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Infinite Summer
May 21, 2009 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Infinite Summer - "The Challenge: Read Infinite Jest over the summer of 2009"

"You've been meaning to do it for over a decade. Now join endurance bibliophiles from around the web as we tackle and comment upon David Foster Wallace's masterwork, June 21st to September 22nd. A thousand pages1 ÷ 93 days = 75 pages a week. No sweat." There is also a Twitter account, hashtag (#infsum), and a Facebook group.
posted by mattbucher (118 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
Done!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:47 PM on May 21, 2009


My roommate and I ended up doing this unintentionally. Still, 75 pages a week is a pretty light load. Anyway, book rules, RIP DFW etc etc.
posted by GilloD at 2:50 PM on May 21, 2009


Another way to go about it: Move to a new apartment, sign up for Time Warner cable, and have no other form of entertainment and no method of getting around town. It will take them at least three appointments to get it right, and they will be at least 4 hours late for each appointment. This worked like gangbusters for me.

But yeah, if you're a fan of Wallace's writing, and up for the challenge, it's very, very rewarding.

In before IJ sucks debate!
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:51 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Year of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest Summer Reading Book Club
posted by Pronoiac at 2:51 PM on May 21, 2009 [24 favorites]


Also, if you're interested in this sort of thing, you can browse the archives of the wallace-l mailing list. They're a bit clunky, but if you sort by subject, the most recent read uses the prefix IJIM (Infinite Jest In Memoriam). Earlier group reads used subject heads of IJIJ (In Jesting Infinite Jest {a sort of play on the pynchon-l GRGR [Gravity's Rainbow Group Read]}) and IJSR (Infinite Jest Slow Read).
posted by mattbucher at 2:52 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fantastic! I just started the book and am 100 pages in - I'll put it on hold for a while so I can follow along with everyone. Thanks for sharing this!
posted by aladfar at 2:52 PM on May 21, 2009


And something that may be helpful, The David Foster Wallace audio project. DFW was a bonafide smart dude, he gave fantastic interviews. The Bookworm interviews are two smart dudes getting down to some serious lit talk, if that's your thing. They're pretty spoiler-free and they lended me a lot to think about as I read the books, so.
posted by GilloD at 2:52 PM on May 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Heh. More like "The Year of Reading More Than 100 Pages of Infinite Jest, No Really I Mean It This Time, Stop Laughing You Guys," amirite?
posted by Pronoiac at 2:54 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I got so into this book one summer that I bought a second copy after stopping in the middle to go on a 5-week trip, then reconsidering (leaving the book, not the trip). The thing is that we were bike touring in Europe, so not only did I have to shell out for the 2nd copy, I had to shell out extra to get an English copy in Vienna, and then haul the thing (massive even in paperback) around for the next few weeks. Totally worth it, even if the plot resolution I'd hoped for was, apparently, quite beside the point.
posted by $0up at 2:58 PM on May 21, 2009


I'm in.
posted by defenestration at 2:58 PM on May 21, 2009


To be followed by the annual "Figure Out WTF Gravity's Rainbow Is All About Harvest Festival"
posted by jquinby at 3:00 PM on May 21, 2009 [15 favorites]


Seriously? I just finished this book. Neat!
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 3:01 PM on May 21, 2009


For a long time, I heard people talk about the density of the footnotes and the length of the novel, and sort of assumed it was either full of intentionally-obscure crap or just hugely labyrinthine in structure, like Ulysses or something. But when I read it, I was surprised by how accessible it is.

For anyone who's thinking about doing this: Go for it! The novel's fairly straightforward, and really enjoyable throughout -- Funny, sad, engaging, not at all as opaque as the length and the reputation may have you believing. It's one solid yarn!
posted by Greg Nog at 3:03 PM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'll probably call it "The Week of Attempting to Read IJ and then Giving Up". '09.
posted by graventy at 3:04 PM on May 21, 2009


Protip: Use another bookmark for the footnotes.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:10 PM on May 21, 2009 [13 favorites]


I'll take the physical challenge instead.
posted by hpliferaft at 3:13 PM on May 21, 2009


My Infinite Jest experience:

(1) Read 1,100 pages.
(2) Read last page.
(3) Close book.
(4) Think.
(5) Shout "Oh, fuck you, David Foster Wallace!" at the wall. Loudly.
(6) Sigh.
(7) Turn to page one and start again.
posted by rokusan at 3:13 PM on May 21, 2009 [17 favorites]


annual "Figure Out WTF Gravity's Rainbow Is All About Harvest Festival"

My booth, "Fucking", is going to be popular.
posted by carsonb at 3:14 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cosign everything Greg Nog said. It's really not at all as difficult as its reputation makes it out to be, and I kinda wish people who are encouraging others to read it wouldn't indulge in furthering that reputation. But, it's great that this exists and I'll probably follow along.
posted by statolith at 3:16 PM on May 21, 2009


Bonus, for me at least: there is a Kindle version of the book now. That'll make footnote hopping much easier than with the giant, unfinished, hulking doorstop that's been holding down one of my bookshelves for almost a decade.

I might actually do it this time.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:17 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Done!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:47 PM on May 21 [+] [!] No other comments.


Holy crap! 1100 pages in less than a minute! WE HAVE A WINNER!!!.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:19 PM on May 21, 2009


Hey, I just finished reading Infinite Jest this winter! What do I win?
posted by shmegegge at 3:19 PM on May 21, 2009


I'm totally up for this. I've never gotten the big deal about the length and--as someone non-intellectual and not especially well read--never found it difficult to read at all. Both times I read it I didn't want it to end--and that was before I got Ritalin, when my reading comprehension was shit and I had to keep re-reading pages. I was constantly delighted by it and approached each sitting more like a trip to an amusement park.

I remember hearing about one reviewer who didn't read the book but wrote a review complaining about how big it was; I thought she should have been permanently banned from all access to literature.
posted by troybob at 3:31 PM on May 21, 2009


Yeah, what? It was a long book I guess, but so much fun to read. I just got completely absorbed and read it over the course of a few weeks back in 2001.

If you see reading Infinite Jest as such a challenge and a chore, maybe it's just not for you.
posted by Flashman at 3:37 PM on May 21, 2009


hmm, and my local borders has a copy, for only 16 bucks....
posted by hellojed at 3:40 PM on May 21, 2009


Yay! I probably won't participate, but I know at least a few people who've been looking for an extra push to get started (or make it past the first fifty pages)-- this project will be duly passed onto them.

And fwiw, I've got an extra copy and would be more than willing to pass it along to whomever (tough economy and all, I'd hate if someone passed on it just because of the price). Plus, it can double as a freeweight!

And bless MetaFilter's groupheart for a derail-free comment section
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 3:53 PM on May 21, 2009


I've already got too much summer reading on my plate to re-tackle IJ, but I've got an old tennis racket in the garage if anybody's up for a quick round of Eschaton.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:54 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


(1) Read 1,100 pages.
(2) Read last page.
(3) Close book.
(4) Think.
(5) Shout "Oh, fuck you, David Foster Wallace!" at the wall. Loudly.
(6) Sigh.
(7) Turn to page one and start again.


This was pretty much what I did, except that I read it in one day (it took me fourteen hours), and I let a decade elapse between step 6 and step 7. It was better the second time through.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:54 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Damn it! I was just in Barnes and Noble with a copy of IJ and a copy of Godel, Escher, Bach, and decided I could buy only one massive tome for now... Might just use this as an excuse to buy Infinite Jest too.
posted by andeles at 3:57 PM on May 21, 2009


I'd totally do this if we weren't going to have a baby at the end of July. Think I can read it in 30 days? That's 225 pages a week or 32 pages a day. Probably not.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 3:58 PM on May 21, 2009


It's really not at all as difficult as its reputation makes it out to be, and I kinda wish people who are encouraging others to read it wouldn't indulge in furthering that reputation.

I've been personally responsible for encouraging at least a half-dozen successful readings of Infinite Jest (indeed my original trade paper copy circumnavigated the globe via hand-to-hand you-gotta-read-this loan), so I'll say here roughly what I said to all of them:

It's likely you'll get a little ways into it, and though you'll doubtless be impressed by the singular style, the depth of detail, the extraordinary range of possibility presented in the narrative - you'll start to wonder, nevertheless, why you're bothering. Somewhere in the p. 100-150 range, it's very common to begin to feel like it's lost you. It's slow going in thick muck, and it feels like a lot of sound and fury all over the place signifying not enough to slog through the 1000 pages that remain.

Make yourself a deal that when you feel yourself fully mired, you'll just push on just another 50-100 pages. The narrative and thematic threads begin to weave together, and then the thing hits full stride and takes off and it becomes so fully immersive an experience it'll become your sort of primary occupation.

I read the entire second half on a train from Toronto to Vancouver in one epic, transcendent three-day mindfuck journey punctuated by meditative gazes at the passing emptiness of rural Canada. I was sad to see it end. I almost never feel this way at the end of a novel.
posted by gompa at 3:58 PM on May 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


local borders

This is an oxymoron. Please support your local, INDEPENDENT book seller, if these is still such a thing, of course.

The only DFW I've read is Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, but I keep trying his contemporaries like Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris, and so far they've all paled by comparison. I think I'll skip the facebook part and go on to the just plain book part. (It's not even on The List, but the ever-changing text file can be edited)
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:17 PM on May 21, 2009


Well how fortuitous. This was my plan as well. The reading a book bit. Perhaps extra analysis & online hand holding will fit in with over all theme of the work.

I might also note its the brainchild of those fine folks over at the Morning News and includes a mefi connection as well: Matthew Baldwin, Shadowkeeper , and Kevin Guilfoile kjgill. Not to ignore their counter parts: but they don't hang out here so aren't quite as cool or are invisible. C'est la vie.
posted by zenon at 4:21 PM on May 21, 2009


Hah, this is on my Bookshelf of Shame next to Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow.

I think I'll play along.
posted by empath at 4:25 PM on May 21, 2009


Infinite Jest is one of those books that I really enjoyed, but quit after about 100 or so pages. If I had hated it, I'd have good reason, but I liked it a lot but put it aside--probably discouraged by its sheer volume--and haven't picked it up since. But alas, I can't read it this summer because I have a massive backlog of books I've bought and haven't read yet, so I'm on a book buying moratorium. Mostly.
posted by zardoz at 4:28 PM on May 21, 2009


I liked it as much the third time as the first and second; maybe more.

Several years ago, I asked my sister some writing advice, generally about what to do when I have a beginning, know how I want it to end, and don't know how to fill the space in the middle. She told me two things:

1) Practice writing a complete story from beginning to end on a single sheet of paper.
2) Read Infinite Jest.

Now if only I could get over the laziness thing and write more.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:52 PM on May 21, 2009


Damn it. I was going to eat up Anathem this summer, but I'm such a joiner that it looks like I'll be dusting off IJ yet one more time.
posted by tits mcgee at 4:53 PM on May 21, 2009


I read this over 10 years ago, totally unaware of its reputation. I was like "wtf is up with these footnotes?" But it was good reading and not too challenging. When I found out how it was regarded, I picked up copies of Ulysses and Mason & Dixon. Cause I was obviously some kind of contemporary literature highbrow savant. Those books remain unread on my bookshelf.

So.... Seconding that it is not as tough as you think, that the rewards and plenty, and you need two bookmarks.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't get through Joyce or Pynchon.
posted by jeoc at 4:54 PM on May 21, 2009


the rewards are plenty...
posted by jeoc at 4:56 PM on May 21, 2009


Can someone provide some calibration? I managed Dhalgren on the first attempt, slogged through Gravity's Rainbow on the third try. Need to restart Ulysses, got hopelessly bogged down on the first read. I thought Crime and Punishment was easy. What are my chances?
posted by argh at 5:18 PM on May 21, 2009


alright.....I think i'll jump in on this* I bought a copy at the start of the year with the full intention of getting through it. I was about 100 or so pages in when i just....I dunno, life got in the way I guess. I was really getting into it too.

Should I start from the beginning again? Is IJ one that HAS to be read from start to finish in one swoop.


