you guessed it, one can watch images of all kinds of suffering. There is more to the story than this, but the overlaying detail that shrouds everything is Style magazine is located in one of the World Trade Center Towers and it’s September 10th, 2001. In other words, nothing in the story matters because in a day’s time everything will change.
Author fact: Wallace wrote “Mr Squishy” under the name Elizabeth Klemm.
Book trivia: there are six other stories in Oblivion that I did not read.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).