It begins with the monologueing Hal Incandenza, taking stock of the room he’s in, in the Year of Glad. It begins where it’s supposed to end, where the eventual, you-could-totally-see-coming result of the day-to-day, presumably mind-numbing, substance addiction-causing routine of his being a tennis player, in a tennis school, would drive him to.
This book is about many things and but though I highly doubt that tennis is one of those things, tennis the sport plays an important character. It is a sport that resembles life, at least according to a signage in the Headmaster’s House or some place I won’t anymore bother to check, ie that life is a sport usually won by those who serve best. The tennis thing, it’s tough pointing out it’s significance in this except for maybe that it’s vital since DFW himself was a tennis player, but it looks to me like it’s somehow used as a comparison for life, which I know is such a trite and maybe moronic observation, but that’s my take, because it’s the kind of sport that seems to reward excellence and in nature, more random than most sports, but which if you think about it, it is like every other game which sole aim it is to win as much matches as possible and some of that life-sport metaphor things, but that like life too, tennis is mechanical, it’s a sport whose eventual winner is preordained and that some just happen to be so good at it, some have the body, mind and heart for it, but that every move you make in it, in tennis, is going to lead to something that is premeditated, and that if you’re not good now, you’re not going to be much good at it later, even if you try hard enough as to go crazy. Or something.
Infinite Jest is either one of the most rewarding reading experiences of my life or one of the most dreadful. It’s probably both. If a 6-8-month-long slogging can be called rewarding then consider me satiated. Slobbering over it aside, it’s also one of the most challenging, most make-you-feel-stupid, most self-satisfied work of literature I have ever had to commit to. It’s a cock-tease of a book. Some parts of it makes your eyes googly with adoration, some parts you dread having to go back to get through to. Some days I spend reading any random 2 pages of it twice. But I chalk this up to my comprehension limitations than to DFW’s deranged but ostensibly brilliant idea of how drug addicts’ and depressives’, well, people’s story should be told. No one does depressive fiction better than DFW, I think.
It’s one of the heaviest books I’ve ever had to carry around and my desire to finish the fucking thing hurt not only my brain but also my back. Content and weight-wise, Infinite Jest is heavy. Aware as I am of its pretentious perception tendencies, ie reading it in public not only makes you look foolish (because of the insistence) but more obviously, it makes you look like pretentious person who doesn’t know better than to read a David Foster Wallace book in public, casually, and not think of the back or shoulders’ welfare, not to mention, the brain’s. It’s the kind of book most likely to draw ‘It’s one of the most _____ books ever’ conclusions because of its enormity, both in scope and ambition and it mostly deserves it.
I hadn’t thought of romanticizing the reading experience since there were days when getting through just 2 pages of it is painful to the head but I got sad when it ended. I forgot how much end notes it has that when I got to the last few pages, I was, well, I was sort of glad that I can move on with other things.
Notice how I’m more inclined to talk about reading it than what’s actually in it. You are probably thinking, why read something you can’t really get? But maybe I’m being stupid about this kind of perception because it could be that there really are people who read stuff that they won’t be able to digest totally, and flip about it. But if you’re dying to know, I read it because I was morbidly intrigued by the author’s suicide. That and because I can. Because I like to spend on things, on books and I can say with total conviction that that 700 Pesos was one of the most well-spent 700- Pesos I ever used my credit card on.
Notice too how I’ve become more self-contained though I’ve always been. Because you know what, I feel like it spoke to me, when Molly Notkin said something about what I’ve been obsessing about work for some time, this idea:
…a classic illustration of the antinomically schizoid function of the post-industrial capitalist mechanism, whose logic presented commodity as the escape-from-anxieties-of-mortality-which-escape-is-itself-psychologically-fatal
exactly at a time when I was thinking, what is the point of all of this consuming and working and consuming and collecting and working, and thinking having and consuming things is going to be the cause of my happiness/contentment, when in fact I am only becoming more unsatisfied with what I can’t have than with what I already have. Which is kind of the point of The Entertainment, the piece of entertainment that’s so entertaining it causes its consumer to literally die of amusement.
I remember reading this and being too aware of how corny I was being when I stood up from my seat and made connections to this idea and went to the nearest set of ears and said something like, I’m amazed wow this is terrific book, like that.
There are plenty of things in this book that I wish I could re-post somewhere but I will trouble you some other time with them.
I’ve never been more self-aware with my choice of reading than with this. Sadly I have no great realizations or analysis, and all I have are memories of smelling it, of trying to understand it, remembrances of smiling through passages that seem tailored for me (me me me), people like me, of laughing through the fart jokes, its gore and other tragedies (Orin Incandenza, for example, gets his testicles done something to by roaches through the genius of that Swiss hand model, a character I only have a vague recollection of, significance-wise – the memory is still so fresh), the times when I felt like smashing or punching it not out of love and moment of great understanding though I love it, sort of, but because it hurt to think that I may not be able to finish it in this lifetime, not unless I resign from my job, not unless I put an end to all connections with fellow human beings, friends, lover and foes.
I know it’s a little annoying when some fanatical book nerd attaches himself to a work of fiction just because he thinks he understands it, gets what the characters feel, and makes plans to name children after these characters, but some books, they deserve being the causer of people’s annoying tendencies.
Towards the end, Hal Incandenza gets finicky about the big deal tennis event as is the rest of the ETAers, Gately is stuck in the coma ward still delirious, Joelle van Dyne is not getting her lethally beautiful face back which was damaged to a devastating extent because of a deranged set of parents, it remains unknowable what is in the The Entertainment, and Mario Incandenza is still a retard. I have no fucking idea what these elements were supposed to be about or if they were supposed to tie each other up but I loved most of them because they’re either funny or real-like or they’re written so sharply and I’ve been with them for 8 months!
(Thank you, reading buddy, for indulging me in this. I hate to imply that we’ve been such phonies trying to do recaps of this mammoth book, making comments at this blog’s trying-to-be-purposeful recaps because you may not agree, you might say you were simply looking for a really good, serviceable piece of literature to consume you which might be only slightly true for me, and you did not go into this thinking ‘I’m great and good’ just for doing this, but just the same, thank you that you did not leave me to be the only one who seems phony and pretentious, etc, supposing we ever did for a moment seemed like those, for having the nuts to Read Infinite Jest. High five!)
Infinite Jest reads like a huge book about a lot of nothings but it is not trashy and I think it’s saying something to me? I do not know. What I do know is that it gave me the howling fantods, whatever that might ever mean.
Infinite Jest sounds like every other book written by and about sad people. In the world of these fuck-ups, there are no resolutions, only more fuck-ups. But if there’s one book about human sadness you think you could afford to read, devote not just spend huge chunks of your time and life for, even if you don’t care to know what is rooted in really depressed people’s sadness, I would humbly suggest this marvelous book. I would hate to have to call this book marvelous, terrific, excellent or anything that’s supposed to suggest it as great, but like those who did before me, about the subject of this book’s actual greatness, I just have no words, obviously.
I think Infinite Jest is about the futility of human exertion to look for and obtain happiness, but that’s just me. But thank you, David Foster Wallace, for saying, because I would not have believed it myself.