The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home News by Category Infinite Jest Infinite Jest - 24 Hours Through the Utopian West

Infinite Jest - 24 Hours Through the Utopian West

Updated 25/6/12 Youtube video (and another) of part of the performance.

Infinite Jest - 24 Hours Through the Utopian West


Berlin, Germany, beginning on the 2nd of June 2012 for a total of 8 performances. An Infinite Jest themed bus tour / performance by 12 artists.

Here's one of the locations -Steffi Graf Stadium.

A few readers have already contacted me to let me know they are attending and will write up their experiences to post here on The Howling Fantods. Let me know if you plan to take the tour - I'd love to post reports and reflections for readers not able to attend.

Pictures of the performance.

Updated 18/6/12 :

Giovanni Marchini Camia's review for Exberliner, A performance of staggering proportions:


And in terms of scale, it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Considering the logistical nightmare that must involve transporting two groups of 75 people over distances of up to 20km at a time, walking them through immense complexes and multi-storeyed office buildings, having an army of actors at the ready to perform highly elaborate, multimedia plays on a strict time schedule, synchronising countless recordings to either dub or narrate the action via portable headsets live, and who knows what else ‘behind the scenes’ – in this regard, it’s an absolute triumph. There was not one glitch or delay, two double-decker BVG buses – ‘Metro Boston’ buses, sorry – acted as our personal chauffeurs/cloakrooms for the entire period, we were given time for meals, each performance ran like clockwork, and they even threw in a live guided tour of the modernist abominations we passed on the road to entertain us during the bus rides.

As an adaptation of Infinite Jest, it isn’t quite as successful. The actors are for the most part excellent and the amount of text they each have to memorise is staggering. Still, too many of the performances involve delivering a disparate barrage of citations from all over the novel – in one instance without apparent relevance beyond tickling the geekier fans, or perhaps out of mordant self-irony even from Wallace’s stand-alone essay A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – so that their meaning is largely lost to anyone that hasn’t read the entire novel, whereas for those that have, it often feels too much like playing a game of identifying the passages without the focus necessary for drawing much from them.

The entire play’s two main flaws, however, are its treatment of language and of the novel’s humour. Regarding the former, the fact that except for three of the performances, the rest are entirely in German, is a matter of personal taste and one can be more or less of a purist about it. Even so, a number of the play’s language tactics create unnecessary distance between the audience and the material, often sapping its strength. The novel’s chapter in which J.O. Incandenza’s father delivers a monologue to his son about personal success and fulfilment, getting increasingly intoxicated and finally collapsing on the ground in a drawl of self-pity, incorporates several of the novel’s main themes and is both enthralling and genuinely heartbreaking. In the play, the monologue is delivered by an actor in a short film shown to a group of ETA students in a staged film class. The actor in the film is squat with dark, Latino features and as he is speaking in Spanish, another actor, a lanky, ginger-haired German playing the film class teacher, translates his lines in real time, shouting over the recording and running to and fro while gesticulating wildly in an overemphatic re-enactment. The complete disparity between the two actors’ appearance and their mode of delivery combined with the jump from English to Spanish to German (with the latter two occurring simultaneously) results in a jumble that is amusing because of its frenzied pace but is completely bereft of the pathos that was the crux of the novel’s chapter.


Continue reading

Update 19/6/12:

Aaron Wiener's review for Slate, Infinite Jest! Live! On Stage! One Entire Day Only! :

And lo: It’s five in the morning, and I’m sitting in a Boston AA meeting. The caffeine powder I ingested shortly after midnight has long worn off. I’m clutching a cranberry Red Bull in one jittery hand and a god-awful cup of AA coffee in the other. But I’m fading fast.
Nineteen hours of the play have elapsed. Five remain.
The play is Infinite Jest. Yes, the 1,079-page David Foster Wallace Novel. Germany’s leading experimental theater, Hebbel am Ufer, had the gall not only to stage the world theatrical premiere of an Infinite Jest adaptation, but to play it on the grandest stage possible: the city of Berlin itself. Over the course of 24 hours, the shell-shocked and increasingly substance-dependent audience is transported to eight of the city’s iconic settings, which serve as analogs for the venues to which the discursive novel continually returns.


Continue reading

Update 24/6/12:

Michael Earley's review for the Financial Times, A day in dystopia :

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to buy additional rights.

The opening scenes take place in west Berlin’s LTTC tennis complex to bring to life Boston’s elite Enfield Tennis Academy, home of troubled prodigy Hal Incandenza, one of the novel’s protagonists. On the main court, we see four identical selves using words to vie for game, set and match, an image of a fractured personality at war with itself; it’s immediately clear that the next 24 hours will be total immersive theatre, geared to match Wallace’s long descriptive passages and verbal volleys – he was a master of the linguistic lob shot.

As the morning passes into the afternoon and inexorably into the next dawn, a caravan of buses ferries the audience from one venue to the next: a 1930s recording studio at state broadcaster RBB for a radio broadcast by the novel’s veiled Madame Psychosis; a 1970s laboratory at Berlin Technical University; assorted hospital wards and corridors, where we follow the progress of recovering addict Don Gately; the American Western Saloon, a “real” cowboy cabaret restaurant. The most dramatic site, the decayed remains of Buckminster Fuller-style geodesic domes atop the Teufelsberg, an artificial hill made of wartime rubble, is the setting for a political dialogue – in English, though most of the production is in German – between a cross-dressing secret agent and a wheelchair-bound assassin.

Another (literal) high point is the penultimate scene, atop the Reinickendorf tax office, where the audience puts on masks and sits in wheelchairs to become members of a bizarre Québecois terrorist cell. Here the novel’s growing alienation takes on mounting sobriety and gloom until the first glints of light appear against the slate of the Berlin morning sky. For all Wallace’s arch postmodernism, the touches of high German Romanticism are unmistakable.

Continue reading

Update 25/6/12

Youtube video of part of the performance.

Another video, 18 hours into the performance.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 June 2012 14:09  


#1 William Spell Jr. 2012-06-19 04:10
Looks like I picked a good day to howl with the fantods.
Quote | Report to administrator

The Howling Fantods