Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I’ve read it.

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.

Need to talk

My brain capacity is probably never going to be enough to take in and process the contents of something as voluminous and as big as Infinite Jest. I insisted on doing this, mapping my progress on it, because I don’t have a child, or any other thing that’s sufficiently distracting with which to eliminate the need to do this type of questing.

I thought it might be a good idea to track my whereabouts, plot-wise, which is obviously not such a wise thing to do with Infinite Jest, since it’s big. Where I’m wrong is in tracking my progress, checking my comprehension or degree of amazement thus far. What I should have done, I should have just sat back and read. It’s been a major slog but believe self-absorbed people talking about books when they say, IJest is great.

I thought maybe this questing is because of the need to talk about something.

It makes perfect sense that most blurbs read like as if it’s God himself they’re praising when they rave about something, at least within the pages of the book they’re praising, in their concise, sliced form, the blurbs. With this book, it seems particularly justified although last resort-like, such as that it’s bravely brilliant, a tour-de-force of nature, et al because, and I’m just guessing, book appreciation doesn’t always translate to comprehension, and maybe some book critics/appreciators are just fishing from their reserves of usable and trusty wells of praises when they have/want to describe books as marvelously intellectual and funny as this, which is very understandable since it’s beginning to look like its reason for existence seems to be to dazzle, because everything’s so eloquently laid out and there’s nothing left to do but say wow, or pick a word from your well.

What I should have done or should aim to do is to just let the reading experience be and spare what/whoever (WordPress) of my impressions since they’re so elementary anyway, and there are only but a few signs that I am understanding what I’ve been reading.

But for example, that conversation between Joelle Van Dyne and Don Gately, about how the principles of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and UHID (Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed) greatly differ, through Joelle’s gorgeous explanation to Gately that UHID, as opposed to the belief system(s) of AA, believes it’s important to acknowledge the shame of being shamed about his (Gately’s) shortage in intellect and perception of things while poking at Joelle’s need to hide under a veil all the time, that was great for me. It’s just like what I’ve been doing, actually; tracking the reading progression and at the same time being self-deprecatory about my inability to really comprehend, just so I won’t appear totally stupid. So I talk about this, admit my shortage in comprehension, and proceed to talk about it anyway.

What you do is you hide your deep need to hide, and you do this out of the need to appear to other people as if you have the strength not to care how you appear to others. You stick your hideous face right in there into the wine-tasting crowd’s visual meatgrinder, you smile so wide it hurts and put out your hand and are extra gregarious and outgoing and exert yourself to appear totally unaware of the facial struggles of people who are trying not to wince or stare or give away the fact that they can see that you’re hideously, improbably deformed. You feign acceptance of your deformity. You take your desire to hide and conceal it under a mask of acceptance.

In this, I am the YOU and you are the wine-tasting crowd who sees through the ‘deformity’. If I were you I am probably thinking, I really don’t get it and yet I still talk. It’s fine.

I wanted right now to talk about this, a book, because I’ve been despairing, really, one of the worst kind, where I dread things that happen on a very regular basis, from Monday to Friday, as a matter of absolute fact, and I have applied for a job where I told the people in authority I love books, and what kind of a book lover am I if I don’t talk about the few pages I’ve read of Infinite Jest. The so-called quest is not for nothing.

Delicious-smelling, oven-baked suicidal’s head is funny

The comedy is everywhere but it hits a high when the boys are trading barbs, lifting barbells, making riddles, making up names for each other, when 2 boys shout obscenities at each other while working out, when Kornspan says to Freer things like the barbell raped his sister and killed his mother.

Probably the best way to enjoy this is this. Don’t trouble yourself with the narrative because great passages are scattered and when you get to them, you momentarily do not mind the Incandenzas. Tiny Ewell’s fascination for tattooed patients is a fun section. You take the fun where you can get them.

And then the lessons. The really amazing part where he gets preachy and wise. That somewhere in here, all you needed to know about some things are really like that, just how he says it is. That you do not have to like a person in order to learn from him/her/it. That loneliness is not a function of solitude. Things like these.

