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Page and Screen

February 4, 2017

Should the novel be redefined to include serial cable television? Erik P. Hoel addresses the problem of fiction in an age of screens. His essay interacts with the work of several media critics, including David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. This is an important discussion for pastors who hope to understand what is happening within their congregations.

At a recent scientific conference, I got the chance to wear a virtual-reality headset for the first time. As Wallace could discern so clearly, the seductively soft hand of entertainment has our civilization by the throat, and when I put those goggles on and marveled at what I saw, I felt a tightening. The solution offered by Infinite Jest to entertainment addiction is hard work and monastic concentration on some abstract entity — what Wallace referred to as “worship.” (Worship being exactly what a book as dense as Infinite Jest requires to read; the book itself tries to be a cure for what it diagnoses.)

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