Infinite Jest

The cover of the novel, "Infinite Jest."

“The greatest novel to finish a century yet” (The New York Times) was largely begun and finished right here in B-N, whether we knew it or not.

Most Twin Citians knew it not.

“Infinite Jest,” by the late David Foster Wallace, was published to dizzying international acclaim in 1996, three years into his nine-year stint as a faculty member of ISU’s Department of English.

The book spills over a daunting 1,079 pages, a chunk of which are devoted to thickly annotated footnotes demanding as much concentration as the main text.

The setting is a near-future North America, with the action shuttling between a junior tennis academy and a nearby substance abuse recovery center (both tied to Wallace’s real-life obsessions).

The conflict turns on a film called “the Entertainment,” which causes anyone who views it to become addicted to its content, completely zoning out of reality, and watching it over and over in a continuous loop.

The film was created by an artist as a way to reach his emotionally stunted son, but eventually becomes the center of a dense espionage/conspiracy scenario.

The reclusive, eccentric Wallace was internationally hailed during his time here, when he dined regularly and unnoticed at Denny’s and Cracker Barrel; and hung with his students at The Coffeehouse and Babbitt’s Books in Normal.

Five years after his departure from ISU for a teaching position at a private California college, Wallace, 46, ended a 25-year battle with depression by hanging himself from the patio of his home.

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