This is the latest entry in Words, Words, Words the ongoing liveblog of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.
Previously on “Words, Words, Words”:
Had Wallace “completed” the story, he would have distracted from what I think is the real meaning of Infinite Jest.
Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I’ll tell you what that is.
Commence Part 2…
So, I may have misspoke. The truth is that isolating a single “real meaning of Infinite Jest” is next to impossible. On one hand, it can be said that the novel is about many things: fathers and sons; mothers and sons; addiction; communication; entertainment; politics; greatness, mediocrity and failure. It’s a coming of age story alongside a recovery story that is also possibly a love story, all wrapped in a cloak-and-dagger-ish mystery about international realignment and terrorism. Choose your favorite combination and go with it. The book is about a lot of things.
On the other hand, it’s tough to say the book is actually “about” anything at all. As we have noted, there is no clear resolution. We never see the characters learn lessons, come of age, fall in love or be at peace in any way that warrants a Happily Ever After type of closure. The book literally stops far away and chronologically ahead of the main events in the novel (sort of) and we don’t entirely know who lives or dies, or what the shape of the continental borders look like, or whether fathers connected with sons. I’m sure many of the most frustrated readers have tossed up their hands and decided that Infinite Jest is really about nothing at all, some kind of post-modern experiment in reader-annoyance-tolerance-levels where we’re supposed to be thinking about what it means to read stories when really all we wanted was to just plain old read a story.
Rather than walking away from IJ in one of these two unsatisfying directions, it is possible to follow a third and potentially satisfying way.
I believe there is a unified theory of Infinite Jest that explains the various particles and waves of the novel — or most of them, at least — and helps clarify why Wallace made some of the choices he made. Continue reading