When I first picked up Infinite Jest, I was just a naive sophomore merely entering into the sphere of ＴＨＩＣＣ books and so – obviously – I failed at that attempt. And I’ve tried again. Looking for a PhD subject, I’ve thought about going somewhere into the area of media studies/consumerist culture/American society, namely something I’ve already done in my MA thesis’ chapter on DeLillo’s White Noise and what I kinda enjoyed writing about. I had a strict plan; ten days, one hundred pages each. And again, I failed.
Mostly because of bad timing. At the same time I was finishing a post-conference paper and it was much more demanding than I initially expected. And so the pressure of other responsibilities made me just browse some fragments looking for anything relevant to my present interests.
Putting aside all the jokes, memes, /lit/core material and so on, I’ve got to admit that it’s a great novel. It engulfs you. DFW creates a world full of everything I like; profound characters, obscurity, shitload of encyclopedic information, humor etc. It is problematic, of course. That whole “verbal blackface” thing, or how he depicts addicts, it’s better to read it keeping in mind all that stuff. However I cannot agree on comments about its pretentiousness. I think DFW was one of such types that he *could* appear pretentious although he was all about the real. It’s seen in his other fiction, essays, interviews, biographies, etc. Behind all that layers of obscurity, there’s a specific warmness in IJ which brings me back to this book again and again. Some kind of relatability. It makes sense if we look at it from the perspective of New Sincerity and all that it entails. It was made to give some kind of hope in our contemporary times. Does that really sound so pretentious?
Like, seriously. I love Pynchon, but from time to time it’s refreshing to read a big novel which doesn’t end in an ultimately pessimistic state of entropic disaster¹.
1. It depends on one’s interpretation, of course. Even if we assume that from his first short stories to Gravity’s Rainbow Pynchon was gradually developing his view of entropy as a force ultimately better than order (which is all about fascism and stuff), then we still have this mental discontent when Oedipa enters the auction room all frustrated and devoid of hope or at the end of GR (Now everybody-). And here’s Boltzmann’s and Gibbs’ definition of entropy: