Infinite Jest (¼)

David Foster Wallace

I hadn’t read anything by David Foster Wallace when I first heard about the Infinite Summer project and in general find that I don’t love brilliant dead white dudes as much as other people do. But I like projects and novels that play with the idea of a novel and felt aimless in my reading patterns, so I jumped on board.

There are moments like an entire chapter devoted to things you might learn spending time in a substance-recovery halfway facility that reads like this for about six pages:

… That it is possible to abuse OTC cold and allergy remedies in an addictive manner. That Nyquil is over 50 proof. That boring activities become, perversely, much less boring if you concentrate intently on them. That if enough people in a silent room are drinking coffee it is possible to make out the sound of steam coming off the coffee….

You may have heard that there are endnotes. There are lots of endnotes, sometimes they are 10 pages long, and sometimes the endnotes have footnotes. Personally I find this funny, though flipping back and forth between the main text and endnotes and endnote footnotes while riding the subway (standing) gets tough. This book feels like it weighs at least five pounds. I hope that I’m at least building wrist strength.

But overall, I’m enjoying it (stuff like the coffee line above really get me), and I would have had no problem quitting if I wasn’t. I’m not referring to any guides (aside from the posts on the IS blog) or looking up the words I don’t know — since I’m usually reading on the go, carrying the OED with me isn’t an option and noting words to look up later didn’t take off. I’ll probably miss nuances. I’m not sure that I’ll read it again or be a DFW fanatic after finishing, but it’s entertaining.