From 10 Essential Books from the Last 25 Years:
No, not everyone has read Infinite Jest. That’s a fact. But just about every literary reader has at least heard of David Foster Wallace’s freakishly huge and profoundly amazing opus. Those who’ve read it twice say it’s four times as good the second time. Those who’ve read it three times don’t say anything, stuck as they are in an endless feedback loop of footnotes and narrative curlicues. Wallace’s lush language, his brilliant cultural satire, and his encyclopedic vocabulary propel this fascinating tale about a dystopian America. Central issues range from drug addiction to family functionality, and from depression to junior sports.
Hal Incandenza, the protagonist of David Foster Wallace’s doorstep of a post-modern novel Infinite Jest, is a phenom at the Enfield Tennis Academy. He’s also a committed (though closeted) pothead. How does he manage to survive the pre-dawn drills and still maintain a number-two ranking? This grammatically precise how-to reveals all.
Sample chapters: “A Primer on Precision Toe-nail Clipping”; “Passing Mandatory Drug Tests in One Easy Step”
Read more: Fictional Characters in Need of a Book Contract
“If work is going shitty, I try to make sure that at least a couple hours in the morning are carved out for this disciplined thing called Work. If it’s going well, I often work in the p.m. too, although of course if it’s going well it doesn’t feel disciplined or like uppercase Work because it’s what I want to be doing anyway. What often happens is that when work goes well all my routines and disciplines go out the window simply because I don’t need them, and then when it starts not going well I flounder around trying to reconstruct disciplines I can enforce and habits I can stick to.”
Dave Eggers interviewing David Foster Wallace
Svenjulius the port-a-pug with The Pale King, the unfinished final David Foster Wallace novel.
handwritten grade-school poem by David Foster Wallace. (image by write by night)
High schoolers especially are in need of reading like this: structure that they can’t quite parse, insane length, hypnotic language and loose ends will do them well in a sea of formulaic novels that ‘lend themselves’ to being taught in time-sensitive classes. Moreover, the novel is in some ways a brutal foil for the teenage experience – Blake Butler recently mused that the book “seems like it was written by an extremely intelligent alien; someone trying so intricately and direly to figure out humans and so utterly, utterly failing.” We don’t know about you, but we remember this feeling. Pair that with a much-needed warning against over-entertainment, and there’s something every high schooler should take a look at.
Books you should’ve read in high school
Page count: 1,104
Time it took to write the damn thing: a mere three years
Story: In an interview with Salon, DFW said, “I wanted to do something real American, about what it’s like to live in America around the millennium.” He continued, “There’s something particularly sad about it, something that doesn’t have very much to do with physical circumstances, or the economy, or any of the stuff that gets talked about in the news. It’s more like a stomach-level sadness. I see it in myself and my friends in different ways. It manifests itself as a kind of lostness. Whether it’s unique to our generation I really don’t know.”
Novels we dare you to finish.
Paranoid? Your answer, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” 10 Novels to Solve All of Your Problems