25 Points: Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest
by David Foster Wallace
Little, Brown, 1996
1104 pages / $17.99 buy from Powell’s









1. David Foster Wallace was born in a small town in western Ohio, best known for its jar factory. This would figure in the book, Infinite Jest.

2. The first three pages of Infinite Jest are like a key to the novel. Without them you’ll probably be lost.

3. A palm tree is a recurring motif in the book, which seems to represent an opening and closing of the author’s heart.

4. DFW first wrote the manuscript to Infinite Jest when he was 22. He put it in a box that he carried from apartment to apartment as he studied at various schools or followed various women about the country.

5. By the third chapter, with the introduction of the character of the cabbie, you’ll probably feel confused and even ready to give up. Most people do right here.

6. Infinite Jest will seem like the driest book you’ve ever read. DFW needed to wring out the wet in literature.

7. A capable reader will read 22 pages at a time. Don’t worry if you aren’t capable. Most of us won’t be.

8. DFW refound the manuscript of Infinite Jest at age 33, when he was moving out of the house near Tulsa. He didn’t think much of it, apparently.

9. In a survey of college students, most readers found themselves skipping an average of 2 pages every 10.

10. At one point, the cabbie finds a note from his wife. This seems to represent a fracturing of the potency of language.

13. DFW lived in 7 cities, 2 towns, and a township in his brief life. This kind of movement is absent in Infinite Jest.

14. If you notice yourself feeling lost, reread the first three pages, especially the note on turmoil.

15. DFW wrote a very long treatise on suicide and its effects on his family.

16. At about page 222, you will notice a shift in tone towards the infinite.

17. The three stones seem to represent an overarching self-consciousness and a nervous disposition.

18. DFW read a passage from Infinite Jest at his brother’s funeral. Most of the family thought this was inappropriate even though the brother requested it.

21. If you’ve made it to page 389, statistically speaking, you will finish the book.

22. The palm trees lean in the Santa Ana winds. Those three pebbles are reconfigured.

23. This may be the best book you’ve ever read, just behind Moby Dick.

24. DFW thought that Infinite Jest was a failure, which, conversely, it largely was.

25. The last page of the book will be like a slowly turning knob. That’s the way DFW wanted it.

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