On Reading Infinite Jest, part I

infinite Jest photo

Dave Eggers, forwarder, egged me on last summer, when I bought Infinite Jest.  He said all kinds of nice things about David Foster Wallace and non-lazy writing and what kinds of readers would like this book and much of it both spoke to my identity and my need for literary climbs to the yet unknown. Inspired to look into it by a friend who said it would be her “summer challenge” I decided thus it would be mine.  Eggers was right, though.  It isn’t to be taken lightly.  I put it down – it’s 2 inch thick, 40.8 ounces – noticing it would be both unwieldy to read in bed and that I definitely needed to restructure my life around its possibilities if I were to succeed in the way Wallace would want me to to.

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I had read chapters “Year of Glad” and “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment” already, so it was a review-with-pleasure that I indulged again, highlighting snippets of master-crafted energy, what I would have with pencil, greyily in my kindle.  Hal, with his strange noises representing intellectual mammothism, and the Insectdude, too polite to make himself a burden on society, allowed me into, respectively, the frustrated or secretive depths of their thoughts. Hal, in first person, thinks:

“The familiar panic at feeling misperceived is rising, and my chest bumps and thuds.  I expend energy on remaining utterly silent in my chair, empty, my eyes two great pale zeros.  People have promised to get me through this.”

And Insectdude, in third person limited, is shown to think:

“Once the woman who said she’d come had come, he would shut the whole system down.  It occurred to him that he would disappear into a hole in a girder inside him that supported something else inside of him.  He was unsure what the thing inside him was and was unprepared to commit himself to the course of action that would be required to explore the question.  It was now almost three hours past the time when the woman said she would come.” 

The reading of this novel will accompany a book on epistemology and done with a couple of other people.  I hope the pleasurable pressures of literary and intellectual rigor will keep me apace, and the companionship will also if they are not too whelmed by the work as I was last summer.

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