Currently reading. I am on page 84 out of 981–less than 900 pages to go! And I’m at footnote 36 out of 388. This is going to take a while.
Well I was going to set this one back on the shelf for a while in order to knock off several shorter ones first, but a good friend who finished his copy (BRAVO!) told me to keep reading. And another who is going to start. There is comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my ambitious effort to read Infinite Jest and it’s reassuring knowing that people do finish.
This book is like a jigsaw puzzle. When you first open it, similar to opening the puzzle box, there are all these pieces and you don’t know how they fit together. The more you read and pull pieces out, they sometimes link or look similar and other times it is a completely different part, but you know eventually everything will solidify and reveal itself. However, reading doesn’t give you a lid to look at and work from, there is no overall picture to guide you and so it is challenging to trust that it will work out. And in some cases, books don’t work out nor wrap up neatly–this may be one of those. Plus, when I do a puzzle, I hunt for all the edge pieces and work inward, sorting all like pieces and linking what I can as I proceed. However, Wallace gives you the piece he wants you to mull over when he wants you to, which can feel disjointed if you prefer a linear plot, which I do. But, this is supposed to be an amazing work and though it can be jarring and confusing at times, it also has beautiful language and intriguing scenes.
Some give up reading it, like journalist Christopher John Farley who blogged about his struggle reading the book up until the posts just stopped. Fair enough, the book is difficult and if you aren’t either stubborn or a masochist, then this book might not be for you.
Others band together and offer insight and encouragement for brave souls who pick up this novel. In the summer of 2009, the summer after Wallace committed suicide, an online community formed to read the book over that summer. It is still up with all its content for readers just starting the book and needing guidance or wanting more interaction with the work itself. I haven’t poked around too much there but it could be useful, and definitely interesting if I had more time in addition to reading this massive tome. One item worth looking at anyway is their tips on how to read to book; though for now I’m not worrying about reading guides either that are recommended, as time is still an issue.
So, why this book? I enjoyed Franzen’s The Corrections and in the course of reading a criticism about Franzen, I stumbled upon mentions of Wallace and his well-revered magnum opus. I bought a copy last spring and have been slowly piecing together the puzzle of Infinite Jest since then. It’s a hard book to sit down and consume large chunks of due to being pulled in too many directions and constantly being led here and there and way over there and back but not quite then some where near and then over then far then…get the picture? It’s a dizzying but beautiful journey so I persist. Other books have snuck in to steal my attention away from this great, albeit trying, book so the going is even slower.
But I am recommitting and will spend more time reading it. I have to join my friend in finishing it, so I can cheer the other one on.