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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.

Reading now… possibilities

What I read on vacation

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I dragged up my copy of Infinite Jest last night before going to bed. I suppose that I thought I would make some kind of headway into it at last, after more than a year of ignoring the poor thing. Now it sits on the radiator, staring at me. I left off reading the book last year after it was far more effective at making me feel the cultural emptiness that inhabits and surrounds all of the characters. I needed a time out.

I suppose that a year is enough of a time out. I have also skimmed the end of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and am looking for my next book. Thus, the reasoning behind dragging Infinite Jest upstairs. Anthony Powell‘s books — A Dance to the Music of Time — are in the running as serious candidates. Not sure about Don DeLilloWhite Noise is on my Kindle. I rather think that now I’ll go with Salman Rushdie‘s Midnight’s Children.

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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I am reading too much

… and sleeping too little, I think. I am just realizing how daunting the list is.

Infinite Jest (which you might have guessed already)
The Shadow of the Wind
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Children’s Book
(by A. S. Byatt, not in print over here yet until September)

On the back burner:

War and Peace
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

So, I can’t really lay a claim to boredom at the moment.

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Finishing Eschaton

Gravity's Rainbow with first dinner
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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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Infinite Jest: How a book should work

infinite summer starts sunday
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Ideally, in even a very large and sprawling novel, which David Foster Wallace‘s Infinite Jest certainly is, all the parts of the book are necessary to the whole. The sum of the whole is greater than the accumulation of its parts, etc. This is emphasized in the quote from Infinite Summer, below

So yes, I am glad that I read footnote #24, and all of the rest of them. Footnote #24 contains much useful knowledge about the characters in the story, but you have to dig through the seeming oddity of a filmography of a fictional character in order to get it.

Have patience.

Those digressions that don’t serve the plot (or at least provide a satisfying coincidence that may or may not serve the plot, such as Gately’s role in a separatist’s death or Steeply’s putative puff piece on Poor Tony’s heart-snatchery) serve the theme.

via Infinite Summer » Blog Archive » Nick Douglas: Skim is for Wimps.

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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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