Twenty years after publication and 2.5 billion reviews later it has to publicly appear both irrelevant and presumptuous for one to think that they might have something worth saying concerning this book and its author. That is undeniably the judgment before hearing the case for the defense.
IJ is intimidating in a number of ways. It was once considered the book to read if one had any pretensions to intelligence, being "hip" or a sensitive male. It is said that it sat unread in a prominent place in many houses, a display of whatever the homeowner was trying to convey. It is also high on the all time list of "books started and not finished." Though IJ is brimming with ideas, reviewers rarely mention any. They regularly quote from the back cover, make some joke about the length of the book and its footnotes, call it genius, then proceed to demonstrate that they had never read it or didn't understand it. So, another "review" is called for. What sayeth thou judge?
I'm just going to try to mention a few things I consider of significance which I have not seen other reviewer's say.
1) Most importantly this is not a very difficult book to read if you keep in mind that the main themes are A) that the post industrial world is cold and indifferent. When one reaches out one is greeted with a "withering" comment indicating the primacy of self interest. B) You are not truly a human being. You are what the documentation in your file says you are. C)The entertainment industry is the current manifestation of the Biblical beast. D) There is a coming apocalypse. E) The "greater one yet to come" is already here, but is hampered by illness, and probably wears a Depend Adult Undergarment. F)Though it is not an ideal solution, those who survive the apocalyptic event will be those who take drugs. Most of this is said allegorically and could be debated.
2) DFW's vocabulary was gargantuan. People who knew him said that he wasn't doing it to impress and he always tried to tone it down, but he had TWO college professors for parents. He stated that he used to read a lot of avant gard stuff, but moved away from it when it became overly dry and boring, suitable only for PhD candidates. He said things should be entertaining. He sent me to the dictionary many times and sometimes I didn't feel like going. Don't worry about that. There are about 850,000 words in IJ, and if you miss a few, no big thing.
3) So far IJ has sold 150,000 copies. "The Corrections" exceeds that at least 20 times over and maybe more as some people have said they lost the ability to count at some point. IJ has been voted onto a number of best 100 lists.
4) DFW has most often been compared to Pynchon, Gaddis, Joyce, Beckett and even Burroughs. In truth, any similarities are miniscule. He refused to answer questions about the comparisons saying that it was unfair to both people. His favorite author was Don DeLillo.
5) He only wrote three novels and this is the one he put everything into. He made light of the first one saying it was a college project. Since no one can decipher the theme one TV host asked DFW what it was about. He replied; "I had a girlfriend who said she'd rather be a character in a book than a real person. And I got to wondering; 'What's the difference?'" He committed suicide while writing "The Pale King." I have seen a few reviewers call this his best work and I laugh. It was completed by someone else and changed substantially.
That's about all I want to say. If I start getting into tangents and sub-plots I could go on forever. Professional critics can find no fault with IJ. It is impeccably written, extremely inventive, and un-classifiable. There are things in there some people might find disturbing. Though it was not coined by him, one of his favorite quotes was; "The purpose of writing is to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed."
IJ gets my highest recommendation, tied with three or four others.