changing lives since 2003 (ms_pooka) wrote,
changing lives since 2003
ms_pooka

inifinite jest: an unstructured review because when on earth do i have time or energy for structure?

once upon a time, when the delivery of my second child was making itself inevitably imminent, i decided i should go to half price books to purchase some hospital bedside reading materials. i'm not sure what i was thinking by walking out of there with the 1,000+ page infinite jest and also thick-volumed gravity's rainbow. the volume of the volumes frightened me immediately. after two tries, i was still having trouble getting into gravity's rainbow. and ended up putting both of them aside for a year, until i began reading again during the two times a day i nurse violet to sleep.

i made my way through jonathan safran foer's eating animals (read it!) and was incredibly pleased to have read a book in its entirety for what was quite possibly the first time since birthing my first child four years earlier. i mean, we still haven't finished reading fast food nation out loud to each other. oh, wait. i take back that last piece of dramatic flourish. we did complete out loud readings to each other of glass castles, stolen lives, and the basic eight. we haven't yet survived reading lolita in tehran.


so i've finished eating animals and i'm looking for books in my house which have not yet been conquered and there sits infinite jest in all it's door-stopping glory. i think, "let's do it," and take a crack at it and suffer my way through 300 pages of detailed accounts of practicing tennis. i began to flounder. i was starting to want out. but i buckled down and pushed forward, knowing it sometimes takes me awhile to get into a story. it's just this one took the length of a regularly-sized book to do it.

several different, detailed plotlines begin to emerge and intertwine and i'm knocking off hundreds of pages and ignoring my preschooler disciplinary theory books. everything's building to a crest and then i turn the last page and ....

splat.

just when i'm thinking we're running out of room and i'm about to feel like i've died and gone to infinite jest heaven where the secrets to all things will be revealed, i run into the two hundred pages of footnotes and no answers.

now, i'm not trying to say you can't have a bit of lingering mystery at the end of a book. but it really felt like the carpet was pulled way the hell out from under me.

did he get tired of writing after one thousand pages?

i did read the footnotes, granted out of order because i couldn't flip flop pages all over the place without waking up my charge. but i kept getting the feeling i was reading the work of someone with a bit of an ego. someone who felt very avant-garde in being ridiculous. either that or someone who wanted every part and parcel that he had written for the book to be read. a literary pack rat. i kept wondering if there had been an editor involved in any of this.

most of the footnotes just down right pissed me off. they contributed nothing to the storylines (for me). and, like i said, even most of the interesting notes just felt like pieces from the cutting room floor. like a bloopers reel. or outtakes.

some bits really felt like showing off. "here is a diagram of a complex mathematical/physics principle about a door knob which doesn't really have bearing on the story and i also know more than any ordinary citizen really needs to know about pharmaceuticals and tennis." that kind of business.

i know i won't be the cool kid for saying any of this, because this book is obviously a new classic of post modern literature, or what have you, and has obviously received a good share of critical acclaim. i'm chalking this up to my critical reading skills, which ceased development beyond high school literature classes (and, while it was interesting trying to interpret words of others and one hundered levels of symbolism, that irritated me as well, presuming we could say the author was purposely constructing this secondary structure underneath the primary story... same thing goes with art... though i suppose that's supposed to be the fun of both).

i mean, don't get me wrong. there is obviously plenty of talent and thought and creativity in the story. i sure as hell couldn't come up with all of that.

alright, so i've read a review from atlantic monthly and i'm not crazy or just dense. it really does leave everything hanging loosely. the article admonishes readers for expecting traditional endings. i don't care if it's traditional or not, but there's no need for laziness masquerading as avant garde.

my sensibilities are flexible, almost acrobatic. maybe tomorrow i'll find it brilliant. today, i feel like i'm being asked to believe i'm like winona ryder's mother in beetle juice, flung across my 80s abstract art and espousing there are no ends to stories, there is no sense in life, there is no meaning in meaning.

today, i'm trying to keep from splitting in half from the hammering ways of a relentless four year old. i'm sapped of strength for going to the gym. i don't have the psychological fortitude to go to the store to get ingredients for dinner. all i have left to preserve any last shreds of my sanity is forgetting dinner exists and sitting in my car drinking coffee and praying a certain someone becomes unconscious for awhile. i suppose i've lost my whimsy.

wallace's character pulled a fast one on the audience members attending the joke. i think there's some significance there.
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