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You can look at my home page for more information, but the short answer is that I'm a dilettante who likes thinking about a variety of subjects. I like to think of myself as a systems-level thinker, more concerned with the big picture than with the details. Current interests include politics, community formation, and social interface design. Plus books, of course.

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Sun, 26 Sep 2004

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
As previously noted, I picked this up after reading a book of Wallace essays and enjoying them quite a lot. It's an enormous book, 980 pages with a further 100 pages of end notes. I've been slogging through it for the past six weeks after borrowing it from the library, and finished it yesterday.

It's a sprawling book. And yet, none of the dozens of characters end up being well-developed. There's not a single character that I feel like I "know" them after reading this book, the way I do in character-based fiction like the Vorkosigan series or the Stephanie Plum series. There really isn't a plot to speak of. The ending just kind of fizzled out without ever following up on events that are mentioned earlier. There's some interesting digressions, but it's hardly worth reading the entire novel for. Maybe I'm missing something, but it really seems like Wallace is an excellent short-form writer who strung together some brilliant observational essays interspersed with hundreds of pages of relatively uninteresting events. Wallace's random one-liner observations about people are often far more interesting than the actual episode surrounding them. I was pretty disappointed by the experience, obviously.

The digressions I liked included:

Anyway. I think I might pick up some more of Wallace's shorter works, fiction and essays, because I do like his writing and his sharp eye for absurdity. But I'm going to steer clear of the novels in the future.

posted at: 14:10 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/fiction/general | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal