Infinite Jest – A Review

August 10, 2012

“You have a chance to occur…To make for you this second world that is always the same: with always a purpose to keep this world alive.”  So says a wise old tennis instructor.  The key to understanding David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece is the concept of human agency: the gift of choice, and how, if you abdicate your responsibility to choose, “if you just love, without deciding, if you just do…Then in such a case your temple is self and sentiment.  Then in such an instance you are a fanatic of desire, a slave to your individual subjective narrow self’s sentiments.  You become a citizen of nothing.  You are by yourself and alone, kneeling to yourself.”  Addiction (the big theme of this book) is a way of hiding from real life.

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The Pale King – A Review

April 25, 2012

“Routine, repetition, tedium, monotony, ephemeracy, inconsequence, abstraction, disorder, boredom, angst, ennui – these are the true hero’s enemies, and make no mistake, they are fearsome indeed.  For they are real.”  So we are warned, by David Foster Wallace.  His novel, The Pale King, is a clerical epic, set in the catacombs of the Internal Revenue Service, where men and women fight against the “soul murdering” nature of their dreary, repetitive jobs, and the “true heroes” embrace boredom, as a path to bliss.  Wallace believes in enlightenment through wilful attention to complexity.  The enemy here is not tedium but the idea that the majority of life is tedious.  Boredom is the coward’s way out.  A hero welcomes monotony.

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Catch 22 – A Review

April 10, 2011

This book is a lament for the world we live in. It knows there is no victory over death. The best you can hope for, in Joseph Heller’s view, is to persevere. He is not a cynical writer, as some may claim, because a cynic doesn’t have sympathy with anyone else. Heller is more the way I picture God: he’s smitten with the human race. All the poor luckless bastards of the world are Heller’s people: the inefficient and the inopportune; the people whose minds have cracked; whose spines have dissolved; those who can scarce face the thought of living… They are the heroes of Catch 22. Here is an epic for the bungled and the botched. There are no great deeds, and no innocents are saved. The hero wins because he refuses to die.

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