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Infinite Jest

Written by: David Foster Wallace
Narrated by: Sean Pratt
Length: 56 hrs and 12 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (22 ratings)

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Audible Editor Reviews

"Pratt is a startlingly good narrator, dry and expressive, with the kind of vocal control that evokes dozens of characters with only slight but very distinctive variations of accent and affect.... Pratt hears the humor in Wallace's work, and lets you in on the joke without resorting to overheated wackiness. His control and stamina are impressive." (John Schwartz, The New York Times Book Review)

Publisher's Summary

A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are.

Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value. It is an exuberant, uniquely American exploration of the passions that make us human - and one of those rare books that renew the idea of what a novel can do.

Please note: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material, including endnotes, will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

A Note from Hachette Audio
We are deeply honored to be the audio publisher of David Foster Wallace's works, and are keenly aware of the great responsibility that attends the privilege. We felt that it was important to make Infinite Jest accessible in the audio format as soon as we were able, and are gratified to find that there is an audience that has been waiting for just this occasion.

Some early listeners have been disappointed that the novel's endnotes are currently available only in text form, to be read. Choosing to include the endnotes as a downloadable PDF file, rather than as a recording by the narrator, was a difficult decision for all involved, and we debated different options at length before beginning production. The audio format allows us great opportunities to showcase Wallace's love of language and grammatical dexterity, to illuminate characters and their relationships, and to bring out some of the unique humor inherent in his work. However, there are also certain limitations to the format, and we needed let go of some of our preconceived notions about the form of Infinite Jest, as we must when we adapt any complex work to audio.

The compromise we ended up with was heavily influenced by practical concerns, especially those regarding the limitations of current technology. Because some of the endnotes are pages-long digressions, if we had them read in line with the main narrative, we would have run the risk of making the already complex story unfollowable for listeners. In the end, we decided the audiobook would flow best by having the endnotes indicated by number throughout the narrative by an additional narrator. However, we acknowledge that these choices may not work for all listeners. Accordingly, our future plans are to produce the endnotes as an additional, stand-alone audio piece.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2006 David Foster Wallace (P)2012 Hachette

What the critics say

“[A]n exhilarating, breathtaking experience. This book teems with so much life and death, so much hilarity and pain, so much gusto in the face of despair that one cheers for the future of our literature.” ( Newsday)
"[A] postmodern saga of damnation and salvation…resourceful, hilarious, intelligent, and unique.” ( The Atlantic Monthly)
"[C]ompulsively entertaining… one of the big talents of his generation, a writer of virtuosic skills who can seemingly do anything.” ( New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Life Changing (no, really!)

It's been something like two years since I finished listening to Infinite Jest. I don't think I would have ever finished it in print form, but Sean Pratt's performance was so engaging and alive from start to finish that it was easy and fun listening to the book; he really acts the characters out in a way that contributes to the story and is not distracting.

If you're reading this, you probably already know that the book is sprawling, confusing, and difficult. This is all true, but it is also true that the book is really--really--funny in places and astonishingly bleak and sad in others. Most of all, I found it insightful and profoundly enjoyable.

The book is twenty-two years old at this point, and its age shows through in places; overall though, the book is eerily prophetic of the times we live in. Somehow, Wallace predicted all of this: an infantile entertainer as the leader of our southern neighbours, total entertainment at our fingertips at all times, and a deadly wave of narcotics leaving a ghastly wake in our streets. Infinite Jest is especially important today because of Wallace's insights into the common causes of these issues as well as his ideas on how people can find freedom (or, maybe there is something better than freedom).

Since listening to this book, I have found myself thinking of it often. The book has permanently changed my perspective on people who suffer from addictions of all sorts and has even changed my thinking about television and entertainment in general. Put simply, I cannot help but see things through Wallace's lens since listening to this book. There are many homeless drug addicts who sleep near the place where I work. In the two years since I finished Infinite Jest, I've found that I have a much greater sense of compassion for these people. I've also found that the book has made me aware of my own tendencies to abuse (and be abused by) entertainment of all kinds.

I guess what I mean to say is that this book, while very long and hard to follow, is very worth the effort.

Some advice for first-time listeners:

1. Trying to absorb this book, to find the connections between characters, or even to follow the narrative arc the first time through is a little like drinking from a waterfall. My suggestion is that you let the story wash over you, absorb what you can, and trust that you'll have a better understanding by the time you finish. You won't get everything in your first time through, and that's alright.

2. There are footnotes, and lots of them. They are not included in the audio, but they are in the downloadable PDF. The footnotes are important (and often funny), but so is everything else. I suggest that you check out the footnotes when you are able, but if you are driving, running, or doing anything else where you can't pause the book to look at PDF, then don't worry too much about it. You'll catch up on the footnotes when you have time.

