David Foster Wallace: "Infinite Jest"
Literature can give us a different perspective on the world, on interpersonal relationships, and on ourselves. Infinite Jest provided all of this to me when I read it during the lockdown in spring 2020, helping me through a difficult time deprived of joy and social interactions. Infinite Jest is a modern classic – one of the most famous novels from the mid-nineties, in which David Foster Wallace imagines a near future dominated by excessive commercial entertainment and rampant drug abuse.
Much of the novel takes place in Boston at an elite tennis academy and a neighboring drug recovery center. The uniting element of the parallel plots is a videotape so ridiculously entertaining that anyone who sees it can’t stop watching it, loses interest in anything else, and dies. A fringe group of legless Québécois radicals (the “wheelchair assassins”) plan to get hold of the missing master copy of the videotape in order to use it as a terrorist weapon for a violent geopolitical coup. Infinite Jest is hilariously funny, and at times quite silly, but underneath this layer, it’s a serious book with characters and their interactions portrayed in way worthy of Dostoevsky. This contrast – exemplified by the title taken from Hamlet and the plot inspired by a Monty Python sketch (“The Funniest Joke in the World”) – is what made Infinite Jest such a compelling read to me.