I have been commissioned by my Critical Theory professor to read Infinite Jest by David Forster Wallace. This is the everest of novels. Not only is it formidable in length but it is also incredibly dense. The thing most interesting to me upon picking it up was finding out that this book is fairly contemporary (having been written in 1996). You don’t find anyone these days having the, excuse my french, “balls” to write something so turn-offish. I mean, really, who willing picks up a 1000 page novel? Even those who consider themselves an appreciator of the arts (as I do) can find many leaner, less challenging pieces to delve into. Thus, I am reading it only at the behest (great word) of Professor Kevin Griffith. I will be reading it at a pace of around 30 pages a day to have it done in roughly six and a half weeks.
I opened the cover and find to my dismay, that, there is a foreword. So like anyone else, I preconceived that I would not be reading it. However then I saw that it was written by non other than Dave Eggers, of whom which I’m a fan. So out of respect for him I read it and was very glad I did. Not only did it serve as pre-reading pep talk, but it was also entertaining as hell. It also carried with it a reaffirmation that there is indeed people trying to preserve the integrity of the word “literature” and that I am not simply pretentious or out of touch in my worship of the classics, and my demand of substance out of what I read, not just readability.
Then I read the first page. To be frank, I found it to be so rich that I stopped only a third down the page. Then the deadline drifted into my head much in the same way that headlights drift into a deer. I pressed on. What I found was entertainment. Not cheap, easy entertainment but rather something I liken to the way a runner feels as the are running (however, I am most definitely not a runner so maybe this is a false analogy): a combination of work, play, and upon finishing each page, a sense of pride. As I was reading I found it incredibly difficult and interestingly addicting.
That was the experience of reading it. This is what I thought of the material after reading thirty-two pages:
In this span of the novel we meet two very different characters. Hal, is a brilliant tennis player with a debilitating communication disorder (ergo, someone who is helplessly misunderstood by others) And a drug addicted who seems to understand himself just as much as he misunderstands himself. I mean this in that he is aware of his addiction, albeit not inherently calling it by that name. This, I assume, comes from having been in rehab previously. Although as I don’t know (possibly yet) whether or not he checked himself into said rehabilitation clinic or whether it was by someone else (this seems unlikely as he seems to associate with people only briefly).Wallace paints a very disturbingly comical picture of what drug addiction is like. Comical in the sense that Erdedy (I think that’s his name) obsessively crafts his own drug binge. His ritualistic manner of preparations shows how much his addiction is in control of him. It is in control of him to the point that it has convinced him that he is control of it.
Now for Hal. He, when put into uncomfortable positions, seems to suffer delusions that everyone around him is being combative. That they are, egging him on, pushing him to his limits, that they are prying too deep. He reacts with outbursts of anger followed by a period of sedation. He believes his is speaking rather harshly to these people, but in fact is screaming and yelling unintelligibly. Wallace shows the readers a curious memory that Hal has during this meeting at the university. One that is presumably the trigger for his outburst. Its of him his brother and his mother one day where he has eaten a fungus that grows in the basement of their home. His mother proceeds to get quite “hysterical” and runs around the yard. To be honest, I plan on rereading this section because I’m not quite sure at the moment what the author’s intent is yet.
That’s basically all the conclusions I’m able to come to given the small amount I’ve read today, but as this puzzle begins to drift more in to place I hope I will discover more profound things to comment on.