In June, 2008, three months before news broke of David Foster Wallace's death, I plowed through Infinite Jest over one long hot summer, usually reclining in my parents' backyard, enjoying the comforts of home and the time to read for pleasure after my sophomore year of college. As a freshman I had grown enamored of Wallace's short stories and essays, and it seemed like that summer was my chance to give his magnum opus a try. It took me six weeks, but I made it to the final page, the final footnote. I read every word devoted to tennis, every aside that supplied the scientific name of a name-brand drug, every discourse on optics or nuclear fusion.
Was it worth it? Sure. Would I ever read it again? No way.
In July, 2017, three months after getting laid off from a full-time job, I plowed through Infinite Jest in my off hours after I began working here, at City Lit. I don't know what possessed me to give it another go. Maybe I was just curious to see if I could finish it again, or maybe I was watching too much TV and needed something that required sustained attention. Whatever it was, I did read the whole thing again, and I'm glad I did.
It's a lot easier the second time around. The plot, which often resembles a Gordian knot, becomes looser and more manageable when you know what you're getting into, and the extravagently boring passages--those that caused my eyes to glaze over nine years before--reveal exquisite turns of phrase that remind you that Wallace had poetry, not just hyperarticulate prose, at his fingertips.
Have you read Infinite Jest? Did you read the first hundred pages and need to be cajoled into picking it up again? Come join us at City Lit for discussion and conversation on Tuesday, September 19th, at 6:30 PM. Bring your insights, aggravations, and, if you like, snacks or wine to share!