Seems like I’ve had David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest on my shelf for approximately 5 years.
I’ve tried to read the book several times and only remember the “year of the depend adult undergarment” and something tennis.
I’d look at the book. It’d mock me from the shelf. Infinite. Jest. Ha ha. You can’t do it.
This year, I’m doing it.
FREE READING GUIDE PDF: Get an Infinite Jest Online Reading Guide with links to helpful resources. Click here to download.
Part 2 (Through Page 442)
Was excited about the intro of Joelle Van Dyne, and I generally believed she would play a more central role in this section but that would assume that this narrative moves at a standard pace, which it does not.
Good to see her as the vague connection between her & the Ennet house, I think.
Liked the backstory of Orin and Joelle, helped provide context to some prior mentions.
Seems like the highlight for me in these pages was the explanation of the Eschaton game as an analogy to the geopolitical climate if the nation in the book. I loved how Pemulis freaked out about the rules and the meltdown
The Clipperton saga seems especially relevant to the succeed at all costs nature of sports, though Today in the real world, I feel that someone would be okay with beating him and watching him shoot his brains out on the court.
Mario’s video of the development of O.N.A.N is helpful for understanding the political climate in the boom though it seems hard to believe e that the film is that good for the children to be that invested.
So far the Ennet House story seems superfluous I am curious to see it’s payoff. I liked the dialogue conversation around 250 and on; the grief-guilt conversation and the jokes inherent within it. These cultural tangents, about how people should interact with a certain situation and then don’t, are very fascinating, almost like small essays and short stories within the larger novel. The book would be impossible to read without these short mini-breaks to keep us entertained. I’m guessing because of Gately’s build and age (“Don Gately is almost twenty-nine and sober and just huge” pg. 277) that he connects back to Orin Incandenza as a football friend in some way.
Nothing with Steeply and Marathe makes any sense to me right now, and I don’t find myself caring about those sections at all. Maybe I should do some more research on them to see how it connects.
Something with drugs will eventually happen I guess (unless I already missed it? Maybe).
I don’t get which chapter headings get the moon / subhead bold treatment and which ones don’t.
In the 350s, the description of Boston-area AA meetings seems too precise, unfortunately.
Yes, Johnny Gentle becoming President of the United States is not so far off after all.
The multitude of abbreviations is somewhat annoying, but also adds realism, I guess
Infinite Jest is an ocean and I’m plankton.
Part 1 (Through Page 223)
I’ve made it to page 223, there’s still the feeling that I haven’t actually *read* it yet. I kind of came into this naively. I just opened it and started. I didn’t do any pre-research. Of course I’ve heard of the book and knew that it was difficult, but I have read other David Foster Wallace books, including The Broom Of The System. What I didn’t realize was the layered complexities. I have never read a book this long, except for the Bible, I think. It’s impossible to remember everything. You will be familiar with the characters, but you won’t remember important details. You must have help.
The book is like a swimming pool–you can dive right in and do laps or you can dive right in and float around and enjoy the sun. I’m more of a float around and soak it all in. So I don’t remember who said what on whatever page for an inside joke that pays off 600 pages later. Or I don’t know those jokes now, maybe I’ll go back and look. Basically if you haven’t read Infinite Jest, the following won’t make much sense…. Because I felt like I was missing something, especially around the Incandenza relationships and exactly what does Michael Pemulis do? …I began researching about 125-150 pages in and I put together this online resource guide for suggestions and guiding tips. Int includes sites for character names, annotations and small chapter summaries–you know all the stuff I don’t want to keep track of, but are really handy for referring back to. I’m not purchasing any of the guides or theory books, but I will be checking on Infinite Winter (I’m a little ahead of them).
I hope that a lot of these first pages is establishing characters who will come in later. Take the profile of cab driver Tiny Ewell on page 85. Tiny is a cabdriver who goes through detox, which I think connects to the Ennet House. The section immediately following is about a guy named Marathe that doesn’t make any sense to me yet either. (I can’t even write this without referring to the online resource guide…). And then it continues, one after another. The only characters I remember and kind of resonate with at this stage is some of the Incandenzas and Michael Pemulis. They seem to be the most ahem…accessible(?)…as much as anything can be accessible in this book. By reading about and around the book, you can tell that everything will revolve around the tennis academy and then the Ennet House and Don Gately and whatever the future of James O. Incandenza’s film career…. Oddly, I don’t have a lot more to say. IT just feels very atmospheric, with a lot of setting. I’m sure all of the tennis academy names will pay off at some point, like with Blott and Schtitt or maybe not…
World Building And The Future
Because of that, Wallace likes to go off on tangents about what the future world is, like mini predictive essays. (SEE ‘DAVID FOSTER WALLACE KNEW THIS POST WOULD HAPPEN‘). My favorite is the one about video calling and phones, about how the culture depicted in the book became so conscientious of their looks on video phones (“internetted teleputers) that they began wearing masks. And this caused such anxiety about meeting people IRL that they give up on video phones all together. It’s a great piece of writing and yes, is totally prescient. In my edition, this is pages 144-145. NOTE: A few days after I began reading my hard copy, Amazon put the Kindle version on sale for $2.99 and I bought it. In retrospect, I don’t know anyone read the book without a digital version. That is an amazing feat. The search function through the book is worth the price of the ebook, even if you never actually ‘read’ the ebook on one of your devices. Totally worth the investment. That’s good for now. I read that you should stick it out to page 200 at least and then page 223 as a critical timeline juncture. I’m glad I stuck it out this far. I feel far more interested in the book after those first 200 than I ever have before in my previous attempts. You have to stick with it.