... not only does [Wallace] share with both a mordantly black view of modern and late-modern experience, but he also has a penchant for weaving long braids from enticingly antiphonal plots, each of which is differently absorbing, if not for its characterizations or imaginative brio then for the sharp snap of its thought, the obsessiveness of its informational reference (hence the notes), or—and—the incandescence of the writing ... comes, in time, to seem like some great clattering vehicle that is powered by a rudimentary three-stroke engine ... Each of the narrative sections has its own compelling dynamic, often against the odds. Why read countless pages detailing the Byzantine logistics of daily tennis drills? Because, for one thing, Wallace’s writing is edgy, accurate, and darkly witty ... Wallace rebuts the prime-time formula. Think Beckett, think Pynchon, think Gaddis. Think ... Wallace is, clearly, bent on taking the next step in fiction. He is carrying on the Pynchonian celebration of the renegade spirit in a world gone as flat as a circuit board; he is tailoring that richly comic idiom for its new-millennial uses. To say that the novel does not obey traditional norms is to miss the point. Wallace’s narrative structure should be seen instead as a response to an altered cultural sensibility. The book mimes, in its movements as well as in its dense loads of referential data, the distributed systems that are the new paradigm in communications ... a postmodern saga of damnation and salvation. The novel is confusing, yes, and maddening in myriad ways. It is also resourceful, hilarious, intelligent, and unique. Those who stay with it will find the whole world lit up as though by black light.
David Foster Wallace's marathon send-up of humanism at the end of its tether is worth the effort. There is generous intelligence and authentic passion on every page, even the overwritten ones in which the author seems to have had a fit of graphomania. Wallace is definitely out to show his stuff, a virtuoso display of styles and themes reminiscent of William Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon and William Gaddis. Like those writers, Wallace can play it high or low, a sort of Beavis-and-Egghead approach that should spell cult following at the nation's brainier colleges ... Wallace juggles all this and more with dizzying complexity. You can sign on for the long haul or wait for some post-Pynchon academic to parse it out. Or you can just wade in, enjoy Wallace's maximalist style and hope that unlike the fatal film, Infinite Jest, the novel won't ... ARRRRRRGH!
... shows off the 33-year-old Mr. Wallace as one of the big talents of his generation, a writer of virtuosic talents who can seemingly do anything, someone who can write funny, write sad, write serious, write satiric, a writer who's equally adept at the Pynchonesque epic and the Nicolson Bakeresque minute, a pushing-the-envelope postmodernist who's also able to create flesh-and-blood characters and genuinely moving scenes ... Perfect, however, Infinite Jest is not: this 1,079-page novel is a 'loose baggy monster,' to use Henry James's words, a vast, encyclopedic compendium of whatever seems to have crossed Mr. Wallace's mind ... The book seems to have been written and edited (or not edited) on the principle that bigger is better, more means more important, and this results in a big psychedelic jumble of characters, anecdotes, jokes, soliloquies, reminiscences and footnotes, uproarious and mind-boggling, but also arbitrary and self-indulgent ... the whole novel often seems like an excuse for Mr. Wallace to simply show off his remarkable skills as a writer and empty the contents of his restless mind ... At the end, that word machine is simply turned off, leaving the reader suspended in midair and reeling from the random muchness of detail and incident that is Infinite Jest ... Somewhere in the mess, the reader suspects, are the outlines of a splendid novel, but as it stands the book feels like one of those unfinished Michelangelo sculptures: you can see a godly creature trying to fight its way out of the marble, but it's stuck there, half excavated, unable to break completely free.
... one of the best (and, God knows, longest) American novels of the decade. Many readers will blanche at the length (and more than 100 pages of end notes), but the engrossing, subplot-heavy narrative is absolutely engrossing ... The many parallel narratives are endlessly clever and complicated, and the book’s satiric attack on American culture and values is often hilarious, but what finally makes this such an extraordinary novel is Wallace’s ability to populate this surreal world with real, recognizable, and vivid characters.
