'A writer of virtuostic talents who can seemingly do anything' New York Times 'Wallace is a superb comedian of culture . . . his exuberance and intellectual impishness are a delight' James Woods, Guardian 'He induces the kind of laughter which, when read in bed with a sleeping partner, wakes said sleeping partner up . . . He's damn good' Nicholas Lezard, Guardian 'One of the best books about addiction and recovery to appear in recent memory' Sunday Times Somewhere in the not-so-distant future the residents of Ennet House, a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts, and students at the nearby Enfield Tennis Academy are ensnared in the search for the master copy of INFINITE JEST, a movie said to be so dangerously entertaining its viewers become entranced and expire in a state of catatonic bliss . . . 'Wallace's exuberance and intellectual impishness are a delight, and he has deep things to say about the hollowness of contemporary American pleasure . . . sentences and whole pages are marvels of cosmic concentration . . . Wallace is a superb comedian of culture' James Wood, GUARDIAN
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This is part of a new series of guides to contemporary novels. The aim of the series is to give readers accessible and informative introductions to some of the most popular, most acclaimed and most influential novels of recent years - from ‘The Remains of the Day' to ‘White Teeth'. A team of contemporary fiction scholars from both sides of the Atlantic has been assembled to provide a thorough and readable analysis of each of the novels in question.
Infinite Jest has been hailed as one the great modern American novels and its author, David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide in 2008, as one of the most influential and innovative authors of the past 20 years. Don DeLillo called Infinite Jest a "three-stage rocket to the future," a work "equal to the huge, babbling spin-out sweep of contemporary life," while Time Magazine included Infinite Jest on its list of 100 Greatest Novels published between 1923-2006. David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide was the first book to be published on the novel and is a key reference for those who wish to explore further. Infinite Jest has become an exemplar for difficulty in contemporary Fiction-its 1,079 pages full of verbal invention, oblique narration, and a scattered, nonlinear, chronology. In this comprehensively revised second edition, Burn maps Wallace's influence on contemporary American fiction, outlines Wallace's poetics, and provides a full-length study of the novel, drawing out the most important themes and ideas, before surveying Wallace's post-Infinite Jest output, including The Pale King.
Published in conjunction with an exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Sept. 13, 2011-Mar. 4, 2012.
In 1996, David Foster Wallace published his second major novel 'Infinite Jest' that changed not only our understanding of what literature can do but, also the way we read literature. Despite its age, the book has not lost a single bit of its fascination, its actuality, and its academic appeal. With its hundreds of characters, thousands of pages, hundreds of endnotes and myriads of different perspectives, sub-plots, and narrative digressions, 'Infinite Jest' was, and still is, an extraordinary challenge for its readers as well as literary critics. One interesting question related to Wallace's work is to what extent readers are able to establish, and defend their own way of approaching literature, their natural reading habits, their personal boundaries, and their ‘readerly authority’ that are challenged by their discourse with the book. The author shows in how far the reader of 'Infinite Jest' has to get involved in this work of play, how it affects the way they read the book, and how the idiosyncratic reading experience finally becomes an integral part of the whole book itself.
I examine David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, looking at the ways in which it speaks to our current cultural moment. I posit that Wallace, in the novel, is able to use his story to comment on the ground-clearing nature of irony, technological abstraction, and postpostmodernism, and suggest that the post-postmodern future makes individuals catatonic. I also argue that Wallace predicted many of the ironic features of post-postmodernism because he lived and wrote in a generation that came after postmodernism. Wallace identifies TV as quintessentially post-postmodern, where meaning is neutralized through a Fredric Jameson's idea of pastiche--a kind of irony that only seeks to reference itself. The opening scene of Infinite Jest shows a young man unable to speak to adults, and unable to extoll his virtues. Hal, the main character in the scene, loses his ability to speak. And if readers take Hal’s metaphorical catatonia a step farther, they will see a Hal representative of a millennial generation, also unable to speak. Hal is a post-postmodern child, buried by a culture of irony and Jameson's pastiche and depthlessness, where diatribes on metaphysical aboutness are more important than the meaning of things themselves. Wallace defines this problem, in the novel, as a central obsession and avoidance of the cultural feeling of "anhedonia," the radical abstracting of things that were once full of meaning of affective content. Soren Kierkegaard also defines this problem as "infinite absolute negativity," where individuals can become purely ironic and absent from society, gaining a kind of perverse negative freedom. On the other hand, the novel, I argue, not only posits the tyranny of this newfound perverse freedom in Western culture, but also laments the backlash of overt sincerity that is equally oppressive, represented by the AA parts of the novel. In end, I argue Wallace's novel laments the fact that we are losing something essential human when it comes to making our own choices about what to believe in, in our contemporary age.
Infnite Jest is both a comic and deeply sad exploration of the multitudinous addictions and excesses that de!ne the modern subject. Set in a dystopian future, the 1079 page-long novel's intertwined, helictical plots revolve around a tennis academy, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility and the farcical machinations of "uébecois terrorists, at the centre of which is the Incandenza family. Infnite Jest humanely engages with the question of what it means to be in the modern world, rather than to simply suffer the world's exigencies. It asks what responsibility we should have for previous generations, and how we might come to terms with the excesses of our own. Finally, it confronts the question of how we should best communicate with each other, and how we should respond if, and when, we discover that a void of exists at the centre of being. Considering the novel in psychoanalytic terms enables us to parse the excesses and addictions the novel portrays and to address the existential questions of being it raises. Psychoanalysis provides a retrospective and retroactive framework within which the excessive character of the drive towards jouissance, and the piece of 'nonbeing' at the subject's core can be understood. The psychoanalytic approach makes a clear intervention in contemporary discourse on the novel, discourse which is primarily concentrated around the text's relation to postmodernity, metafiction and irony. While many critics register, in some way, the ethical concerns of the novel, psychoanalysis accommodates these themes more directly than other approaches because it is, fundamentally, a consideration of the ethical meaning of being and desiring. This thesis explores Infinite Jest in light of Sigmund Freud's, Jacques Lacan's, and Joan Copjec's understanding of subjectivity. It analyses the novel's repetition of the addictive drive towards external objects, the practical mode of being offered by Alcoholics Anonymous, and the problems subjects encounter in trying to understand the human purpose of a void at the heart of existence.
"Elegant Complexity is the first critical work to provide detailed and thorough commentary on each of the 192 sections of David Foster Wallace's masterful Infinite Jest. No other commentary on Infinite Jest recognizes that Wallace clearly divided the book into 28 chapters that are thematically unified. A chronology at the end of the study reorders each section of the novel into a sequential timeline that orients the reader and that could be used to support a chronological reading of the novel. Other helpful reference materials include a thematic outline, more chronologies, a map of one the novel's settings, lists of characters grouped by association, and an indexed list of references. Elegant Complexity orients the reader at the beginning of each section and keeps commentary separate for those readers who only want orientation. The researcher looking for specific characters or themes is provided a key at the beginning of each commentary. Carlisle explains the novel's complex plot threads (and discrepancies) with expert insight and clear commentary. The book is 99% spoiler-free for first-time readers of Infinite Jest."--Publisher's website.