* 'Ambitious, accomplished, deeply humorous, brilliant and witty and moving. A literary sensation' INDEPENDENT * With a new foreword by Dave Eggers
David Foster Wallace is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Lannan Award for Fiction, the Paris Review's Aga Kahn Prize and John Train Prize for Humour, and the O. Henry Award.
Wallace's second novel is not for the faint-hearted or the weak-wristed. Wallace (The Girl with Curious Hair, LJ 7/89) throws everything he knows-and he knows plenty-into this river of stories. If you can stand the extreme length, ignore the footnotes, and have a bed-desk to rest this tome on, this book can be fun. Wallace sandwiches more than you'd ever want to know about a private tennis boarding school, Quebec separatists, a drug-and-alcohol addict's halfway house, potheads, and other topics-both trendy and not-in between E-mail messages, admissions reports, headlines, and other real-life documents, or pseudo-documents. Too much happens here even to begin to summarize, but the author has a wicked sense of humor and a wonderful eye for capturing the odd juxtapositions of modern life. Besides his lack of conciseness, Wallace's other main weakness is dialog: nobody talks as cleverly as most of his characters do. Distinct, idiomatic, wild, and crazy, this book is destined to have a cult following. Recommended for most fiction collections.-Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, Ind.
'A writer of virtuostic talents who can seemingly do anything' NEW YORK TIMES 'Wallace is a superb comedian of culture . . . his exuberance and intellectual impishness are a delight' James Woods, GUARDIAN 'He induces the kind of laughter which, when read in bed with a sleeping partner, wakes said sleeping partner up . . . He's damn good' Nicholas Lezard, GUARDIAN 'One of the best books about addiction and recovery to appear in recent memory.' SUNDAY TIMES 'Funny, smart and perceptively written.' OBSERVER REVIEW 'Hugely ambitious... There are scenes of gruesome hilarity and some of genuine tragedy... The most relevant portrayal of American culture to appear in recent years, INFINITE JEST is fascinating, ridiculous and excrutiating.' INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY '[A] remarkable satire on American entertainment and addiction... the book's mixture of maniacal inventiveness and comic brio gradually becomes quite an addiction itself... Foster Wallace has already won comparison with post-modern giants like Pynchon and Gaddis- he has even been tagged "the slacker's Proust"- but I think we can say, in hope as much as in praise that INFINITE JEST is a one-off.' DAILY TELEGRAPH
With its baroque subplots, zany political satire, morbid, cerebral humor and astonishing range of cultural references, Wallace's brilliant but somewhat bloated dirigible of a second novel (after The Broom in the System) will appeal to steadfast readers of Pynchon and Gaddis. But few others will have the stamina for it. Set in an absurd yet uncanny near-future, with a cast of hundreds and close to 400 footnotes, Wallace's story weaves between two surprisingly similar locales: Ennet House, a halfway-house in the Boston Suburbs, and the adjacent Enfield Tennis Academy. It is the ``Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment'' (each calendar year is now subsidized by retail advertising); the U.S. and Canada have been subsumed by the Organization of North American Nations, unleashing a torrent of anti-O.N.A.N.ist terrorism by Quebecois separatists; drug problems are widespread; the Northeastern continent is a giant toxic waste dump; and CD-like ``entertainment cartridges'' are the prevalent leisure activity. The novel hinges on the dysfunctional family of E.T.A.'s founder, optical-scientist-turned-cult-filmmaker Dr. James Incandenza (aka Himself), who took his life shortly after producing a mysterious film called Infinite Jest, which is supposedly so addictively entertaining as to bring about a total neural meltdown in its viewer. As Himself's estranged sons‘professional football punter Orin, introverted tennis star Hal and deformed naïf Mario‘come to terms with his suicide and legacy, they and the residents of Ennet House become enmeshed in the machinations of the wheelchair-bound leader of a Quebecois separatist faction, who hopes to disseminate cartridges of Infinite Jest and thus shred the social fabric of O.N.A.N. With its hilarious riffs on themes like addiction, 12-step programs, technology and waste management (in all its scatological implications), this tome is highly engrossing‘in small doses. Yet the nebulous, resolutionless ending serves to underscore Wallace's underlying failure to find a suitable novelistic shape for his ingenious and often outrageously funny material. (Feb.)