If Mr. Wallace were less talented, you would be inclined to shoot him -- or possibly yourself -- somewhere right around page 480 of Infinite Jest. In fact, you might anyway ... Alternately tedious and effulgent ... The overall effect is something like a sleek Vonnegut chassis wrapped in layers of post-millennial Zola ... Mr. Wallace plays it straight -- that is, almost realistically -- and seems to want to convince us of the authenticity of his vision by sheer weight of accumulated detail. The weight almost crushes the narrative at times -- as when, for example, we are treated to 10 dense pages about the disassembly of a bed, complete with diagrams ... What makes all this almost plausible, and often pleasurable, is Mr. Wallace's talent -- as a stylist, a satirist and a mimic -- as well as his erudition, which ranges from the world of street crime to higher mathematics. While there are many uninteresting pages in this novel, there are not many uninteresting sentences ... It's as if Mr. Wallace started with the Glass family whiz-kid plot and then got more interested in the gritty church-basement world of A.A.
... truly remarkable ... We suspect Infinite Jest isn't intentionally that postmodern; we're still not sure how the two main characters hooked up to search for the MacGuffin, but we assume it's either because we're too thick or Wallace is too subtle such analysis doesn't get across what weird fun Infinite Jest is to read ... The enticements of Infinite Jest range from microdescriptions to macro-episodes ... As with any thousand-page book, we thought we could make some cuts-some of the inside-tennis stuff, say. But maybe we were wrong Wallace has put Infinite Jest together so craftily that one apparently nonsensical reference in the first few pages pays off 917 pages later--and makes clear where the MacGuffin was hidden. Too much fun? For those hooked on the heartfelt and straightforward, yes. Don Gately would never finish Infinite Jest. But Prince Hamlet would love it to death.
... has a cult following that is as loyal as they get, and for good reason ... Millennials and those who fall just before that category will get it; older readers may find, as the Times critic did, that 'reading Infinite Jest is not unlike spending a prolonged holiday with a precocious but exasperating adolescent boy'. Persevere for Wallace’s sly wit and observant genius.
... ultimately a book I can’t quit, though I should probably mention up front that it’s not like I’ve tried or have ever had any real ambition to change this. Every reader has a book like this; a book that, for some inexplicable and intangible reasons, sinks its hooks into you in a way that few others can. It resonates with the fibrous strings of your core being ... when I read this book, it sounds like a conversation that’s already happening inside my head, only a bit smarter. The random stream-of-consciousness bits, the free associations, the digressive footnotes that run on for pages at a time — all of that is what it’s like to be inside my mind at any given moment ... responsible for showing me how to connect to and shape the world around me and bend its light to project through my own literary lens — even if it’s different and strange and unorthodox — to break 'rules' that constrain imagination, and, perhaps most importantly, to always explore what I can do with my words as well as my stories, to connect to other people. To feel, as DFW stressed, less alone.
... a book that derives its power from a thousand incidental victories ... DFW's style is so relaxed, and so sparsely punctuated, that the eye speeds past phrases another writer might have cushioned in commas, as jewels worthy of the reader's special attention.
... ambitious and frequently brilliant fictional exploration of the pursuit of pleasure and its ramifying consequences ... It's a raucous, Falstaffian, deadly serious vision of a cartwheeling culture in the self-pleasuring throes of self-destruction, marred only by its author's unaccountable fondness for farcical acronyms (also from Pynchon) and dumb jokes (not that there aren't dozens of good ones as well). Almost certainly the biggest and boldest novel we'll see this year and, flaws and all, probably one of the best.
With its baroque subplots, zany political satire, morbid, cerebral humor and astonishing range of cultural references, Wallace's brilliant but somewhat bloated dirigible of a second novel will appeal to steadfast readers of Pynchon and Gaddis. But few others will have the stamina for it ... With its hilarious riffs on themes like addiction, 12-step programs, technology and waste management (in all its scatological implications), this tome is highly engrossing--in small doses. Yet the nebulous, resolutionless ending serves to underscore Wallace's underlying failure to find a suitable novelistic shape for his ingenious and often outrageously funny material.