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Home News by Category Infinite Jest Why I Cannot Recommend the Infinite Jest Audio Book

Why I Cannot Recommend the Infinite Jest Audio Book

Update: Audio end notes are on the way.

I guess this is a first for me and I'll get straight to the point.

I can't recommend the purchase of the (what at first appears to be the amazing - I've heard good things about the audio, excellent vocal performance) audio book of Infinite Jest.

I received an email earlier today from a reader who had excitedly received their 'unabridged' audio book of Infinite Jest only to discover that in the 56 hours of recording none of the endnotes are part of the audio. Yes, a voice lets the listener know where endnotes appear, and a pdf (with a typo making it difficult to download if you purchased online... remove the space) is included, but seriously, no endnotes? At best this is misleading presenting it as unabridged. The endnotes are essential to the enjoyment and understanding of this novel. For those of us who have read it, there is much significant material missing if the endnotes are excluded.


Publishers note at the beginning (via a reader):

"From time to time the listener will hear a female voice announce numbers. These refer to the novel's endnotes - a device well known to fans of 'Infinite Jest'. By turns descriptive and digressive, definitive and satiric, the notes are an important part of David Foster Wallace's work. Since we are unable to include them in this recording, we nevertheless wanted to acknowledge their existence and allow the serious student of the novel to follow along with the text, pausing and reading particular citations as they emerge. We hope that you find out approach helpful."


Okay, okay, so you can cross-reference the pdf... but I personally listen to audio books and podcasts while I am cycling to work every day. I was actually somewhat excited to be able to listen to this while commuting. But not now. I'm not going to have a print out of the endnotes on my handlebars. I'm not going to purchase this version, in this state.

You can find some explanation of why the endnotes are missing in this thread over at Goodreads (page 2 is particularly enlightening) because the voice actor, Sean Pratt chimes in with some explanation.

What is troubling is that at least one person is claiming their review has been removed. Reinstated, check it out. And here for the version with links.

An audio book of Infinite Jest is not an audio book of Infinite Jest without audio endnotes.

I can't help but quote 'Rob' from over at goodreads, "That is like reading Finnegans Wake and not including the words that make no sense."

If you know what you are buying, an excellently produced and read audio version of Infinite Jest, without endnotes, and you still want it, then go for it. But I find it very hard to accept it is being marketed as unabridged.

Let's hope a version with the endnotes (that we can purchase) becomes available in the future, or that it is marketed more accurately as an abridged version of the novel.

[Update: The review audible removed has been reinstated although the links have been removed. (Here's the original text) ]

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 May 2012 21:48  


#1 Bobby 2012-09-19 04:49
I loved the audiobook and found the performance tour de force. While i agree that the FNs were missed, I respected the choice. Some of the footnotes just seem to evade a sensical audio reading (e.g., the wonderful litany of JOI's opus is a wonderful read but insufferable read aloud; also some of the FNs are intertextual, and I don't see how this could've been done elegantly). There was also something wonderfully odd about hearing the female airport announcement voice interjection of FN call numbers throughout the reading. Finally, audio storytelling is more in the nature of, well, storytelling. Footnotes, are by their nature, digressive and flesh-out-y but unessential (hence the choice, when writing a 1800+ page novel that includes many digressions in the main body to place certain material below-the-line. it's not random, it's purposeful and reasoned and makes sense). I get the critique but the audio is so enriching that I can't believe the FN's absence scuttles the whole project.
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#2 Dougie 2014-08-28 03:59
Tour de force Indeed. I love listening to the Audiobook. In fact I listen to it repeatedly almost obsessively although not quite so bad as Steeply's father's obsession with M.A.S.H. :)
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#3 Jimmy Fandango 2016-06-16 21:02
The audiobook is such an impressive work. First rate. I also find that the missing endnotes whilst annoying are definitely not a showstopper.
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#4 marilynnea 2016-09-18 13:45
I can't tell you how amazed I am by Sean Pratt's performance of Infinite Jest. There are so many characters who appear, drop out of sight, then reappear with exactly the same voices and speech patterns it boggles the mind--just as the text itself does. The footnotes are available as a pdf. I found that after listening in the car I could go home and read the footnotes without losing too much of their immediate value. Highly recommended!
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