Finished this morning
I hit the Sept 18th spoiler line on the 12th but have been unable to make myself read forward. I think I was afraid of how it would end.
I wasn’t expecting a Hollywood-style ending, of course, or even something that tied up all the threads in any meaningful way. Neither would have fit the book.
But I was surprised by the depths of the violence at the end. Sorkin’s men and that awful eye “surgery” and the pain of Pamela Hoffman-Jeep. Orin under a huge glass dome and the roaches pouring in. Even the slow degeneration of Barry Loach is a form of violence, as he goes from believing in people to doubting them and then to a near-wreck state.
The last good action in the book, the last kind and generous thing, is done by Mario. Mario might be the only truly good person in the book.
I don’t know how to sum up the experience of reading IJ. There were some beautiful moments and certainly some stunning writing. Some of the ugliest moments (Accomplice!, the horrible death of S. Johnson the dog) included some of the best writing. The concepts of sponsored time, of the UHID, of eschaton, are truly brilliant. And I will never hear the words “something smells delicious” again without thinking (with a shudder, no doubt) of IJ.
But then there were the meanderings that never seemed to link to anything else, the drug-detail footnotes (I didn’t mind the other footnotes, frankly, but reading drugs’ chemical composition? Why? I know he had a reason, but I can’t see it), and the parts that seemed deliberately designed to confuse.
I felt early on like I just wasn’t seeing “the point” of the book. I still feel like there’s an overall point that I’ve missed. But perhaps that IS the point: that there isn’t one. Ending a book called “Infinite Jest” with three apparently unrelated anecdotes that all include pain and ugliness is maybe intended to show the randomness of life and the depths of ugliness within most people.
I don’t know. But I know I’ll be thinking of IJ for a long time, and that’s the mark of something great.