David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (Part II)
His masterpiece finally gets the audiobook treatment, and it's a doozy
If you’re reading Infinite Jest, you’re not fucking around. Nine-hundred eighty-one pages, plus endnotes. Or, in audiobook terms: Two days, eight hours, 12 minutes and 10 seconds. It’s a three-pound, 1.51 gigabyte behemoth, a book you need to make room for on the shelf, in your hard drive, in your daily routine.
Still, David Foster Wallace’s 1996 masterpiece is just as amazing for its depth as its breadth. Indeed, despite its quasi-dystopian political machinations (those wheelchair-bound Quebecois separatist assassins have a point) and batshit crazy corporate culture underpinnings (years are no longer referred to by number, but their by their sponsorships, i.e. Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken, Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, etc.), this is a novel about small things, personal things: addiction, desperation, nervousness, our reliance on technology to keep us close, but not too close.
The plot concerns the overworked, self-medicated young athletes at the Enfield Tennis Academy, including our ostensible protagonist, nervous wreck/tennis prodigy Hal Incandenza and his severely deformed and relentlessly upbeat brother Mario. But it also concerns the psychologically and physically tormented addicts in recovery at the nearby Ennet House Drug House. Some concern is also paid to the feral hamsters that stampede across the desert, the movie so beautiful that everyone who watches it goes insane, the woman (supposedly) so beautiful she has to wear a veil, the guy who only eats Toblerone and so on forever and ever amen.
It’s true, Infinite Jest isn’t easy. It’s gigantic, and slippery, and serpentine. And just watching those 56 files slowly download can be daunting. But it’s also one of the funniest, most moving and most unforgettably insightful books ever written.