In the realm of cute, witty siblings in movies and books, there are a few that are so cute and unforgettable among which are made by people whose works I tend to like and look out for: the Glasses, the Tenenbaums and the Incandenzas just now. Some fictional siblings are too cute to be true, chief of which are the aforementioned, but it’s not hard to imagine that people who make them are not so eager to create middle-class, surfacely boring brothers and sisters since these tend to not be like super smart, super goodlooking and super good in tennis and chemistry, hence boring. But wait til you read about the Lisbons because you will surely ‘Incandenza who?’.

In the Darjeeling Limited, I’m amazed again by Wes Anderson’s ensemble which was unsurprisingly greatly aided by the so good when she’s playing this type of role of the stern mother Angelica Huston. Some of the things he does to the characters are almost always looking like like they were employed to achieve some comic effect but the kids in the family in his movies tend to always appear to have that quality among the kids, disdain, distrust, love and aloofness. I will concede that Wes Anderson and company are not the only masters of sibling relationships, that they’re not the only ones who’re so great at making brothers look funny and authentic but the Darjeeling Limited has Adrien Brody whose chest looked fine, whose cheekbones are divine.

Year of Glad – Mario Incandenza’s 1st and Only…

It was a mistake not to slog through James O. Incandenza’s filmography because the sillyly titled films and documentaries shed light on some things that wouldn’t otherwise make sense if you skipped the longest, most patient-testing footnote you ever read that is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Not to be reductionist about JO Incandenza but he seems to me the David Foster Wallace alter-ego: killed self at 54 (JO), a genius who had plenty of unfinished work, and with a family that seemed to function unretardedly, in short, not the type of family that Jonathan Franzen or Wes Anderson would make subjects out of. Ok, it’s a little reductionist and shallow but I’m only through the first hundred pages. It’s slogging made flesh, as an ETAer  would put it, but in parts a barrel of monkey’s worth of fun, indeed – Dave Eggers. And then I got to the Kate Gompert part where she had this to say:

‘I think there must be probably different types of suicides. I’m not one of the self-hating ones. The type of like “I’m shit and the world’d be better off without poor me” type that says that but also imagines what everybody’ll say at their funeral. I’ve met types like that on wards. Poor-me-I-hate-me-punish-me-come-to-my-funeral. Then they show you a 20 X 25 glossy of their dead cat. It’s all self-pity bullshit. It’s bullshit. I didn’t have any special grudges. I didn’t fail an exam or get dumped by anybody. All these types. Hurt themselves.’

It helps to have an e-book of this so that if you feel like Kate Gompert, you can just copy and paste and announce fancily. So David is Kate Gompert, probably.

It’s not a very practical pursuit to try and reread something this big, a thousand-paged novel with lots and lots of fun footnotes all around. But I want to advance my once lost cause and I now have reading buddy who I’ll depend on to correct some of my perceptions about how certain scenes are actually not. And I know just how boring it is to hear about someone tell about the rereading of a book as if it’s a trek in the mountains. But if anything, reading Infinite Jest makes of you a person who would say things like happification, etc. In short, it’s worth it and also it’s nothing because in the end it’s just a book. And also, says someone who went through it already, it might take a whole season to finish it and summer’s just the right season for despairing over certain unattainables (undamaged scalp, a drop in the temperature, great looking torso) so it’s complementary reading. And it’s forgivable to think that this might be a means to ‘squander an insatiable need to advance some impression of himself,’ (myself, yourself) by picking this book up again.

So far, it’s the ETA tennis boys bitching about the tennis academy in the locker rooms and afterward in the viewing rooms where some boys wish they were tennis racketing their buddies in the head just because one finds another one inexplicably repulsive. What they actually do is they bitch for you. The bitching in the locker room routine is a masquerade. It is bitching about life not tennis. And while I already hate being simplistic about anything that is ever contained in this book, that is how it seems to me plainly put.