*(even though it'll be Infinite Winter for me over here in Australia**
**except for the two weeks i'll be in the US in July/August!!***
*** For the first time ever!!
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 5:19 PM on May 21, 2009


I dunno. You'd probably have to take all of Walgreen's off to accomplish this.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:24 PM on May 21, 2009


Jeoc, go back and try Mason & Dixon again. I promise it's worth it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:29 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


In this context, this won't sound as insane as it might otherwise but here goes: my wife and I are actually finishing up reading the book out loud right now. We've been far from dedicated when it comes to the project, but it's taken us about two years. We have roughly 100 pages left right now.

I would really recommend it to anyone who is a fan of DFW or of Infinite Jest. Reading aloud forces you to slow down, key in on all the fine details, and really savor the book's many moments of greatness. Like some others have mentioned, it's surprisingly accessible. The structure of the book makes it more like reading a really long book of interrelated short stories than like one massive sprawling novel. One can easily digest it in short twenty-page chunks two or three times a week.
posted by eateneye at 5:34 PM on May 21, 2009


As EyeBallKid said, there's a Kindle edition...does anyone have any experience with it? I'm particularly worried about the footnotes, especially since I won't be reading it on a Kindle per se, but the Kindle app for the iPhone.

(I just got terribly burnt spending twenty bucks on the Fictionwise eBook of the newest War & Peace translation, which has copious footnotes that don't work in Stanza for whatever reason.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:46 PM on May 21, 2009


Hm. Is there a way to spin off physical reading clubs from the virtual one? It could be harder to blow off that way.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:50 PM on May 21, 2009


I've got a copy that I bought a couple of years back. My intention was to bring this book if I ever join the Peace Corps or am forced to go to a country with a dearth of English bookstores.

I'm in, so I guess it's time to find another book for the above purposes.
posted by reenum at 5:56 PM on May 21, 2009


Oh, perfect! I just began to reread IJ last week. Which inspired me to revisit a few askme questions about the most comfortable reading chairs.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 6:19 PM on May 21, 2009


"I'm particularly worried about the footnotes, especially since I won't be reading it on a Kindle per se, but the Kindle app for the iPhone."

Wow. You're going to read a 1000+ page novel on an iPhone? Isn't that sort of like running a marathon in wooden clogs?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:40 PM on May 21, 2009


I always picked up the book in the shop, turned it around and always put it back because I thought it seemed too American for me to 'get'. Is this the case?
posted by dhruva at 7:05 PM on May 21, 2009


I'm in.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:11 PM on May 21, 2009


In this context, this won't sound as insane as it might otherwise but here goes: my wife and I are actually finishing up reading the book out loud right now.

Aw, you have succeeded in doing the impossible: making me nostalgic for interpersonal domestic relationship thingies. Having a partner to read books aloud with is one of the most grooviest things in the world -- especially on long car trips and breezy summer porches.

If you two can make it through reading To Kill a Mockingbird aloud together without getting choked up, I'll buy you lunch.*

*but no supersizing in this economy.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:24 PM on May 21, 2009


argh: Can someone provide some calibration? I managed Dhalgren on the first attempt, slogged through Gravity's Rainbow on the third try. Need to restart Ulysses, got hopelessly bogged down on the first read. I thought Crime and Punishment was easy. What are my chances?

Infinite Jest is not a very difficult book--it has that reputation because of its length and breadth, but it's not as demanding of the reader as other examples of what Edward Mendelson called the "encyclopedic narrative". It's harder to get through than Crime and Punishment solely because of its length, but IMO it's not as difficult as Dhalgren, Gravity's Rainbow, or Ulysses.

That said, the more familiar you are with DFW's literary antecedents (Pynchon, especially), the more likely you are to get along easily with DFW's style and structure.
posted by Prospero at 7:26 PM on May 21, 2009


Krinklyfig: Wow, you're going to lug a five pound book around all summer?
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:38 PM on May 21, 2009


The first time I read it, the first 500 pages took me two months and the second 500 pages took me two weeks. It's like that.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:59 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the comparisons to Pynchon that have always put me off. I think I'll just read Treasure Island again. Or better yet, The Illuminatus Trilogy. Now there's a summer read.
posted by philip-random at 8:24 PM on May 21, 2009


"Krinklyfig: Wow, you're going to lug a five pound book around all summer?"

