Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Something Entirely Unrelated to Ministry

During the month of March (and February, if truth be told) I read David Foster Wallace's magnum opus Infinite Jest. At 1,079 pages (including 100 pages of footnotes in what must be 6-point font) I feel justifiably proud in having finished it.

Infinite Jest has been described as an "entertaining book about entertainment, and addictive book about addiction, and a long book about longing." And although it contains about a dozen of the most grotesque images I've ever encountered in print, for the most part it is simply hilarious and thought-provoking.

But check out some of these reactions from readers:

"Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace is the worst science fiction novel ever written. The truth is it might be the worst novel ever written, or at least published..."

"I stared at the bookmark, winced at the thought of all of this work being for little more than the accomplishment of some esoteric goal. I went out for Vietnamese food, bought groceries, enjoyed an hour or so at a coffee shop reading the newspaper and checking the college football scores on the cell phone. All the while, I knew what had to be done. I made some strong coffee." [This person includes an epic reading journal charting the progress of her reading.]

"So how better to end the novel than to refuse to entertain you, to pull up short, thus spurring you to actively contemplate its implications? Fine. You got me, David Foster Wallace. You also just lost a reader."

"Whew! I'm finished reading Infinite Jest. David Foster Wallace is a genius. Definitely. Absolutely. No doubt about it."

"Infinite Jest is the greatest piece of literature ever penned in the English language... I'm only just now, a year after finishing it for the first time, finally starting to wrap my head around the depth and complexity of [it.]"

The other thing to know about DFW is his use of intense vocabulary. Consider the following:

anfractuous, fulvous, strabismic, saurian, ephebe, extant, papular, sallet, caparison, carminative, apical, Actaeon, parturient, antinomically, strigil, effulgence, inspissated, sinciput, felo-de-se, nystagmus, Eschaton, parget, pules, ablative, pedalferrous, ascapartic, semion, spansules, fremitic, omnissent, lalating, votaried.

Having also read David Foster Wallace's essay collections, "Consider the Lobster" and "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", I must say I'm a big fan.