The following quotations are from David Foster Wallace describing Infinite Jest.
While reading Infinite Jest, I really wanted to know–what was he thinking while writing this? The interviews and quotes provide some interesting background on the motivations and desires behind the creation of the book. A huge thanks to this website, where I found many of the interviews.
Note: Currently I don’t have anything below from Although You End Up Becoming Yourself, the book by David Lipsky that became the basis for the movie, End of Tour. I have read that book, but don’t currently have a copy to reference.
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“There’s a lot of addiction stuff in “Infinite Jest.” And it’s odd, I mean I went to a lot of open AA meetings, and I’ve read a lot of, um, sort of addictionology books. And it does become a kind of model or lattice through which you end up seeing a lot of stuff, particularly American stuff — advertising as seduction. I mean, the ultimate [garbled] demand is an addict, which is, you know, terrific for commercial interests. I think, um — I’m not sure about addiction so much.” Bookworm with Michael Silverblatt, 1997
“Some of my friends got into AA. I didn’t start out wanting to write a lot of AA stuff, but I knew I wanted to do drug addicts and I knew I wanted to have a halfway house. I went to a couple of meetings with these guys and thought that it was tremendously powerful. That part of the book is supposed to be living enough to be realistic, but it’s also supposed to stand for a response to lostness and what you do when the things you thought were going to make you OK, don’t. The bottoming out with drugs and the AA response to that was the starkest thing that I could find to talk about that.” Salon, 1996
“The characters have to struggle with the fact that the AA system is teaching them fairly deep things through these seemingly
simplistic cliches.” Salon, 1996
Editing & Length
“in fact even though “Infinite Jest” is really long, the thing I’m most proud of is that for once I did not reptilianly fight and hang on to every single page that I did. And I let — I allowed myself to have faith in a really smart editor and cut some of it — and like that, that for me was what was valuable about that process.” Bookworm with Michael Silverblatt, 1997
“I know it’s risky because it’s part of this equation of making demands on the reader — which start out financial. The other side of it is publishing houses hate it because they make less money. Paper is so expensive. If the length seems gratuitous, as it did to a very charming Japanese lady from the New York Times, then one arouses ire. And I’m aware of that. The manuscript that I delivered was 1700 manuscript pages, of which close to 500 were cut. So this editor didn’t just buy the book and shepherd it. He line-edited it twice. I flew to New York, and all that. If it looks chaotic, good, but everything that’s in there is in there on purpose. I’m in a good emotional position to take shit for the length because the length strikes people as gratuitous, then the book just fails. It’s not gratuitous because I didn’t feel like working on it or making the cuts.” Salon, 1996
“…some of [references] are real and some of them aren’t. In the first draft, which was longer, [I tried] to create something that would feel the way the culture would feel, which was a sort of tsunami of information. Most of the cuts were in the end notes; there used to be almost 400 pages of end notes, now there are 100.” STIM, 1996