I've done it before. I'm just not sure I could read that much material for hours at a time on a screen like that. I'm sure some people already have, but it probably wouldn't work out all that well for me. It has to be able to survive water, dust of living in a desert and long periods in the sun, and I need to be able to hold it in one hand or two and be able to accidentally forget it somewhere and not have a major expense involved. If it has to be recharged, that's going to be a problem. And I already have a PDA and don't want an iPhone to carry along with it. The PDA is pretty good for work, but I can't stand trying to read pages of written material on it. And as far as lugging it around, to be honest, this is the type of book I'd rather read at home anyway, in bed, for long stretches at a time. And maybe I'll finally get around to it now that it's come up again, but it's going to be the dead tree format.

But I'd gladly carry around a Kindle for school, if I were in school.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:43 PM on May 21, 2009


I always picked up the book in the shop, turned it around and always put it back because I thought it seemed too American for me to 'get'. Is this the case?

It is reasonably 'American'. The advertising references, the AA references, the football references. But the book itself is not too American. Rejecting it on those grounds would be like saying Les Miserables is too French because it's set against the Paris Uprising.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:06 PM on May 21, 2009


OK, I'll read it again. But this time I'm going to take better notes on the vocabulary. That was the challenging bit for me, as I was unwilling to gloss over the words I was unfamiliar with, of which there were many. If I wasn't reading at home with my dictionaries splayed about nearby, I'd come home at night with little scraps of paper with weird words and page numbers on them to look up. By the middle of the book I was wishing I had been more methodical about keeping my vocab notes sequential & in one place.

I tended to use about 4 bookmarks at a time-- one marking the end of the main text/beginning of the end notes, one each for the main text & end notes themselves, and one or two others, occasionally, to mark sections I found I wanted quick reference to again.
posted by obloquy at 9:19 PM on May 21, 2009


Awesome! This is one of those books that I own that I've been meaning to read, but I generally go for my smaller unread classics/neo-classics. A good excuse to start.

And let me say: Ulysses isn't that tough (except the brutal "Oxen of the Sun" chapter, which is wonderful but very rough-going), BUT... I would recommend reading both Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man immediately prior. Not only because characters from each (most obviously Stephen Daedalus) show up in Ulysses, but also because Joyce's style evolved over the course of these works, and in a sense, he teaches you how to read his work. I would also recommend a guidebook like The New Bloomsday Book or Stuart Gilbert's Ulysses (hardcore Joyceans can add Gifford's Ulysses Annotated, but it is unnecessary). You can get through it without a guidebook, but reading one (I read the New Bloomsday) is almost like reading the book 3 or 4 times. Ideally, if you have the time, you read a chapter of Ulysses, then read the corresponding chapter in the guidebook, then read the chapter of Ulysses again; if you make it through the whole thing that way, you'll be a Certified Joyce Expert.

Now, when can we get a Finnegan's Wake reading group going?
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:52 PM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Prospero: Thanks for the Ed Mendelson reference -- I'm going to go read his article on Encyclopedic Narrative now!
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:07 PM on May 21, 2009


Eponysterical
posted by aniola at 10:34 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm in too. I'm not intimidated by long books, just boring ones. This one doesn't seem boring at all; in fact I can't believe I haven't read it before now if what I've gleaned from its reputation is true. Now I just need to go and buy myself a copy. Luckily I just got a job today so hooray! I might even be able to buy a new one!
posted by h00py at 12:58 AM on May 22, 2009


I went from never having heard of Infinite Jest, to bumping into it everywhere. Notably here. It's certainly been on my list of books to read this year. I'm willing to take gompa's advice and not give up after 100-150 pages. But, I would like to hear from someone who finished this book who also hated it. That way, if I never get around to reading it, I can claim that it was an active, critical, decision on my part, rather than sloth.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:56 AM on May 22, 2009


Nthing that IJ is much less of a difficult read than its reputation would suggest. Nowhere near as difficult as Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow, et. al., just time-consuming. But, once you're inside, you'll happily let it consume as much time as it takes.
posted by primer_dimer at 4:22 AM on May 22, 2009


Strangely I've never really heard of this book. It sounds 'familiar' but doesn't mean anything to me.. And I've actually read Broom of The System, (which I thought was average, it didn't really grab me).

