Rating: 4/5 stars.
(Yes, I’m going to start giving ratings. Rating scale to follow, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. Also, spoilers. In case there are few of you who haven’t read this book yet. )
The Fault in Our Stars is a great book.
That may seem like an obvious thing to say. It is a bestseller, received rave reviews, and is a top ten list favourite. But I want to be clear. It’s a great book, no qualifiers. It’s not a great YA book. It’s not a great cancer book. It’s a great book. Continue reading
After finishing Infinite Jest and realizing I had no idea what just happened, I found a few reviews on blogs I already follow. I was heartened to find that I was not the only one who finished the book and was completely and utterly confused.
I also noticed that all the Infinite Jest posts were written by males. This might not seem like a big deal, but, the vast majority of book bloggers I follow are female. Indeed, the vast majority of all book bloggers are female. Searching past my own blogosphere, I found numerous articles, reading groups, Twitter accounts, and wikis devoted to DFW and his work, and they were nearly all written by men. What gives? Why are all of DFW’s super fans male? Continue reading
I just finished Infinite Jest, and I have questions.
I finished the book early one morning, before the kids were awake. The first thing I did was Google “what happened in Infinite Jest.” The second thing I did was Google “Infinite Jest WTF” and my own blog was the fourth result. Gulp.
I started to read some blog posts and critical reviews, and quickly realized that if I just read what other people think, I’m not going to draw my own conclusions. So, I quickly wrote down my questions and impressions so they’re as fresh as possible. I don’t want to sound smarter than I am because I’ve read a bunch of other people’s thoughts.
(As an aside, 101 Books identifies this, reading reviews before forming an opinion, as a sign that you might be a book snob. Well… I’ve come to terms with my book snobbery, so I’m okay with that!)
This post is for other people who finished Infinite Jest, and, like me, were like “WHAT HAPPENED,” so you’ll feel better; for people who finished it and totally understood everything, so you’ll feel smart; and for people who haven’t read this book, so that maybe you’ll be intrigued enough to pick it up. Despite not understanding everything, I think this is an important book for all of us borderline millennials and, well, everyone. To paraphase DFW himself, this book is about what it is to be a fucking human being.
In no particular order, here are my questions, impressions, thoughts, and feelings upon finishing Infinite Jest. Spoilers, etc:
- What is the significance of TEETH in this book? Off the top of my head, the ADA forgives Gately for causing his wife’s obsession with cleaning her teeth, one of Himself’s films was about teeth, one of ETA staff is obsessed with teeth, Mario is “homo dental” which I don’t even know if that’s a thing, and every time I read “Ortho Stice” I thought of braces. This may seem like a weird thing to fixate one, but it is really bothering me!
- These is a serious lack of female characters in this book. The settings are primarily male: A tennis academy and a drug recovery house, both of which of course have female residents, but are male dominated. The primary females are damaged or physically different – Joelle’s face (both as PGOAT and UHID), Avril’s height, Pat’s limp. Continue reading
Once I got over my initial fear, I’ve been pretty cocky about reading Infinite Jest. It’s been WAY easier than I thought it would be. I’m able to pick it up here and there without backtracking to remember what happened. DFW’s quirks and tics aren’t bothering me much (though starting sentences with “and but so then” just doesn’t make sense to me.) It’s just SO much easier to read something written in and about a culture you’re familiar with, than say 19th century Russia. My shiny new Kobo Glo is really helpful, too. I can look up words right on screen (my new favourite word is postprandial) AND I can jump back and forth between main text and end notes (good thing because there are a ton of them).
So I’m thinking I’m quite SMRT. Then this happens:
Calculus was by far the most difficult subject I’ve ever learned. In an academic career marked by minimum effort and honour roll results, calculus was just beyond my brain’s capabilities. I worked harder than any of my other classes and barely passed. Having to think about calculus again was like a big smack down, reminding me that I’m not that smart after all.
And THEN the end notes started to get out of control. The Kobo works great until you have footnotes within an end note. Then it just sort of shrugs and says “yeah, I don’t know, you find your own way back.” And end note 123 splinters into its own chapter for some reason. I guess it takes a book like Infinite Jest to expose the limitations of the technology (DFW probably would have LOVED that. You know his BFF Jonathan Franzen would.)
So, what’s the point of all the fussy words, strange constructions, copious end notes, and mathematics? Is DFW just messing with us? Trying to make the reader feel dumb? Weeding out the riff raff? Showing off? I think it’s a bit of all of these, but there’s probably some meta stuff going on… like, life isn’t a straightforward narrative, or something. I don’t know. I’m feeling pretty dumb right now.
But, I will soldier on! I’m one third of the way through after 23 days of reading, so I’m on track to finish in less than three months total. For the record, though, this is the ONLY way I want to deal with calculus from now on:
Dave Eggars writes in the foreword to Infinite Jest, “This is not a book to be read with a child on your knee.” I’m paraphrasing, as I actually have a child on my knee right now and can’t get up to find the book. Continue reading
Who knew I could do enough book and bloggy things in one month to warrant an update?
September was a challenging month. Henry went through pink eye, thrush, teething, and colds. He still doesn’t sleep at night. Or ever. But, I feel like I’m getting back into a groove. My commitment to read every day helps a lot. There were a few days where it didn’t happen, but usually, if I tell myself “just one sentence,” I’ll end up reading a few pages. I may never be as prolific a reader and blogger as most, but this feels good.
I got books! And things!
- Won: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story by DT Max, a biography of the late David Foster Wallace. The Edmonton Journal’s book columnist Michael Hingston (@mhingston) had an extra copy to give away and I entered on a whim; I’ve never read any of DFW’s work. I was going to jump right in with Infinite Jest, but Michael suggested I start with something a little less ambitious, like Consider the Lobster. “Considering” that Infinite Jest is more than a thousand pages long, I think I’ll take that suggestion. Check out Michael’s blog for lots of local literary goodness.
- Bought: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. This might just be the longest book I’ve ever attempted. Eek.
- Bought: Love in the Time of Cholera. See my rant about the cover here.
- Gifted: A brand new, pink Kobo Glo. It’s great! Mostly. Review to come.
I read books! Yes, plural, BOOKS.
- Vineland by Thomas Pynchon – I wrote up my initial thoughts on this excellent book. Four stars, nearly five.
- From Away by Michelle Ferguson – Review soon. Interesting themes but the characters didn’t come alive for me. Three stars.
I did things on other blogs!
- I guest blogged on Reading in Winter. Check out my post on Paranormal in Classic Literature. What a great experience. Kristilyn even helped me with the final touches as I was in the middle of sleep hell with my seven month old.
- I created my Classics Club list! Now I just have to actually join. I figure it’ll be book snob central – so excited.
- I committed to do a guest post for Angry Vegan in October. It’s not a book blog, so I’ll have to come up with something a little different. Here’s a guest post I did last year about my week-long vegan challenge failure.
Here’s to an even more productive October. And hopefully some sleep.