This book is very dense. And very long.
It takes a few hundred pages to get into Mr. Wallace’s narrative cadence and the story. The book, published in 1996, takes place in the near ‘alternate’ future US (mostly Boston) that just happens to be around the early 2010’s (i.e. Now).
The majority of the novel occurs in November, Y.D.A.U.
Mr. Wallace’s Subsidized Time setting (Y.D.A.U, above), sudden transitions to different characters and points in time, both Subsidized and B.S, abundant footnotes (some of which are short stories and key to the narrative) and a very effective blending of ‘real’ items versus fictionalized items creates an uneasiness in the reader, me, that stays with you, me, throughout the book.
The above paragraph is very mediocre attempt at impersonating some of Mr. Wallace’s narrative style.
The novel itself is part mystery/thriller part character study. There are many themes in the book: entertainment, addiction, recovery, disfigurement, political satire, and more.
And it is long. And dense; many multiple page single paragraphs. And footnotes. Lots of footnotes.
For a book where all the characters have problems with addiction and all the characters come from a very dysfunctional families and all the characters experience pain, suffering, violence, extreme violence, brutality, etc… I did not feel the book was depressing. In fact, or because of the humor, it felt, for the most part, uplifting.
The book I read had a forward by David Eggars. Read it, if you decide to tackle this book. It took me five weeks. Mr. Eggars said it takes a month.
Some final random thoughts:
Be patient. All the back stories and alternate future items are eventually explained. Let the novel take you at its own pace.
David Foster Wallace was a genius.
I read this in eBook format. In an eBook I could ‘easily’ toggle back and forth between footnotes and the book (Yay!). If you read it in eBook format, BEFORE you start, remove any settings that sync your devices to “furthest point read”. This is important. You will take a break at some point in the footnotes. Your eBook reader will sync. You will get lost. It got so bad for me I had to delete it from all my readers and re-install it (after I updated my setting to NOT sync to “furthest point read”).
I did not read the entire footnote of James O. Incandenza’s filmography.
That is the only footnote I did not completely read.
I also recommend reading on a device with access to the Internet. You will want to check some things. As mentioned real v fictional blurs at times. Several of the words I searched for on the Internet, were annular (and get used to this word if you read Infinite Jest) in that I was directed to one of several “Infinite Jest” wiki’s where I discover the word/phrase is made up or, maybe, slightly misspelled, perhaps intentionally.
This book begins at the end which is readily apparent. After all the back stories and narrative gaps are filled (800 to 900 pages in) the book picks up speed like it is going to reach a culmination (back to the beginning, which is the end, annularly) where everything comes together. It doesn't. Infinite Jest stops. [a second bad pun here was deleted].