3. There are many different reading guides available for this book, including a number of resources to help you put the events in chronological order. My advice is to focus on just making it through the book as originally written, to have the experience of being overwhelmed and confused, and then to visit these resources after you have finished the book. You can always read it again!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Useless without subtitles

The subtitles are a massive part of this book and I listen to audio books when I’m doing things that prevent me from reading something with my eyes... so how is it useful to have an audiobook that points out the numbers of subtitles but expects you to pause the book and look them up elsewhere?

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"HWAIGHT"

Story seems to be going nowhere; don't know if I will finish it. Bits and pieces of it are interesting but I wish it were more cohesive.

As for the narration, see title. It's fine apart from that.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • j phillips
  • ibillinsly@gmail
  • 2017-04-25

Listening to this is quite an experience

Would you listen to Infinite Jest again? Why?
Yes, the story and the narration is excellent.

What did you like best about this story?
Too much to like to separate one single part of the story.

Which character – as performed by Sean Pratt – was your favorite?
James Incandenza

If you could rename Infinite Jest, what would you call it?
It's the perfect title for a book. You could never rename it

Any additional comments?
This is a form of entertainment that is better than television. The combination of DFW's prose and Sean Pratt's narration is so far above anything else I've heard on audiobook. I only wish I could find another audiobook close to this amazing. I've listened to many audiobooks. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt comes close and is more accessible, but Infinite Jest is the best I've heard. It does require some patience. It's truly a five star audiobook.

37 of 38 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • case wills
  • 2016-07-25

Brilliant Gut Punch

Incredible writing, and storytelling, with deeply realized characters spiraling up or down in tragicomic beauty. A masterwork, but tough going. Feels like a gut punch at times. Never boring but not for everyone. Tests your vocabulary, your stomach, and your heart.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-06-21

I kept waiting for it to be great

Like a lot of people that decided to try taking this novel on, I was a fan of David Foster Wallace’s other work including his This Is Water speech. I had heard so much positive about this story, and since it was an ultra-long book, I wanted to, sort of, have bragging rights, I guess.

The story is, basically, 56 hours and 20 minutes of exposition. Without spoiling whatever could qualify as a spoiler in this book, it never reaches a climax or even a rising action, from my perspective. Hundreds of character introductions, but no characters I cared about except for Gately (at times). Long asides about the world that made sense to have a page about, but not chapters. I understand that world-building or detail can be important and fun, but I didn’t need 13 minutes of the rules of Eschaton.

It’s not an easy read, and seems to have, intentionally, confusing sentence structure and the vocabulary requires an English grad student to have a dictionary nearby.

Lastly, I’ll say that there were more subject-matter issues I had with the book. The way it described women, especially young girls, with heavy emphasis on their breasts and thighs without a mention of their name bothered me. The pervasive use of racial slurs by every character, including the narrator, throughout the novel really bothered me. The way rape scenes [plural!] were written using the same language as the “sexy” sex scenes REALLY bothered me. This book had more children get sexually abused than it had clever lines of dialogue.

I really wanted to love this book and be able to recommend it, but I cannot. I’m sorry to any Wallace fans, as I am still one, to a degree, but I really could not defend this book that many claim to be his Magnum Opus.

28 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig
  • 2016-07-29

WOW. WOW. WOW! Amazing storytelling & performance.

Lived up to high expectations. I legitimately laughed out loud every time I listened and COULD NOT put it down once started so I would find time whenever I was anywhere to read on.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Citizen
  • 2016-08-20

One of my favorite audiobooks

The narrator, Sean Pratt, is excellent for this story. Even though the sentences can get very long and meandering, he speaks with such a casual rhythm that it becomes very easy to understand. The voices and dialects are also very believable and consistent. Besides the performance, this book is fantastic in its own right. Everyone should read it or listen to it at least once. Since its such a long book, I think listening is the best option along with reading the endnotes separately (since its not included in audio).

The book is thought provoking, and uncomfortable at times. It confronts the gruesome reality of the pursuit of pleasure and happiness and success as being all of one nature, a possibly obsessive drive.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • D. Jay Ritt
  • Hidden Hills, California USA
  • 2015-04-28

Tour De Freaking Force

Yeah. Ok. There's just not really any way to summarize or quickly describe the experience of listening to this audiobook. If you stick with it, you'll either find it to be one of the few life-changing literary experiences out there, or you'll want to kill everyone responsible for your spending 50 hours on a fool's errand. I'm in the former category. But you are you. Just remember-- "The truth will set you free. But not until it's done with you."

