“Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 12: Final Thoughts



(p. 952)

So what can I say about a massive 1000-page book that uses tennis and drug addiction to explain life in the millennial age? This book is probably not for everyone, but if you have the fortitude to read it, I’m sure you will gain insights from doing so. Personally, I’m glad I read it. While there were some slow parts, particularly those that gave more detail on the technical aspects of tennis than were possibly needed (similar to Melville’s lengthy descriptions of the workings of whaling ships), as a whole, the book kept my interest and there were certainly parts that I would consider brilliant.

I figured I would say a little about the writing style. Wallace is able to change voices throughout the text, and the language of the various characters is very natural and believable. For me, this is the sign of a skilled wordsmith. I particularly enjoyed the way he played with the words, altering spelling in order to capture the nuances of regional accents.

So I will close out this series on Infinite Jest with an existential question and a quote. Is our life nothing more than an ironic joke? (Note similarities between “ironic joke” (IJ) and “Infinite Jest” (IJ).) I suspect Camus would love to weigh in on this one. With that, I’ll leave you with one last quote from the book:

‘I don’t know that he ever even got a finished Master. That’s your story. There wasn’t anything unendurable or enslaving in either of my scenes. Nothing like these actual-perfection rumors. These are academic rumors. He talked about making something quote too perfect. But it was a joke. He had a thing about entertainment, being criticized about entertainment v. nonentertainment and stasis. He used to refer to the Work itself as “entertainments.” He always meant it ironically. Even in jokes he never talked about an anti-version or antidote for God’s sake. He’d never carry it that far. A joke.’


‘When he talked about this thing as a quote perfect entertainment, terminally compelling – it was always ironic – he was having a sly little jab at me. I used to go around saying the veil was to disguise lethal perfection, that I was too lethally beautiful for people to stand. It was a kind of joke I’d gotten from one of his entertainments, the Medusa-Odalisk thing. That even in U.H.I.D. I hid by hiddenness, in denial about the deformity itself. So Jim took a failed piece and told me it was too perfect to release – it’d paralyze people. It was entirely clear that it was an ironic joke. To me.’

(p. 940)


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5 responses to ““Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 12: Final Thoughts

  1. Love that last thought on irony. I have been pondering that recently as well. Why does everything have to be so heavy. Give me some ironic lightness of being, please 🙂
    Thank you for doing the series, Jeff.

    • “Ironic lightness of being.” Love that! I’m going to strive to get more of that in my life. I’ve already begun by filtering out most of the political noise from social media 😉

      Thanks for following along, Monika, and as always, thank you for your insightful comments.


  2. Thanks for sharing this series as you read your way through Infinite Jest, Jeff. I’ve appreciated and enjoyed it.

    “The Medusa-Odalisk thing. That even in U.H.I.D.” Brilliant.


    • Hi Jamie! Thank you for following along and sharing your insightful
      comments. This morning I listened to a podcast where they talked about DFW. Such an interesting person!


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