Sun Sep 14, 2008

Wallace believed, with good reason, that Michiko Kakutani could not possibly have read Infinite Jest before writing her original impercipient review, and her appraisal remedies little.

The only thing that showed a lack of discipline about Infinite Jest is Wallace allowing it to be edited down as much as it was, almost certainly out of commercial necessity. (The letters to DeLillo in the Harry Ransom Center discuss this in passing.) I do not mean this as an evaluative comment; it’s just that there are more descriptively accurate ways to criticize the book than claiming it suffers from self-indulgence. I wrote a brief essay about how the etymology of a single word in the book was deeply interwoven with its broader concerns, and I believe that almost every page of the novel contains the same level of relevant detail. The lack of discipline to discover it lies with the reader.

I also believe that she misreads the last two story collections. Narcissism there is evidently under study and not indulged as technique.