Gettin’ my Infinite On.
June 20, 2009
Despite the fact that I do have a blog specifically for books, I am going to blog about the Infinite Summer project over here, since that other blog is specifically for books that Kat & I have finished reading. I’ve read Infinite Jest one and a half times before: the first time, I only got half-way through. My ex bought it because friends of his had raved about it, and being a literati, he needed to see what the hype was about. He never finished it. I don’t think he even liked it, but it’s hard to say. Infinite Jest is lovable, but I’m not sure if it’s quite likable. Anyhow, intrigued by its vast size (I like big books and I can not lie!), I tried to succeed where he had failed…
And I failed.
Other large books require endurance. I’ve read plenty a long book in my day. Cryptonomicon was soundly defeated in mere weeks (as was Anathem – Neal Stephenson is nothing if not verbose). House of Leaves is itself a book that might require a “support group,” but I’ve managed it several times on my own. I have read the entire Bible. It’s actually safe to say that the larger a book is, the more I am intrigued by it and thus, the more likely I am to read it. Skinny books just seem… too easy. I want a nice meaty book. Infinite Jest requires more than endurance. It requires commitment. A commitment that no other book I have ever read has managed to wrench from me. (Which probably explains why I failed at reading Ulysses.) Generally, I am a committed reader, but Infinite Jest truly demands that you consider the book itself to be a graduate seminar.
David Foster Wallace “Choose Your Own Adventure” by Toothpaste for Dinner
The second time I attempted, and the first time I succeeded in finishing, Infinite Jest was after David Foster Wallace’s death in September. I read his obit and ordered a copy of Infinite Jest in the same day. Funny how that works. I did the same thing with Vonnegut – his passing reminded me that I had meant to read his books, and so, I did. It’s my own sort of tiny little tribute, I suppose. This time, I sort of knew what I was in for. Sort of. And I managed to make it to the end! And I found out that yes, it does require every last brain cell in your head (and perhaps a few borrowed from others, if you can manage it), but yes, it is also totally worth it.
So, now I’m going through for my second and a halfth time. The Infinite Summer group doesn’t technically start until Sunday… but I’m in the middle of a move and I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to do anything in the next ten days or so. I started last night and this time, I’m going through with two different pens, two bookmarks, a notebook, and Wikipedia. In the first 25 pages, I already tracked down what might be the most obscure reference to Gravity’s Rainbow (1) EVER. (Bonus points if you can find it.) I’ll start sharing these sort of things after the spoiler-warnings on the Official Schedule (Year of the Infinite Summer Reading Project) have passed. Which means there will probably be a few Wallace-sized entries in the middle of July as I’ll spend the first half of the month in Portugal where I might not have anything better to do than read gigantic books, but I will have better things to do than write about gigantic books on the internet.
1)This would be where I put the footnote that Infinite Jest inspired me to read Gravity’s Rainbow, which I ordered at the same time, having heard that it had inspired DFW and that the two held structural parallels (that structure, of course, being the parabola). And that also took me one and a half times to read, and a serious commitment. I only managed to get through by creating a cross-referenced list of the “cast of characters” which, if it sounds simple, you haven’t read Gravity’s Rainbow. Again, the commitment paid off. I will even probably attempt more Pynchon in the future.
But for now, I’m moving and then I’ll be off in Portugal for a few weeks, and I can only fit one brick sized book in my carry-on without requiring the aid of a sherpa. At least I won’t have to worry about not having anything to read on my trans-Atlantic flight.