Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Infinite Jest

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d6070 (Published 28 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6070
  1. Carl Shuker, writer, London
  1. cshuker{at}bmj.com

The central theme and propellant of David Foster Wallace’s great work, Infinite Jest, is, “in these chemically troubled times,” addiction in the United States—to drugs, to alcohol, to pleasure, to entertainment—to any activity into which the participant sacrifices their personality. “American experience seems to suggest that people are virtually unlimited in their need to give themselves away, on various levels,” the narrator tells us. The interchangeable object of addiction is ruthlessly symbolised by “Infinite Jest,” a film within the book. Viewers are so enraptured by this film that they will die to keep watching it.

This very literary novel is full of doctors and therapists and chemists; littered with drugs, licit and …

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