Friday, April 22, 2011

Well The Jokes on Me.

Never one to turn down the opinion of a helpful person, and since the sales person was unable to recommend anything similar to Nick Hornby.. I took her at her word that she knew what she was talking about. So I got conned into buying David Foster Wallace's "Magnum Opus" the Infinite Jest by a pouty smile and a sundress sported by a Barnes & Noble customer.

I've been struggling to make some sense out of this book for the last 3 days now. It's not been easy. It started out so normal too, just a kid who is going to school for a Tennis scholarship, falls down and has a seizure in the principles office. Ok, tons of drug/rehab sort of novels start out that way. Then we started getting into Heavy Drug use. Ok, again, par for the course. But all of a sudden.. we started to get references to "Teleputers" and "Entertainment discs"... It kinda started to feel a bit odd.

You see, I had no idea when I bought it, it was science fiction either. What? surely the man that Slate Magazine drools over, and a million hipsters wept when he died.. surely you must be joking I here you ask. Yes. Science Fiction. Specifically of the Dystopian Future branch.

The book is set in a world where, the United States, Canada and Mexico are now one nation. O.N.A.N. Organization of North American Nations. The US apparently tricked the Canadians into joining, or at least thats the party line in the new much more violent Quebecois liberation parties. Corporations run everything. They even get to name the years. so we get things like "Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad" and "Year of the Depend adult undergarment".... It's supposed to be about drugs and rehab. I figured it would be a bit like a modern One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. I was wrong. Thats what I get for thinking when it comes to "Literary fiction". Which is apparently free to both be Genre, and also not be Genre.

I'm not going to say that, David Foster Wallace's writing was no good. Because it was actually very good. He didn't try to do any odd grammatical structures the way Cormac Mcarthy does.. He actually built some interesting characters. And had they have been in a real world, rather than a Scifi Dystopia.. I might have kept reading. I'm not much of a Sci-Fi reader at the best of times.. I don't go in for the Asimov, Clarke, Dick, sort of stuff.. About the closest I get to Sci-Fi Really is Star Wars and DUNE. So It's the very act of him playing with Genre tropes that I'm already biased against that caused me most of my problems with it. But I can't help but think, if this had been submitted to a Genre publisher like TOR or Del Rey.. they'd have politely refused it or simply ignored it.

Needless to Say, I won't be finishing this. At least right now. It's certainly better than some of the other stuff that comes out of the middle aisles of B&N. It just wasn't what I wanted to read right now, and considering I went in looking for another author similar to Nick Hornby.. I think it's safe to say I failed in that quest.


M. D. Jackson said...

"But I can't help but think, if this had been submitted to a Genre publisher like TOR or Del Rey.. they'd have politely refused it or simply ignored it."

You've hit the nail on the head, there. It's a book that has been lauded by those literary snobs who look down their noses at genre publishers and genre fiction. I have not read it but I'd be willing to be that it presents tired old tropes that have been examined by much better (genre) authors, puts a smattering of lipstick and a spot of rouge on its face and introduces it like it's something new and fresh that only the literary genius of... what's his name?... David Foster Wallace... could have produce.

A pox on it, I say!

David J. West said...

Someone just told me I should check out David Foster Wallace's PALE KING - yeah I think I'll pass.