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Why is Infinite Jest seen as a masterpiece?...
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You are currently reading a thread in /lit/ - Literature

Thread replies: 30
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Why is Infinite Jest seen as a masterpiece? Is it the writing? Is it the story? Is it the characters? Is it hype?

Seriously, can someone tell me what is so good about it? I haven't read it yet and am curious as to why it's so highly regarded.
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>>7593454
Mostly the writing I assume.
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>>7593454
>infinite jest
because its so FUNNY

keeps you laughing 1000 pages through :^)
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>>7593454

I have not read Infinite Jest, but based on what I've heard about it:

It's the first really ambitious novel about the generation after the 1960s counterculture, and deals with topics specific to that generation (The Great Gatsby of our time).
It's an experimental (lol footnotes) novel that comes out in a time when Stephen King dominates the bestseller list, and sold surprisingly well.
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>>7593454
The book is a hermaneutic circlejerk for overeducated, undercritical liberal arts majors who hate both themselves and their time.

DFW has some great stuff, including Oblivion, Brief Interviews, and The Pale King. This book, however, is as mindless as sitting in front of a tv for 75 hours, though I'm sure that's what he was trying to affect
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>>7593454

Literally no one has ever actually finished reading this book in its entirety. No one can discuss its themes because no one knows what they are. It only serves as a meme.
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>>7593944
>i have not read infinite jest
than just shut the fuck up honestly. i dont mean that to be rude its just you obviously have nothing to add.

its just really good, the writing is pleasing to read for the most part. it has very relatable characters and moments that range from humorous/absurd to heartbreaking. alot of the novels power comes from this contrast between the light hearted and the more serious (ie the lethally entertaining film cartridge, the wheelchair assassins, the cross dressing steeply) its also just an overall definitive example of post modernism, in that it is clearly aware of itself as a monumental work of entertainment in much the same way as the film that the books title refers to.
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>>7593454
Nothing I have read, watched or listend to in my life has encapsulated anxiety quite like this book
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>>7594386
you ever hear the song "Jonathan" by fiona apple? not saying you'll like it; that's just another bit of media i feel captures anxiety pretty well. that whole album has threads of anxiety running through it. but anyway
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>>7593994

>the writing is pleasing to read for the most part.

What does that mean, specifically? Grounded in the actual language of the book--what does that mean? Without extrapolation or example, that may as well have been "I really like the writing for the most part."

>it has very relatable characters and moments that range from humorous/absurd to heartbreaking

So does a John Green novel.

>alot of the novels power comes from this contrast between the light hearted and the more serious

What about that contrast, in relation to the examples you named, creates power? Many novels mix "light" and "heavy" themes, and many of those are not good. What makes this mix successful in IJ?

>its also just an overall definitive example of post modernism, in that it is clearly aware of itself as a monumental work of entertainment

Cartoons from the 30s are self-referential and self-aware as well. But we wouldn't call them post-modern. What is unique in the self-wareness of IJ that makes it definitively post-modern in contrast to other works which are not post-modern but which nonetheless display self-awareness?

Why is being classifiable under a critical term like "post-modernism" an inherently good or bad thing? What merits are there to merely being post-modern? Are there not in fact bad post-modern works?
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>the bird did a barrel roll

What a fucking hack DFW
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>>7593454
The real reason nobody ever mentions is that IJ is over 1000 pages and based in a contemporary setting. Novels of that length are considered epic portrayals of time periods (Count of Monte Cristo in post-Napoleonic France; War and Peace in Russia during the french invasion). Anyone writing a novel of that length obviously has to have something important to say about the society they live in; IJ was a portrait of the tail end of the millenia.
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Fuck I'm reading is now
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>>7593468
it is funny though and apparently Wallace heard the book described as funny often enough that it irritated him
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>>7594426
You know, you really didn't counter those points, you just disagreed with them.
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>>7594433
Bret Ellis pls go
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>>7595030

Well if you actually read my post you can see that I leave open-ended questions. And I thought that I made it readily apparent why I did that, but perhaps I should break it down further for posters such as yourself:

The poster to which I replied named various reasons why IJ is good.

