The Bookshelf: Reading Infinite Jest, Part 4

Infinite JestInfinite Jest again......and again...... and... ok... what the fuck??

I may spoil a thing or two… be forewarned!

I am now approximately 70% of the way through Infinite Jest, and a number of things have come to mind… thanks in large part to the number of discussions my co-worker and friend and I have been having over the minutia of this book.

First major observation… this novel was written by an obsessive compulsive, about obsessive compulsives and for obsessive compulsives.  We now have a third co-worker/friend reading the novel and we realize she has been reading it at a must faster clip than we have/did.  Is it that she is a faster and more intelligent reader than we are?  Perhaps.  Or maybe he (1st reader) and I (2nd reader) are more invested in figuring out each individual nuance and word choice.  Trying to understand each threaded story and how one aspect relates to the other.  Again… she (3rd reader) may be doing the same… but it then dawned on me, there is not one way to read this.

I realized that certain novels captivate me in such a way that I find myself digging for as much information as possible when I’m done… and then when I’ve exhausted what material there is in order to expand on a story, I will reread it and consider how and why I either missed something the first time through, or try to incorporate the new information to help me in building that mental image.  Case in point… The Hunger Games trilogy.  I fell hard for those books… and when all was said and done, I went hunting online for more info.  When I found very little I came to the realization that there wasn’t anything more to glean… it was laid out on a very surface level.  Nothing wrong with that… I simply found little more to obsess over and take it for what it is.

Infinite Jest however, is proving to be rich and wonderful for those willing to make certain connections and to notice what appear to be single throwaway words or sentences may in fact have much larger meaning in the overall scope of what DFW is trying to say.  I’ve mentioned in my previous posts about what he is saying about how we entertain ourselves and ultimately use entertainment as distractions… I recently read a section where Steeply recounts a story about his father becoming completely obsessed (sorry for the overuse of the word… it just fits so well) with the TV show M*A*S*H to the point that he ceases to function and develops schizophrenic behaviors.  Is this happening to me as well? Was it DFW’s intention to give us that reflection?

I am functioning quite well… but I have found my mind wandering at odd times throughout the days in absolute wonder and thought w/r/t the story and where it is taking me.  I’ve hit upon a rich vein of “action” in the tale… a fight, a tennis match, a gunshot and a glimpse of the PGOAT’s chin and lips… does that make any sense?  It would if you’ve read it.

Another thing I’ve noticed w/r/t the actual reading of the book.  I can’t casually read it.  I have a feeling of mental preparation before opening it for the evening… take a break after a while… prep for another crack at it… take another break… and when the kids and Mrs. Blahg are all nestled away in bed, I relax on the couch and really dig in.  And I’m repeating this pattern on a nightly basis… and getting more sleepy day by day and catching up on my sleep on the weekends.  Maybe that’s nothing more than life with kids… or maybe this is the perfect novel for me.

Lastly, I’ve found I can read it now at a slightly faster pace.  It may be that I’m now more accustomed to DFW’s style… it could be because I am now more secure in the timeline and the cast of characters have been properly, and at length, developed so I spend less time figuring out the who’s who and what relation to this person blah blah…. and can now read it as a more conventional novel.

I finally broke down and ordered the study guide, Elegant Complexity.  Not as something to read through as I’m reading… but for when I am done and rereading it.  It should arrive early next week, and with any luck I will be much closer to finishing.  My only concern now is, how will I feel when I’m done?  I believe I will have that slight depression of knowing something I’ve been living with for a while is over, and there can not be anything more.  Of course… with a 2nd reading together with the study guide I may be able to get much more from it.  Time will tell…

Either obsessed, or compelled,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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