Notes Reading Notes

Infinite Jest

By David Foster Wallace, 1996

One of the most intriguing things about Infinite Jest is David Foster Wallace’s assertion that the original draft was structured as a Sierpinski gasket—a primitive fractal, characterised by the recursive subdivision of triangles inside triangles. Many people have speculated on what he actually meant by this. Does it describe the structure of chapters and sections? Is it how point of view and characters are organised? Plot? Themes?

I’m always looking for different representations and models of narrative structure, so this idea stuck with me, even while I lost interest in David Foster Wallace’s work in general.

The Sierpinski gasket seems to be reinforced by the title too—the idea that the narrative could continue to recursively split into more and more nested structures that reflect the same overall shape, repeated indefinitely.