Whats the big deal about Infinite Jest?
posted by mary8nne at 4:29 AM on May 22, 2009


I've been meaning to re-read this.

Dammit, I'm in!
posted by papercake at 7:39 AM on May 22, 2009


I don't think anyone can accurately describe exactly what it is that makes the book so great. Its thoroughness is astounding, for one thing, but it's certainly not unique in that regard. The thing I dig about it is how far-reaching, and yet complete it is. The following topics (some eliminated so as not to spoil too much) are discussed in immense, thoughtful detail, which is pretty excellent for a novel:

Tennis
Boarding School (Both itself and town/gown relations)
Drug Use/Recovery
Separatist Groups
Family Issues
Communication
Advances in Technology and their Effect on Society
Film
North America's Hypothetical Future
Mental Health
Criminal Behavior
Child Prodigies
The Media

And so much more. I'm on a slow second reading of it now, and only about 300 pages in, so I'm sure I'm missing a ton of the big stuff.

Also, if you dig Wallace's style, this is pretty much a goldmine.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:49 AM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm in. I haven't read a book for pleasure in far too long.
posted by dobie at 7:59 AM on May 22, 2009


Whats the big deal about Infinite Jest?

What I like the most is that with the space he has, Wallace has lots of room to play with writing and with language. Among my favorites: a ten-page (four-paragraph) catalog of the inner impatience, paranoia, and preparation of a guy waiting/hoping for weed to be delivered; this delightful imitation of bad journalism ("Her tragic, untimely, and, some might say, cruelly ironic fate, however, has been the subject of the all too frequent silence needless tragedies are buried beneath when they cast the callous misunderstanding of public officials in the negative light of public knowledge."); this chapter detailing the failure of videophone technology; and cool words. My overall impression is that, where he is not parodying a a particular style or playing with a new one, he is someone really cool doing a fun takeoff of overbaked, abstruse academic writing, yet making it entirely accessible to the non-Pynchon/Joyce/etc. reader. Also, as a non-intellectual (thought not anti-), I enjoy that he creates a work of multilayered complexity that I know I will never completely get, ensuring that I will giddily discover something new the next time I pick it up.

Plus: Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents, a Quebecois terrorist group; intimate-level discourse on drug recovery, depression, and family dynamics; thematic and plot-specific interactions with Hamlet; and a particularly sinister stunt with a toothbrush.
posted by troybob at 8:19 AM on May 22, 2009


Wait, now it's mainstream and cool to read and enjoy "Infinite Jest"!??!?

Fuck it, I'm changing my username.
posted by hincandenza at 8:48 AM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Speaking of tomes, I hear "Remembrance of Things Past" is really good, and I can definitely vouch for Proust.
posted by aniola at 9:03 AM on May 22, 2009


Oh, ok, fine. I"ll see if the local used store has it.
posted by jquinby at 9:12 AM on May 22, 2009


I'm in. This will be my fourth go round, though I've probably only ready it all the way through twice now. I get something completely new, fascinating and heartbreaking out of it each and every time I pick it up. That, and my love for sweet, little Mario Incandenza grows and grows.

There is so much good in this book and it makes me miss DFW that much more.

I really do wish Himself's film Blood Sister: One Tough Nun was real.
posted by Constant Reader at 9:12 AM on May 22, 2009


a ten-page (four-paragraph) catalog of the inner impatience, paranoia, and preparation of a guy waiting/hoping for weed to be delivered;

I can't emphasize just how good and relatable this passage really is, and it's only 17 pages into the book. Erdedy, like most of the addicts, is a note-perfect, fascinating character. As much time as we spend at Ennet House over the course of the book, I have no question that Wallace could have devoted hundreds and hundreds of additional pages to its residents (and I wouldn't be surprised if he did, and they got edited out.)
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:20 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


You've been meaning to do it for over a decade.

