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infinitejoe

Infinite Joe

I like challenging books that make you think, and leave you happy that you did. Typically, I find character driven literary fiction the most satisfying, although I in no way think of myself as a serious literary critic.

Currently reading

Unaccustomed Earth
Jhumpa Lahiri
Progress: 282/333 pages

The Instructions

The Instructions - Adam Levin This book was one of those that I had to digest for a while after reading it before I wrote a review, which I guess is a good thing, especially for a book of this size.

A story about 10-year old Gurion, a troubled genius Jewish kid who thinks he might be the messiah, the book spans the four consecutive days prior to and including the Damage Proper, or the Gurionic War, which is basically an overthrow of his school by Gurion and his exceptionally large cult following (from his current school and from a few Hebrew schools he previously got kicked out of).

I do not need to feel sympathetic to, or even like the characters in the books I read, and I certainly didn't here, with maybe the exception of Brodsky and Ms. Pinge, two of the adult characters. There were soft spots for Gurion along the way, sure, but in the end, I simply saw him as a terrorist. Someone who takes simple feelings of enmity (whether real or imagined), and a deeply held, unwavering ideology, and turns them into escalating acts of violence, until they spiral out of control and there is no turning back. I saw him as the center of his own universe, who when confronted with something that should maybe change his way of thinking (his love for the Gentile June), instead changed the rules only for himself to justify his choices and actions. This is the way so many people think these days, and is one of the reasons for quarrels between adults, and for wars between nations. We just happen to see it playing out here in a middle school in Chicago.

Considering the book's size, I did not get tired or even slightly bored throughout this entire book, and was kept interested until the very end. Although I knew there was going to be a "Damage Proper", or a "Gurionic War", I can tell you I was not expecting it to quite the extent as it eventually happened. I'm still chewing on the end, though. Did the "miracle" happen, or was it imagined by the want-to-be-messiah that so wanted it to be true? And what is Gurion doing now that he finished The Instructions, his very own Scripture? Did the people he finished it for still even care?

The only gripe I had though, was that the characters in the book were 10 years old. I have a rather precocious 10-year old daughter, and I couldn't even imagine her speaking, thinking, or acting on the level of not only Gurion, but most every 10-year old character in this book.

Finally, as for the comparisons to David Foster Wallace, I can see some resemblances between this book and Infinite Jest, but there's a world of difference between the two as well. Sure they both use run-on sentences, but they do it very differently. Sure they both wrote long books, but they're laid out very differently. And that's OK. I wouldn't want someone to try and emulate DFW exactly. Anybody who tried doing that would just be a snat-leaking dentist...