Skip to content

When a book is all consuming

DFW.jpg

You may have noticed a decrease in the frequency of my posting lately. Yet, I haven’t been reading any less than usual. In fact, I’m currently up to date on my Good Reads goal, having read over 35 books so far this year. The truth is that I’ve been taken hold by book that refusing to let me go and is impacting all my other reading. 

In February of this year, a group of us started doing a buddy read of Wallace’s Infinite Jest (you can read more about that endeavor, here). For the past two months we’ve been reading about 60 pages a week and we hope to finish the book in May. I just crossed the halfway point a few days ago.

Infinite Jest has consumed me and the experience has bled into all my other reading.  I’ve hated it at times and loved it at other times. I must confess at the beginning, I contemplated giving up because who has the time (when you work full time, are parent to a young child, and have hundreds of other books to read) to spend every minute of your reading life thinking about, and wrapped up in, one book?

Yet throughout this entire experience, I have been in awe of the genius of David Foster Wallace and his ability to create a reading experience unlike any other I have ever experienced. At the mid-way point I can easily say that I love this book with a burning passion because it has challenged me in ways no other book has done.

When reading other books I find myself wanting to whip out the highlighters and sticky tabs and over analyze every word and sentence fragment. I find myself asking ,’what does the author mean when they use the color blue to describe something in a book?’ Then I invariably feel disappointed because the majority of books aren’t like Infinite Jest where every word and phrase takes on meaning relevant to uncovering the overall plot. Most authors use color descriptors (numbers, names, etc) to simply describe something without embedded meaning. When I started IJ I felt resentful of the fact that Wallace was trying to make me work so hard to get through his book. Now I feel resentful and bored by other books when they fail to make me work hard.

IJbook.JPG

I have found other reading so inadequate lately (I typically read multiple books at once) that I’ve taken to reading YA, graphic novels or commercial fiction — books that are not typically the types of books we review here (thus the reason why I have posted fewer book reviews) — simply because I read those sorts of books without expectations for intellectual analysis.

Infinite Jest has also taken over my non-reading life –probably more so for me because I happen to live in the area where the book takes place. I have found myself noticing things around me in my environment that remind me of Infinite Jest and the hundreds of characters. I find myself thinking about DFW every time I see a dumpster or wastebasket, my neighbor’s dog playing with a tennis ball, men in wheelchairs, or whenever I contemplate the myriad of ways in which people pursue happiness.

The genius of this book is my obsession with it parallels the book’s theme of entertainment obsession (more on this if I feel up to the task of attempting a review of this book). I only hope I don’t turn into a giant eyeball (reference here for my fellow IJ buddy readers).

Our reading group will be finishing Infinite Jest in May. I look forward to that time with a mixture of dread and hope. So if you have noticed that things have slowed down here, blame David Foster Wallace.

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. wow, good for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    April 4, 2017
  2. Tracy S #

    So that’s why I’ve been more analytical when reading lately. And way more critical, too- I think I’ve set aside so many more books in the last two months than I ever have- I just can’t get into them.
    I agree- this is an amazing, thought-provoking, frustrating, vivid, confusing, almost living, consuming entity. More than once, I’ve compared this book in my mind to The Film, and gotten the fantods thinking about this maybe not so alternate reality.
    Very few novels have changed something about me or the way I view the world. This just may be one. I’m so glad to be reading it, and will read it again. Dammit, DFW!

    Liked by 1 person

    April 4, 2017
  3. Currey #

    You captured my sentiments exactly in regards the reading of Infinite Jest. I am finding it difficult to keep up with all the other books I want to read, plus I find myself only able to read the very simple OR the very complex and nothing in what I used to believe was the “normal” range.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 4, 2017
  4. I know exactly what you mean! The world he has created, the level
    Of detail and rewarding loops and meaning, cannot be matched by other books. But also I don’t have the mental energy when other books come close (I’m looking at you, Nightwood by Djuna Barnes). Major book hangover is waiting for us in May!

    Liked by 1 person

    April 5, 2017
  5. Jen, I enjoyed your observations, and can identify with them. Although I’ve never tackled DFW : I recall trying a few pages of IJ, and think I found it ‘too American’. I’ve never participated in a group reading project. Maybe its time I did! I know what you mean about ‘reading hangovers’ after mammoth and momentous books; ‘A Little Life’ was one such book for me. After ALL , other reads were flat, or inconsequential.

    Like

    April 5, 2017
    • Thank you. It definitely is an very much a North American book. I agree with you about A Little Life. I had a major book hangover from reading it although the experience was very different from Infinite Jest. With A Little Life, I felt more emotionally drained than intellectually drained. Both wonderful for me but very different.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 5, 2017
  6. It’s part of the joy of reading to find something that truly engages you body and soul. Sven Birkerts wrote a book in the 1990s about different reading experiences and talked about deep reading as‘the slow and meditative possession of a book. We don’t just read the words, we dream our lives in their vicinity’ . That sounds pretty much what you are experiencing….

    Like

    April 5, 2017
    • wonderful quote to describe deep reading. It does sound like my experience. Thanks for sharing that quote. I will have to check out the book.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 5, 2017
  7. Anita #

    Fascinating post! I definitely wrestled with this book (and actually read another DFW) and the worst part is that upon closing it, I felt a distinct desire to re-read the whole thing after knowing the ending. Ugh.

    Like

    April 6, 2017
  8. I really wanted to participate in this buddy read, but I’ve been in awful reading slumps on and off for the past year, so I knew I wasn’t ready for it. I’ve wanted to read Infinite Jest for a long time, but reading your description adds a lot of fire to my interest. I haven’t had that kind of reading experience in a long time.

    Like

    April 6, 2017
  9. Infinite Jest is on my list because a friend has challenged me to read and review it so he doesn’t have to. I’m a little scared to pick it up, now. I was going to borrow it from the library, but your post-its make me wonder if that’s a bad idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 9, 2017
  10. This is the first time i have heard of this book

    Like

    April 13, 2017
  11. I know what you mean! It’s amazing when the author’s writing style synchs perfectly with your brain. Sometimes I actually feel *lonely* once I’m finished with a book, like the author was a friend who is now gone.

    Like

    April 15, 2017
  12. I can relate to the feeling you express here:”Then I invariably feel disappointed because the majority of books aren’t like Infinite Jest where every word and phrase takes on meaning relevant to uncovering the overall plot.” Infinite Jest is so good it ends up being kind of a bummer. There’s IJ and then there’s … everything else.

    Like

    August 26, 2017

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: