There’s no data on this, but I am going to guess that the most common pages where people quit reading Infinite Jest is somewhere between 500 and 600. If there wasn’t an absolute determination to finish the book, I believe it would have done it for me.
This particular section is just especially painful. There are just long scenes which appear to go on forever without any real actual point. I once read an interview with the editor of this book and how he had DFW take parts of the book out, like whole parts, and I now think…he did? Really?
So the closest thing to something in this section that might hold your (or my) interest and be memorable is a conversation about (obvi) fusion…gratuitously staged between one man and another man who has to go to the bathroom REALLY BAD but can’t because of the conversation about fusion.
You all remember fusion. I am amazed that I didn’t look for this information before this, but DFW is/would have been two years older than me, so we have very much the same pop-cultural frame of reference. Anyway, fusion was big because two guys said it could happen at room temperature and it didn’t make waste and was going to be the answer to our energy problems that wouldn’t require us to do anything differently. (These two guys turned out to be full of shit). Anyhoo, you can see how DFW would have been fascinated by the concept, given that his dystopia is one where a part of North America has been sectioned off to handle nuclear waste, which is itself a metaphor for the inevitable costs of our insatiable and uncontrollable desires (relevant but self-referential link).
So there’s this special kind of fusion that actually uses toxic waste for fuel. Which seems like a really good thing, but we have learned that anything that good must have a drawback. In this case, it’s too good:
…the whole process environmentally is that the resultant fusion turns out so greedily efficient that it sucks every last toxin and poison out of the surrounding ecosystem, all inhibitors to organic growth for hundreds of radial clicks in every direction.’
‘Hence the eastern Concavity of anxiety and myth.’
‘You end up with a surrounding environment so fertilely lush it’s practically unlivable…Therefore rapacial feral hamsters and insects of Volkswagen size and infantile giganticism and the unmacheteable regions of forests of the mythic eastern Concavity.’
So, the great fusion beast needs to be fed more waste, a kind of virtuous circle where the cure is the disease and the disease is the cure.
See, I think that’s interesting. There are insights in this book. They’re just floating in an ocean of (wait a minute, maybe I have figured it out) seemingly wasted paragraphs. Hmm. (Emphasis indulgent).
Also, in this section, we have the punter Orrin who cannot feel pleasure and therefore is a great lover.
Finally, DFW has clearly seen me wrap a package. Apropos (naturally) of nothing.
painstakingly wrapped in so much foil-sheen paper that the final wrapped present looked like an oversized dachshund that had required first bludgeoning and then restraint at both ends with two rolls each of Scotch tape and garish fuchsia ribbon to be subdued and wrapped and placed under the gaily lit pine, and even then the package seemed mushily to struggle as the substrata of paper shifted and settled.