Firstly I consider myself an avid reader of “literary” fiction, secondly I’m an admitted intellectual elitist, and thirdly I was a huge fan of David Foster Wallace’s essays published in Harper’s and Esquire before he had his novel Infinite Jest published in 1996, for which at the time I was excited to shell out 30 bucks to buy. Having said that, I found Infinite Jest to be a massive, unreadable, incoherent pile of crap. I couldn’t finish it, moreover I don’t know anyone personally who did even though they too are comprised of the above three qualities I listed.
This NYT 20-year anniversary retrospective about Infinite Jest is such piffle and proves what I’ve thought since I began writing and submitting my work in the late 80s to magazines and publishers, that university “Lit Crit” and Creative Writing departments wouldn’t know good fiction writing if it bit them on their pretentious asses.
Wallace was a talented and brilliant guy, but Infinite Jest was a terrible work of fiction piled beneath about 500,000 too many words and an incomprehensible tendency to babble endlessly with words that are laughably way more complex than what needs to make sense even to a word snob like me. Wallace tried too hard to be clever and didn’t try, you know, to write like a good novelist and actually tell a real story with compelling characters, and he didn’t write prose that was clear, meaningful, and unpretentious enough to entice anyone to want to read it other than the douchemongers in academia (or who hail from it and moved on to the publishing or literary criticism side of journalism) who promote this incomprehensible “post-modern” fiction-writing style by such boring and pretentious dopes like Don DeLillo, John Updike, or John Cheever, et al.
For my money, Elmore Leonard was a vastly superior fiction writer than these boring poops, because, first and foremost, he wrote books I actually wanted to finish. I was forced to read Updike and Cheever in college and my scathing criticism of their work typically included words like “boring,” “pretentious,” and “mind-numbingly who gives a damn about some self-loathing Lit Crit professor who’s continually drunk and schtupping some fat ugly neighbor wife of another boring university professor.” Seriously. The only people who loved this crap were other Lit Crit professors who aspired to be the “next great American novelist.” Elmore Leonard, who wrote brilliant, funny, absolutely real pulp crime novels, sold millions of more books and will be remembered as a greater writer than these boring schlubs.
Wallace killed himself many years ago, which is sad. He left behind a few brilliant essays that were published in magazines, and a couple of books that compiled this work, but his fiction novels were not great. I love to read almost as much as I love to breathe, but I couldn’t finish Infinite Jest because it was just awful, both excessively wordy and incomprehensible, and he tried way too hard to sound clever and brilliant; in the end the novel was a gigantic waste of time to read, so I don’t finish it. I have no idea what book this NYT reviewer was reading that compelled him to write such specious and, to me, wholly disingenuous praise for such an unforgettable work by a writer I thought had so much more promise, but, in the end, failed as a writer of good fiction in my opinion.