My vacillations over this book know no bounds

This Friday we’ll be a quarter of the way through IJ and a quarter of the way through winter.  For reals?  Winter?  25% done?  And it’s only just now getting cold in Baltimore.

It’s also getting quite frosty between me and IJ.  220-something pages in, and I’m asking the same thing everyone seems to ask at this point in the book: wait, what exactly is so great about this book?  When I finished it the first time a few years ago, I remember being incredibly ambivalent about it.  I felt that some parts were a slog and an absolute bore while other parts were transcendent.  And I took this as a good sign, a true marker of the book’s excellent reputation.  I mean, aren’t all great books like this?  Shouldn’t they challenge us on multiple levels, in multiple ways?

Well, I’m older now and I know more about writing and proper storytelling.  And, after getting a quarter of the way through the book, I realize that not only is this book kind of boring in huge swaths, but it also has absolutely no discipline.  If the editors at Little, Brown and Co had done their jobs, this book wouldn’t be more than 400 pages.  For as smart as DFW was, whatever sort of post-modern discursive text he thought he was creating, what he has actually written is more like a giant Caterpillar truck armed with a thousand fully-articulated hammer heads and rotating chainsaws that’s being used to build a goddamn bench for your backyard picnic table.  In other words, there’s a goddamn point to this book in here somewhere, but we’re just so fucking overwhelmed with all his cutesy pomo bullshit that sometimes we miss the point and other times it snags the bottom of our shirt and rips its way down our pants leg, lacerating our flesh on the way.

So I’m a bit angry about this book right now.  Eschaton is right around the corner, so maybe my mood will change in a couple of weeks.  But for now, save all the talk about how reading the book is itself supposed to be representative of what the characters are feeling.  I’ve stopped reading dozens of other books for much smaller offenses.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *