Friday, December 01, 2006

Infinite variability (with some humor and a Shakespeare reference)

Back Bay Books is publishing a new, inexpensive edition of David Foster Wallace's breakthrough novel Infinite Jest (which is, if I remember correctly, Andrew Hungerford's favorite novel). Actually, it's amazingly inexpensive—$10 compared to the original (and still available) $19.95 paperback. I haven't seen the new edition, but I eagerly anticipate it, not only because of the volume's pleasing heft, but I want to figure out what they did to justify slashing the price—normally, in these situations, we'd be looking at the difference between a quality paperback edition and a mass market edition (larger paperbacks vs. the smaller, newsprint romance-novel-sized versions), but the dimensions on the two versions of IJ are nearly identical.

Anyway, I'm not writing about the new edition of IJ so much for the price difference as to comment on Dave Eggers' lauditory new introduction. As (of all places) points out, Eggers also reviewed IJ in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1996, and seemed a touch less enthusiastic at the time.

Is this a huge scandal? Not really. But it's another interesting tidbit on a wildly energetic writer and editor (Eggers) who has an odd tendency to stretch both fact and fiction in his writing. (Beth Eggers, Dave's sister, took issue with his portrayal of events in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and Eggers' latest novel, What is the What, fictionalizes, although I'm not sure why, the story of an African refugee who is apparently a friend of the author's.)

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