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Infinite Jest: A Novelby David Foster Wallace
Infinite Jest is unique; it was bred in the optimism and new frontiersmanship of the dot-com 1990s but was simultaneously an early omen of where we are today. It looks into our present beyond what were only horizons when it was written: the tensions of a global economy, the opiate of on-demand entertainment, the near-impossible pursuit of greatness in a winner-take-all society. Tennis phenoms struggle in an absurdly demanding academy and recovering addicts search for something strong enough to help them through, all while a cadre of legless Quebecois assassins search for a movie so entertaining that they plan to use it as a weapon. At turns madcap and heart-wrenching, this is the tour-de-force novel of the forces that have shaped our new millennium and will likely continue shaping it for decades to come.
"Infinite Jest is a sprawling tour de force, which is often melancholy, funny and essayistic within the space of a few pages, and almost every page is rich with the local pleasures of Wallace's ability to render the ordinary in unusual and imaginative ways....Back Bay Books...should...be congratulated on having priced their edition at $10, a policy that will perhaps help to bring this rich, funny and ambitious novel to a wider audience." Stephen Burn, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire TLS review)
Synopses & Reviews
Set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are.
Equal part philosophical quest, romantic adventure, and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value. It is an exuberant, uniquely American exploration of the passions that make us human — and one of those rare books that renews the very idea of what a novel can do.
This tenth anniversary edition includes an Introduction by Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius).
"A virtuoso display of style....There is generous intelligence and authentic passion on every page." Arthur Sheppard, Time Magazine
"There's no doubt that Wallace's talent is immense and his imagination limitless. When he backs off and gives his narrative some breathing room, he emerges as a consistently innovative, sensitive, and intelligent writer." Dave Eggers, San Francisco Chronicle
"[T]his skeleton of satire is fleshed out with several domestically scaled narratives and masses of hyperrealistic quotidian detail. The overall effect is something like a sleek Vonnegut chassis wrapped in layers of post-millennial Zola." Jay McInerney, The New York Times Book Review
"Wallace's brilliant but somewhat bloated dirigible of a second novel will appeal to steadfast readers of Pynchon and Gaddis. But few others will have the stamina for it....
"A work of genius...grandly ambitious, wickedly comic, a wild, surprisingly readable tour de force." Seattle Times
"If you can stand the extreme length, ignore the footnotes, and have a bed-desk to rest this tome on, this book can be fun....Distinct, idiomatic, wild, and crazy, this book is destined to have a cult following." Library Journal
"Well, there is nothing epic or infinite about this, although much that's repetitious or long....
"[S]o few American writers show anything resembling Wallace's critical engagement with the popular culture that disowns them. At minimum, he's the funniest writer of his generation. I can't decide if I want his next book to be shorter or not." Jonathan Dee, Voice Literary Supplement
"Wallace has not so much written a novel as created a system, an intricately engineered internally consistent system that is fueled by his endless imagination, his pure verbal prowess and a language that looks familiar but feels utterly invented." David McLean, Boston Book Review
"Infinite Jest" is the name of a movie said to be so entertaining that anyone who watches it loses all desire to do anything but watch it. People die happily, viewing it in endless repetition. The novel Infinite Jest is the story of this addictive entertainment, and in particular how it affects a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts and a nearby tennis academy, whose students have many budding addictions of their own. As the novel unfolds, various individuals, organizations, and governments vie to obtain the master copy of "Infinite Jest" for their own ends, and the denizens of the tennis school and the halfway house are caught up in increasingly desperate efforts to control the movie — as is a cast including burglars, transvestite muggers, scam artists, medical professionals, pro football stars, bookies, drug addicts both active and recovering, film students, political assassins, and one of the most endearingly messed-up families ever captured in a novel.
On this outrageous frame hangs an exploration of essential questions about what entertainment is, and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment interacts with our need to connect with other humans; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are. Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value. The huge cast and multilevel narrative serve a story that accelerates to a breathtaking, heartbreaking, unforgettable conclusion. It is an exuberant, uniquely American exploration of the passions that make us human — and one of those rare books that renew the very idea of what a novel can do.
About the Author
David Foster Wallace is the author of Infinite Jest, The Broom of the System, and Girl With Curious Hair. His essays and stories have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, Playboy, Paris Review, Premiere, Tennis, and The Review of Contemporary Fiction. Wallace has received the Whiting Award, the Lannan Award for Fiction, the Paris Review Prize for humor, the QPB Joe Savago New Voices Award, and an O. Henry Award.
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