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim
  • United States
  • 2013-10-24

Thought Bubbles

When I was asking my friends on what I should read next, they suggested "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace. When the book was first published in 1996, the audio version wasn't available and to be honest, I was having too much fun in the 90's to be reading. I remembered seeing this author in interviews and wanting to dive in this book. Fast forward to the present day, I finally got through this book and this is the best title that I've read thus far in the year. David Foster Wallace's humor is my taste of comedy, but his story about addiction and depression is profound.

I've read many books on addictions and how they overcame their problem by taking the steps, and even though the story of "Infinite Jest" is fictional, the characters seems to be more realistic with their addictions and depressions. If you are reading this review and thinking that this book is just all about addictions, I'm not doing justice to the novel.

Addiction is just one part of the story in "Infinite Jest." Somehow, the author incorporated most of the seven deadly sins through his characters. The sins aren't obvious while you are reading, but they should come to you once you get through the entire story. I'm not going to give examples from the book because I don't like to give spoilers, but DFW is a remarkable author.

It took me less than two weeks to finish the book. 56 hours went by quickly. Many of my friends said that it took them a long time to get to the last page. You really should form a group together to discuss each "Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment." It will help you decipher each chapter and it is the best way to understand DFW's writing.

While I was reading, my friends and I would have discussions of each main parts of the story and it helped me comprehend the entire concept better.

One of my friends mentioned that David Foster Wallace's storytelling is not linear with the traditional storyline. I happen to agree with her and compare his writing to David Mitchel in "Cloud Atlas." Both of their styles are similar to each other and want to draw me more to their other titles.

I don't remember characters' names in any books that I read. My mind doesn't pay attention to names. I see characters as figures on a spreadsheet, like A, B, C, and so on. In "Infinite Jest," the characters' actions are so bizarre that you can't forget where you left off.

There is one major flaw in the audio version. The endnotes aren't included in the audio and I can see why the publisher omitted them out. They are included in a pdf, but trying to listen to the story and scrolling through 98 pages of notes is hard to do.

Luckily, the listener can purchase the endnotes separately in audio. I will be listening to them after I finish this review because they are the most important part of the story.

This year is almost over and I've read my fair amount of titles, but "Infinite Jest" is what I was looking for to break up the same repertoire of subjects in my library.

I would recommend "Infinite Jest" to anyone where your thought bubbles are in a disarray like mine.

53 of 60 people found this review helpful

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  • Kaui
  • 2016-10-09

If only Infinite Jest went on infinitely!

Would you consider the audio edition of Infinite Jest to be better than the print version?

YES! DFW's language is deep and complex and having it read to you adds an element of reality and drama to the characters that truly expand one's ability to enjoy this amazing literary achievement.

Any additional comments?

This book is one of the best books I have ever read in my life. As a bookworm approaching 50, that is a large pool in which this tome dominates. First, true confessions: it took me three tries over three years to finally be able to enjoy this book. It is very difficult. First, the sentence structure, language and vocabulary are all challenging. But really, the difficulty lies in the fact that the book is kind of about.... nothing. Yup. Nothing. Well, not really NOTHING. It's about a lot of things! It's about addiction. It's about tennis. It's about family (OK, dysfunctional families). It's about love. Like all great books, it is ultimately about life itself - the gist of it, the melancholy chaos out of which we each seek sense and relevance. It's even about a future where Canada and the U.S have merged, to the distress of the Canadians. But really, the plot arc is so complex that it's rather dilute, and hooking on to a compelling plot amidst language, run on sentences and endless footnotes makes the book feel like it's about nothing. But it's NOT! It's about all the things I mention above and more. It's about Wallace's genius - with words, description, the human condition. It's about you, the reader, and your ability to weep with Mario, ache with the exhausted tennis kids, and soar with Gately. I can't really give a great synopsis of the book as it's complex and long. But I can say this: if you read this book, you will love it. There can be no other outcome.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • steven
  • 2016-07-14

my favorite book of all time.

incredible piece of art. I've listened to it four times in the past two years

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Katherine
  • Quechee, VT, United States
  • 2012-05-13

Have actual book handy

What made the experience of listening to Infinite Jest the most enjoyable?

I had already read the book, but knew that there was more to enjoy. Audible did the trick.

What did you like best about this story?

Please, ask me which of my children I prefer. It would be easier.

Which character – as performed by Sean Pratt – was your favorite?

Pratt did an amazing job with this very complicated book.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Let's not ruin the book by letting Hollywood have its way with it.

Any additional comments?

In a very imperfect world, this book comes very close to perfect

42 of 49 people found this review helpful