I thought that the first reason, "the writing is pleasing to read for the most part", was insufficient as an unsupported statement, but I realize the fact that the poster didn't support it does not mean that it is automatically wrong. However, reader's of the thread are not serviced by unsupported claims such as this, as they have extremely limited rhetorical and analytical value (even if they are by chance veracious). This is why, on this point, I invited the poster to expand on what that specifically means. This expansion, while it will not 'change the facts' so to speak, will allow readers the opportunity to see support for the statement and therefore fairly evaluate its veracity on their own.

The second part, "relatable characters" and "moments" that show emotional range--

John Green is generally derided in this community. I bring up the comparison because John Green novels also contain "relatable characters" and "moments" that show emotional range. In this case, John Green isn't really that important, fill in whatever you think is trash literature--it's likely to still contain both of these things.

Here is the point: If we know that there is bad literature that contains "relatable characters" and "moments" that show emotional range (if not depth), then it becomes rather obvious that having either or both of these qualities is not necessarily indicative of good literature. Therefore, they are not good indicators of why IJ is good, or if it is at all.

Next point: "power" from "contrast between light hearted and the more serious"

I asked the open-ended question because I don't feel that this statement, as is (unsupported by examples from the text), is useful for evaluation. If the poster could provide some examples from the text of where this is occurring, then we might each be able to make an evaluation of the claim that this "power" is in fact there, and that it is in fact being produced by this specific contrast.

Without connection to examples from the text, it is incredibly difficult to discern what, exactly, the poster means when referring to a 1,000+ page tome with such vague generalization. And then we cannot truly evaluate the claim, and if we can't evaluate the claim--why is it important to the conversation? This is a question that we can be sure that the poster I replied to is interested in, because that same poster feels very passionately about "adding" to the conversation (or, making the conversation better):
>>7593994
>than just shut the fuck up honestly. i dont mean that to be rude its just you obviously have nothing to add.

Continued...
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>>7593994
>than just
>alot
>the novels power
>an overall definitive

u got through IJ da fuq?
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>>7595030
>>7595102

Continuation:

Next point: "definitive example of post modernism"

My reply to this is similar to my reply to the "relatable characters" point:

As vast a genre as post-modernism is, surely there is bad literature within post-modernism. Therefore, how can 'being post-modern' support the idea that IJ is a good piece of literature?

'being post-modern' in and of itself tells us nothing about whether or not IJ is good. There is good literature within post-modernism, and there is not-so-good literature within post-modernism. Therefore, existing under the banner "post-modern" is not a good indicator about whether or not the work is good.

I thought that I stated enough here >>7594426
for you to understand the points that I was making--which can generally be surmised to:

At best, the claims that >>7593994 makes require examples from the text in order to further the conversation or our understanding of IJ's value. At worst, the claims are demonstrably irrelevant (through counter-example) to whether or not we should value/tout IJ as good literature.

It is fair to hold this poster to the standard of 'furthering good discussion' because the very same poster has demonstrated a passionate interest in furthering good discussion.

It is also fair to assume that the poster is attempting to tout IJ as good literature because the poster starts their main paragraph with, and I quote: "its just really good" (it referring to IJ) and then names a bunch of reasons that support the claim that it is just "really good".

so, are you going to further the discussion or just shitpost?
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>>7595102
The problem with authors like John Greene, though, is that this "relatability" he's going for is so vague it's almost specific. It's vague for the point of applicability but then it kind of filters out until it gets only a cult following. Infinite Jest on the other hand is like but in reverse, and incredibly clever, in that it's so specific it's broad. Few writers can actually make something matter so much that nearly anyone who reads it can actually care. You think I give a fuck about tennis? No, but he made me care. One of things that separates (mind you, I said ONE, so don't get contrary and strawman here) genre from literary fiction is making shit MATTER. It isn't exactly appealing to emotion of the reader, any author can do that. It's more abut writing for yourself, writing what you want to write. The fact that an author can strike the minds of so many people is talent that's actually accidental. There's also the fact that literary stories are thought provoking. They aren't just there for entertainment. Infinite Jest (despite teaching me quite a few things about a writer) is thought provoking nonetheless. I don't take it as this liberal arts message, it's a message pleasure and the lengths people go to enjoy WITHOUT having to actually think. Now, that's just my look on the matter. Feel free to rebutt.
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>>7595117
Did you seriously read every little bit of the parts where he goes into excruciating detail about the most mundane aspects of playing tennis for like pages and pages and pages? Even Dave Eggers was like "This is bullshit" in the foreword of the book.
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>>7595122