DFW has so far described how he may felt about his own depression but to link these similarities to his characters is kind of lazy because unlike your average depressive, say Elizabeth Wurtzel who would just say “I’m depressed’, Wallace conjures a multitude of people who would speak all the ways that he thought of how he’s had enough, even though that’s too presumptuous a presumption. He sets up an enormous backdrop, gets these depressives from anywhere in the book, and sticks them in like a glue in between that holds the so far Incandenza’s and the ETA boys’ narrative being the one that seem to go somewhere.

I stop for now at Mario Incandenza’s First And Only Even Remotely Romantic Experience Thus Far. Mario from what I recall is an interesting boy but maybe not as much as Hal who would beat Mario at a how many cutting, witty things can you say in a conversation contest, but I’m thinking Mario’s bound to get even weirder. There’s no logic so far to the sequence and I have yet to grasp the Years. No clue as to what could possibly be meant by the year of the depend adult undergarment which sounded from the moment I read it intriguing and usable. There’s just so much in here. Book is lovable so far.

Infinite despair

I wanted so much to talk about David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest because I’ve read a lot about it, something I rarely do since I don’t read about books I intend to read. I guess I was intrigued by the fact that the author killed himself. And one-thirds through the book, I can see but only dimly why he did, not that I ever understood what motivates suicide. Judging from the book’s sheer workmanship, length, vastness and supposed greatness, it’s not hard to see that this is a person who has a lot in his head. I suppose it is what most people would call an intensely psychological, intellectual, whatever Great work of literary achievement, etc. And I don’t know how but I can imagine how someone who worked on a book such as this could have been driven to do something as extreme as killing himself. I would think that about Chuck Klosterman but he has way too much overt humor in his works that it’s hardly unimaginable that he would unlike David Wallace whose supposed humor has to filter through some very hard thinking. Think before laughing. I guess the chismoso in me wanted to know how someone who’s supposed to be ‘his generation’s’ most over-praised writer would want to kill himself. So he’s like Kurt Cobain, fair enough, but not nearly enough of an explanation. If there’s a book by a successful self-killer that’s supposed to shed a light on the highly intriguing factor of the matter of his suicide, then it’s perfectly understandable to want to get your hands on it, isn’t it, and so I do.

I want to talk about it if for nothing but for the silliest of reasons that I got so intrigued with it, so that I could give it some sort of justification, for wanting it in the first place, and for seeking it out, for wanting to experience it myself when most of the things that I did read about was that it was a tough book, sort of, depending on whose opinion you wish to take seriously. I hardly ever get books from hi-priced bookstores such as Power Books (this one especially) and Fully Booked (although they have a couple of impressively knowledgeable staff who wouldn’t ask you thrice what title of the book it is you’re asking or if it’s the author or the title you’re asking, so they’re fine) because the guilt you feel when you see a book that you got for 800 pesos is on Book Sale selling for 110 you just about want to kill yourself too. Sometimes I worry that I might have been spending way more time looking for things to read than I do reading.

I try not to talk about books I don’t really get and so maybe I should stop obsessing over the David Foster Wallace catalogue since it’s doubtful I’d ever get through another one of his fictions enlightened. I can’t say I’m rewarded for the pursuit, not having finished it after starting so many months ago but the little I get, the little humor that I did find funny, I really appreciated. If anything it made me wish I have more patience and more brain space to take everything in.

I’ve also been thinking about turning this into a book blog but realized that it’s not possible since… it’s impossible. I wish there was more than 24 hours in a day and less means of self-gratification because then I wouldn’t have to spend time in the room where the speakers are, or in the bed where the comfort is. I’m miserable when it comes to this blog, speaking of blogs. I’m thinking of shutting this off but there are worse things than not getting attention and one of those is not having a space to talk about Mariah and some books.

Infinite Jest is about a bunch of tennis players who are, not weirdly as it turns out, also into drugs. Plenty, different, expensive drugs. It’s supposed to be about the dead-endness of their student and pro tennis playing lives. It’s also about something else, for sure. Maybe that’s what it’s about, despair? Which I understand and found a way to associate with my own? Hmmmm…