Thursday, March 17, 2016

Not So Steady

Spent the late afternoon and early evening at Times Square without a book to read when the going got tough. This was no accident but the result of a conscious decision not to take David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest along, having spent the early afternoon making fair progress moving into the second half. I've come to the conclusion that it's quite impossible to read the novel in a steadily persistent kind of way. Individual segments can sometimes grip with the momentum of, say, Stephen King on top story-telling form, and then progress is effortless - but then bits like this are followed on occasion by segments that seem to be going over territory that has already been traversed in abundant detail, and the result is something close to tedium.

One example: the segments on the extremely disturbing Lenz killing various animals, followed by Don Gately getting shot by the outraged owners of a dog he has just dispatched, held me in a manner I can only describe as disconcerting. But the pages that immediately followed Don being assisted to some kind of medical care (I think that's what's happening) did absolutely nothing for me at all.

Brilliant though so much of the novel is, I don't entirely trust the writer. I'm convinced of Wallace's excellent intentions, I'm just not sure they result in what might reasonably be termed a successful novel. Infinite Jest seems to occupy a niche of its own.

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