People didn't mind descriptions of the Parisian sewers for 200 years.
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>>7595117

Mind you, I'm not trying to "disprove" you or prove that IJ is bad. I just think it's important that we make a few things clear.

1) What are the evaluative criteria? 2) Why do the evaluative criteria matter? Once we've straightened those two things out, we can then move forward with the question 3) Does IJ meet the evaluative criteria? If so, how?

I think in this post you have started to answer these questions. Let's look at the first one with respect to your post:

What are the evaluative criteria?

I believe that you begin to answer this with statements like

>One of things that separates (mind you, I said ONE, so don't get contrary and strawman here) genre from literary fiction is making shit MATTER.

and

>There's also the fact that literary stories are thought provoking. They aren't just there for entertainment.

From these statements, we can surmise that at least two of the evaluative criteria that you find important are as follows:

1) Does the work "make shit matter" ?
2) Is the work "thought provoking"

I daresay that these criteria could use a bit of expansion and definition, but as long as we're clear about what they are in the first place, I think that we're moving in a much better direction for discussion. You may even have more criteria to add.

Next would be: Why do these evaluative criteria matter?

And then: Does IJ meet these evaluative criteria? If so, how?

If you can answer these questions clearly, and with grounded connection to the text, I think that readers of this thread would benefit greatly from such a clear and fleshed out argument as to why they should value IJ. They may still disagree, but the conversation would be furthered considerably.
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>>7595129
Just because Les Mis does it doesn't mean it's not poor writing.
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>>7595132

Also, I feel I should clarify:

The question "Why do these evaluative criteria matter?" is meant to test whether or not the criteria are good indicators of the value in question.

For example, remember how I BTFO 'being post-modern' as an indicator (in and of itself) of good literature by stating that there is good and bad post modernism (which I don't believe to be a very contentious claim--I don't think most of us would disagree that there is good and bad literature under the banner PoMo), and therefore a test of whether or not something is PoMo is not a good test to determine if the thing itself is "good".

The answer to "Why does the eval criteria matter?" in this case, should show a solid link between the criteria and the quality of "goodness" in literature.
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>>7595133
When you say poor writing, do you prose? Because if so, then that boils down to a matter of taste.

Some people like Cormac McCarthy's prose, I think it's subpar. To me he seems to use overly verbose language arbitrarily. DFW can be dry at times but makes up for it in language that isn't arbitrary at all. Of prose I prefer is the narrator's voice in Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson and So Long, See you Tomorrow by William Kennedy. I can only argue that good prose is a matter of taste afterall, but most people will probably say that subjectivity is plebeian, which to me is absolutely retarded.
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>>7595144
Do you *mean* prose
Goddammit, I hate my life.
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>>7595111
>>7595102
>>7594405
Devastating butthurt from people that haven't read the book
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>>7595132
>>7595143
Well, have you not real IJ and are trying for me to convince you, or are you trying get an answer out of me so we can discuss what makes good literature? If the former, I wouldn't care to go any further, just read the fucking book.
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OP why dont you get the FUCK off /lit/ and read the fucking book. devote a month to it, and dont do anything else other than read. your mind will thank you.

its a maximalist book, which means details are overexplained and it digresses into subplots that (at first) dont seem to be related to the main storyline.
its an extremely original piece of literature.

what im scared, however, is that the stuff that explicitly refers to 80-90s American culture/lifestyles will become dated. i "got" a lot of the references, if you can call them that, because I grew up at that time period.
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