Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “post-modern”

The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR4 Review #13 Pick-Up Game

You can read this review in the context of my Quest for Curricular Satisfaction at my personal blog.

While The Kayla Chronicles (my previous review) follows a familiar novel structure, Pick-Up Game invents a far more complex intersection of ideas and stories. The basketball-centric collection of short stories seemed like it could appeal to my students (particularly given the tonnage of desktop backgrounds on student laptops and fervor of Durant V. LeBron V. Kobe V. Rose arguments).

A host of popular and prolific young adult writers let stories flow as they follow the action at a New York City public court on one particular summer day. Characters come and go with some staying on the court for two, three, seven stories at a time. But the perspective shifts and the diversity of New York is on full display as African-American, Caucasian, Vietnamese, Native-American, Female and Hispanic characters bring their unique voices into the story-telling.

No one story is a slam-dunk (apologies for the painfully obvious cliche), but they work together beautifully as a team (which is actually a better way to play the game). Each one adds to the depth of the story that came before, until you have a solid connection to Post 9/11 New York, the gender gap in athletics, the way art enhances sport (and vice-versa), and ultimately: the complexity of collaborating with diverse people.

rusha24’s #CBR review #6: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

I just finished reading David Foster Wallace’s mammoth Infinite Jest, and though it wasn’t the first time I’d read it, I still feel exactly the same as the first time I came to the last page—shattered.  There’s something about it that seems to leave you bare, strips away much of the pretense that saturates the way we interact with each other. I’m pretty much at an utter loss as to how to write this, because I’ve never read a book that seems to defy a review as much as this one. Intense examination, deep analysis, extensive rumination—it both calls for and deserves all of these. But summation, cursory critique, the “give-it-to-me-in-a-nutshell?” Impossible. Infinite Jest is sprawling, terrifically ambitious, truly epic.  It concerns teenagers at a tennis academy, a Boston half-way house, and a filmmaker’s lost magnum opus—rumored to be a piece of entertainment so perfect that its viewer is lost to a permanent state of stupefied ecstasy. But if someone were to ask me “what it’s about,” I’d have to say (knowing full well how vague and banal and unsatisfying this must sound) that it’s about what it means to be human.

The book takes place in the near future; as the national calendar has been corporatized, each year represents the highest bidder: the Year of the Whopper, the Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad, etc. Much of the book’s events take place in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, though the narrative is anything but linear—not as much moving forward and back as it moves sideways. Wallace’s predilection for footnotes is on full display here—footnotes within footnotes, whole chapters buried in footnotes, footnotes that only allude to other footnotes. In fact, all of Wallace’s favorite stylistic flourishes and fetishes can be found draped all over the 1,000 plus pages of Infinite Jest, things that have often earned him critiques like: pretentious, tedious, gimmicky, obnoxiously Post-modern, and turgidly erudite.

The thing is, some of those critiques might be deserved.  Or rather, I wouldn’t argue them. There are sections of the books that groan under the weight of ponderous description. The footnotes can be a bitch (though the fragmentation is very much intended and effective, I think), and some pages you simply have to slog through. Sometimes the zany plot gets too, well, zany. I admit all this. But really: it’s all beside the point. Because all of that pales next to what the book manages to do as a whole, which is to speak to the absolute hilarity, the depraved depths, the loneliness and heartbreak and sheer joy that is being alive.

Near the middle of the book, we get this: “The older Mario gets, the more confused he gets about the fact that everyone at E.T.A over the age of Kent Blott finds stuff that’s really real uncomfortable and they get embarrassed. It’s like there’s some rule that real stuff can only get mentioned if everybody rolls their eyes or laughs in a way that isn’t happy.” David Foster Wallace has never liked this rule, and in Infinite Jest, he tells it to “fuck off” like he never has before. He gets “really real uncomfortable” and dares you to roll your eyes.  You probably will. And you’ll probably laugh, too.  But if you keep reading, it’ll hit you in the stomach. This is stomach-level stuff.  It’s tremendously sad, sometimes even depressing, but it’s also the most honest book about happiness I’ve ever read.

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