Fact: Most people who own a copy of Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace’s 1,079-page magnum opus, haven’t finished it.
But with The End of the Tour, starring Jason Segel as Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky, in theaters today, it’ll reemerge as a topic of conversation. Impress your bookish friends with the novel’s main talking points. You should also read it for real… eventually.
The Title: “Infinite jest” has three meanings in the context of the novel. It’s a Hamlet quote, the name of a fictional movie that’s impossible to stop watching, and a reference to our own culture of constant entertainment.
The Endnotes: The novel’s infamous endnotes jar you by making you flip back and forth, underscoring Wallace’s critique of nonstop distraction.
The Humor: One of the book’s best throwaway jokes is its zany capitalist zodiac. In a dystopian future, brands subsidize time itself, marking years as the Year of the Whopper and the Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar.
The Best Scene: Many readers agree on a standout moment: Students play a game called Eschaton — a mash-up of Model U.N., tennis, and calculus — that ends in broken bones, tears, and hilarity. Bonus fact: The scene was once adapted by Parks & Recreation showrunner Michael Schur in his music video for The Decemberists’ “Calamity Song.”