Posted by: Matt | May 31, 2007

Infinite Reading

I’ve not been this intimated by a book since taking calculus in college. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is not only imposing in its size, but also its language. Wallace’s intelligence is almost immediately recognizable when reading this large tome. I almost have to be at my computer or a dictionary while reading so that I can look up definitions.

The novel also contains the longest paragraphs I’ve ever seen, sometimes spanning several pages. I rely on paragraph breaks to take a bit of a rest, but when they are tremendously lengthy there is no rest to be found. In addition to the high number of pages, each page is quite large and the print is small. The other night I read for about a half an hour and managed to make it through about 3 pages, of course I also read about 6 pages worth of endnotes.

Oh, didn’t I tell you about the endnotes? The author has also included notes to help explain and flesh out details in the novel. You don’t find too many novels like that.

The storyline also skips around in time, and the years are named after commercial products, so it is impossible to discover in which year, in our system, events are occurring. I can’t help but feel I’m quite lost. I’m attempting to grasp the overall picture and not worry too much about details, but to this point I am not even sure I have achieved that goal.

It may sound like I am saying the book isn’t worth reading, but that’s not the case at all. I am determined to keep reading to the end and hope that I will be rewarded for my effort. The harder you work, the stronger the sense of accomplishment, right…?

Alas, I hope I haven’t scared anyone off who had been thinking of reading this book. I am only about 65 pages in, so this is not even near a final analysis.

Update:  After writing this post last night I sat in bed and read from the book.  It was quite enjoyable, as I was in one of the spots where the story is pretty straight forward.  I was even able to read 13 pages in about 30 minutes.  That’s much better than 3 pages in as much time…



  1. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say once you finish.

  2. Dewey – I’m also looking forward to that, I’m afraid we’ll both be waiting quite awhile! 🙂

  3. That sounds frustrating!

  4. Kelly – It can be frustrating, but then I have an enjoyable experience like last night and it’s worth it.

  5. I know exactly how you feel! I feel like I’ve been reading it forever, but I’ve not even reached page 100 yet. Everyone tells me it’s so wonderful, though, so I carry on, but I keep getting distracted by other, “faster” books. Sigh.

  6. Bibliolatrist – I’ve just recently passed the 100 page mark, but I also find it’s easy to be distracted. I have to read some every couple days to make sure I don’t let it get away from me.

  7. I started this book a few years ago and then quit it. I always meant to go back to it, but there it still sits on my shelf. Maybe this fall.

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