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WE ARE WHAT WE WALK BETWEEN

Yes, I am reading it again: Infinite Jest. There are so many people and things in it that the sheer density of stuff has enough mass to affect my intellectual gravity field.

There are also so many favorite quotes that I’m planning on wearing out one whole yellow pencil by the time that I reach the end of the book.

More Infinite Jest thoughts

David Foster Wallace‘s writing is like a firework, always fading away.

A.S. Byatt‘s writing has life in it. It is solid, and will happily last and live as long as is possible for a book to live.

DFW’s Infinite Jest frightens me with the possibility always of its frivolity, its center of nothingness, despair, entertainment as a main goal in life and entertainment as ultimately empty and leading literally to death and decay and waste around us.

It is amazing that DFW lived long enough to create that work. It is amazing that he lived through all of the experiences that he must have in order to write of these subjects, of addiction to substances and activities and of recovery from these addictions. You can’t simply make up stuff like the monologues and descriptions of AA, in Boston or elsewhere, without having been through the process yourself. This is not something which you can simply imagine or extrapolate or get as advice or reminiscences from friends.

This is it, the real thing.

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Finishing Eschaton

Gravity's Rainbow with first dinner
Image by qousqous via Flickr

I am still, as stated earlier, reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I have decided that it’s not a novel that I am continuing to read because I like it, though I do. I’ve given up on a lot of likeable novels. There is also the allure of actually finishing a “cool” and “important” novel, and therefore having a license to drone on about it to everyone within earshot. That’s not been a deciding factor ever since I gave up reading Gravity’s Rainbow when it came out when I was in high school. That book was immediately made cool by some sort of critical osmosis that I could never quite fathom. I chucked it after about 54 pages of humor (I think) that I simply didn’t get.

I have decided that, unlike most other books I read, Infinite Jest and the reading of it is a vocation. I can’t leave the book alone. I am quite behind in the reading schedule suggested on the Infinite Summer website — I have only today gotten through the big Eschaton section.

Eschaton, in IJ, is a group game, rather like Risk, where the players, who are students at a tennis academy in Boston, act out a global conquest and dominance sort of game out on some unused tennis courts. The students are divided up into assorted nations, and tennis balls are imaginary 5-megaton nuclear warheads. In this particular session of the game, things… go awry. Suddenly, the players of the game forget the difference between “game” and reality. It doesn’t end well.

There is no such game in real life as Eschaton, not that I know of. If it does exist, I will avoid it.

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A very small milestone

With regard to Infinite Jest, I would like to announce that I have actually read all the way through footnote #24.

This is a bigger deal than it sounds, if you have ever taken a look at that book. The book is almost 20% footnotes, written often in a dry, footnote-y tone. Sometimes they contain nothing more than “Ibid. page N” or somesuch. More than a few times, they spin off on their own, with footnotes of their own, as is the case with footnote #24.

Many readers use this as an instance of David Foster Wallace foreseeing the Internet, or at least the Web. Not so. The Web was already around, and at the time of the book’s publishing, I had already made and abandoned roughly five personal home pages and sites. It was not long after that I sat down and purchased this domain. So, being an intelligent, noticing sort of person, DFW simply had to infer a few things here and there.

Okay, back to reading the book.

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I read a very thick book.

RIP David Foster Wallace
Image by \ Ryan via Flickr

This is my first full day of being a member of the Infinite Jest book group. As such, I have done not only a lot of reading, but have begun to realize the size of the task that I have set myself.

This thought makes perfect sense if you have just plowed through both the Erdedy and Wardine sections at the same sitting. The amount of voices in that book are staggering. No, I can’t really explain it without having you read the book too.

And so this is a bit of a difficult book to blog about. The need I have to try to write about it anyway is the same sort of need one has of dropping breadcrumbs along the way as you travel, hoping to give yourself some method of finding your way home.

One may never actually get back home, or even try. But one feels a bit safer if there is at least the illusion that a retreat exists.

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A summer's reading

Infinite Jest
Image via Wikipedia

Following is one of the (many) websites that I have found that have to do with David Foster Wallace, and also his most famous work, Infinite Jest. This is a book that is, to say the very least, sprawling. Also huge. One that demands careful attention at all times due to quick changes of voice and viewpoint. I am certain that I can’t describe the plot.

There is, this summer, a massive literary occasion online in which willing individuals, such as myself, have promised themselves to sit around and read the whole of Infinite Jest by, I believe, September 22. I have no idea why the choice of that date was made. Perhaps it even has something to do with the book, or DFW.

This event sounds like the overwhelming, symbolic and not-entirely-meaningful event that I was looking for to occupy my days lately. I have no idea how this will turn out.

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Infinite Summer

 

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