Infinite Jest is definitely one of those books that everyone knows is wonderful but a great number of people shy away from it. It really seems funny, since some of the people who acknowledge that it is an important book never actually read it. Some of this is the fact they are afraid. They want to read David Foster Wallace, but the challenge level of Infinite Jest scares the piss out of them.
To some extent I understand. Infinite Jest was not easy. It took me around a week to read. Complex themes, writing, thoughts, and all that. Not to mention footnote use that was only slightly less challenging than Danielewski’s House of Leaves. I don’t think it is anywhere near as hard as people make it seem (I think they make it seem worse than it is subconciously to avoid committing the effort to read), but it is challenging.
So what should people do? They want to read David Foster Wallace, but they fear Infinite Jest. Well, perhaps they should try The Broom of the System.
Mind you, The Broom of the System is not exactly light reading. However, I found it much more approachable than Infinite Jest. Easier to read, easier to follow, and not a footnote in sight yet. Weighing in at 467 pages, it doesn’t require the lifetime commitment that Infinite Jest does. I finished it in three days and I’d only been reading during the latter part of a Sunday and a Monday and then a little bit on a Tuesday.
Now, some people might think there are greater rewards to be had by reading Infinite Jest. This may in fact be true. However, I greatly enjoyed The Broom of the System. It was still challenging and full of the wonderful writing I expect from David Foster Wallace. Besides, the greater rewards of Infinite Jest are irrelevant if you never get around to reading it.
So, if Infinite Jest seems to be too much to bite off at one time for you, give The Broom of the System a try. Who knows? Maybe you’ll build a little confidence in your ability to handle David Foster Wallace and learn how much you like reading him. Then you’ll maybe decide to tackle Infinite Jest.