Up in the Sky, It’s…

March 12, 2009 | 1 book mentioned 11

The upcoming paperback edition of Netherland looks suspiciously like the 10 year anniversary edition of Infinite Jest. What say you?


is a staff writer and contributing editor for The Millions. She is the author of the novella If You're Not Yet Like Me, the New York Times bestselling novel, California, and Woman No. 17. She is the editor of Mothers Before: Stories and Portraits of Our Mothers As We Never Saw Them.


  1. How so, Tim? I had a fairly different reaction, as you can see from our review index; I'd be interested, outside of the "realism vs. postmodernism" context, in hearing some of the reader responses to Netherland. Not to argue, necessarily…just to listen.

  2. Wow, not even a veiled attempt to conceal the marketing strategy. The post-mortem commercial frenzy strikes me as 1) inevitable, and 2) disturbing.

  3. "The post-mortem commercial frenzy"

    Huh? The 10-year anniversary edition of Infinite Jest came out before DFW died.

    (And "crappy" seems a bit harsh, but I agree that "Netherland" is wildly overrated. One of the guys who runs The Tournament of Books got at part of why; I also agree with a lot of what Zadie Smith wrote about it — which was about much more than "realism" and "postmodernism," touching also on authenticity and the limits of lyricism. I also tend to side with Wyatt Mason's novelist friend — see Mason's blog — more than Mason himself on this… and I suspect Mason's own admiration is wavering, based on those posts…)

  4. Anon, I think in this case, Sonya's charge is against Netherland's publishers who have designed an Infinite Jest doppelganger soon on the heels of DFW's death. However, I feel almost certain that this is simply an amusing coincidence. Maybe we are all looking for a message from above these days.

  5. Ah, I see. That does seem a stretch, though. "Remember that massive, dense, weird, generation-defining tome of a novel? From the 90s? Well, this is totally different!" Probably someone's just not very original. (I mean, is that a cricket field or something? What does the sky and a hazy cloud have to do with Netherland?)

  6. Interesting take, Anon and Max. I think it's utterly intentional. Perhaps that sounds conspiracy theory-ish, but I think jacket cover marketing is rarely accidental. And I do think there are folks out there whose job it is to uncover all the angles of commercial potential relative to Wallace's death. (My personal feelings about that are another matter altogether…)

  7. This isn't a very good paperback, but it's better than the hardcover, which gave me the impression it was historical fiction the first time I saw it. Eerie coincidence.

  8. There is a ton of sky/wind/cloud imagery in The Netherlands, so I'm not too surprised at the cover, and think its probably just a coincidence (a blue sky book cover with a wisp of clouds, wouldn't be surprised if thats not too uncommon)

  9. Netherland is the most overrated novel I have read since John Henry Days (loved Apex Hides the Hurt, though). One tortured metaphor after the next. The language is so overly descriptive that it made me wonder if O'Neil thinks that everyone in the world recently lost their sight. But then again, I shouldn't be surprised at how many champions this book has, as it is thoroughly mediocre, and in the best, safest way possible, not to mention that it takes place in New York, which, to some people, is the center of the world, thus making everyone who lives there, many of whom reviewed this book, the most important people alive. Yeah, right.

    And as far as DFW goes, there is money to be made off of his corpse, and money there shall be. What else is new.

  10. At least the Infinite Jest designer had the skill to give some perspective to the title letters. With Netherland, it’s just flat letters getting smaller, as if the designer didn’t know how to use Illustrator.

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