So fresh on last year’s unreadable reading project–War and Peace–Barb and I are back again with perhaps an even more daunting challenge….Infinite Jest. See below.
@LouiseMensch There is no way this imaginary person read Infinite Jest! I mean nobody manages to read Infinite Jest!
— Le Marquis de Salade (@JacquesSalade) February 19, 2017
Oh yeah? We’ll see about that.
Not going to lie, though. This one does have me a little nervous. Truth be told, War and Peace is not that difficult to read. It is long and there are a lot of Russian nicknames thrown around, but it is mostly just long. The narrative is straightforward and un-experimental. It’s a story.
Infinite Jest has a rep. When I saw “End of the Tour” I was tempted to ask the 12-15 other weirdos in the theater if even one of them had ever finished the book.
If you needed a better clue, I once picked up an edition with a foreword from a pious and lecturing Dave Eggers (like there’s another kind of Dave Eggers) on the virtues of reading difficult fiction….using roughly the same tone that my dentist uses when the subject happens to land on flossing.
I wanted to read this book for the same reason I wanted to read War and Peace. Because I wanted to and hadn’t. Difficult or not, it was considered a work of genius at the time, a ground-breaking book that took the novel to a new level. So, that’s the kind of thing I would want to read.
I’m also very interested in Foster Wallace. I’ve read his commencement address from Kenyon and consider it one of the best pieces of writing I have ever seen. To wit:
Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.
I have enjoyed his essays. The adult video convention and the cruise ship essays are side-splittingly funny. He had an insight into the human condition that is not normal. Whether Infinite Jest is a great book or not, that’s a different question, but the mind of DFW was an electric place.
So, we’re in, starting on what would have been DFW’s birthday. Same deal as last year. Periodically we will check in and let you know we think. Sometime in 2017, it will be finished. Enjoy.