How did they know?!?
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:37 AM on May 22, 2009


I'm in too. Round 3, here we go.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:46 AM on May 22, 2009


And I've actually read Broom of The System, (which I thought was average, it didn't really grab me).

Infinite Jest is much, much better than Broom. I read Broom after already having read everything else Wallace (including his out-of-print book on rap with Mark Costello), and was sorely disappointed. I mean, it wasn't bad or anything, but it wasn't a good one to end on. Anyway, what I'm saying is, not being charmed by Broom of the System shouldn't dissuade you from Infinite Jest.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:53 AM on May 22, 2009


Lugging this thing around is going to be my new summer workout plan.
posted by domo at 10:05 AM on May 22, 2009


I'm going to get on this as soon as I finish with Gravity's Rainbow, which is to say, sometime around October.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:07 AM on May 22, 2009


At just 75 pages a week, I'll still have plenty of time to play tennis. On drugs. Catch a few film cartridges and catapult garbage into my neighbor's yard.
posted by xod at 10:15 AM on May 22, 2009


Totally worth it, even if the plot resolution I'd hoped for was, apparently, quite beside the point.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. My buddy Greg Carlisle argues (in his Infinite Jest reader's guide Elegant Complexity) that in fact there is a coherent and formal ending to the plot and I sort of agree, especially if you consider page 17 to be the chronological end to the story (So you then man what's your story) and you use a few clues to piece together what happened in that gap. But when the title of the book is Infinite Jest and the möbius strip is referred to here and there, you sort of expect that things will not be linear, that time itself might loop back around rather than come to a full stop. One of the pieces in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is titled "Death is Not the End" and you sort of see this concept fleshed out in IJ--not in a sense that death leads to an afterlife, but that death does not bring resolution. The idea of anything being resolved rather than annular or circular is challenged. JOI's death causes more confusion, raises more questions, resolves nothing. So when I hear people say, "The ending sucked" or "There's no ending" I want to agree and disagree at the same time. Maybe it's too "pomo" for some, but I see it in every day life: there is no linear end.
posted by mattbucher at 11:32 AM on May 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


An excuse to re-read it! I'm totally there.

Also: No more wondering about "How on Earth am I going to have enough reading material for a trans-Atlantic flight, two weeks in a non-English speaking country, and another trans-Atlantic flight?" Though trying to fit IJ into my carry-on will be an experience in luggage tetris.

Pro-tip for Gravity's Rainbow: Make a list of all the characters. I read it, got 400 pages in, realized I had no idea who anyone was, and started over. I had a list of the characters sub-divided by group with little symbols for PISCES and so on. Made the whole thing a hell of a lot easier.

I like big books and I can not lie. I'm more likely to read a book that got good reviews if it's HUGE than if it's under 500 pages.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:51 AM on May 22, 2009


Wait, now it's mainstream and cool to read and enjoy "Infinite Jest"!??!?

Fuck it, I'm changing my username.


Competition [1] to think up new user names for hincandenza and myself, begins....here!

[1] Please choose something that references DFW or the book, but in a subtle way so that the masses don't get it.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:55 PM on May 22, 2009


I'm re-reading Gravity's Rainbow right on and taking it very slow. I read it the first time when I was 21-22 (15 years ago), and damn if I didn't miss half the stuff I'm getting this time.

Infinite Jest was a breeze for me. I read it in a few weeks. It's utterly hilarious and addicting. I re-read various parts of it all the time. It's just a collection of short stories melded into an overarching framework. Yet totally wonderful. One of my favorite books ever, but I won't be re-reading the whole thing again anytime soon.

My personal book of shame: William Gaddis' The Recognitions. I just can't get it. Someone tell me it's not that hard to read and I'll maybe try it one more time.

I also loved Underworld. Highly recommended if you like big books (along with Mason & Dixon).
posted by mrgrimm at 12:59 PM on May 22, 2009


Please choose something that references DFW or the book, but in a subtle way so that the masses don't get it.

WillemDeGroot
posted by Flashman at 1:02 PM on May 22, 2009


O.N.A.N.tastic
posted by troybob at 1:03 PM on May 22, 2009


[1] Please choose something that references DFW or the book, but in a subtle way so that the masses don't get it.

Isn't Michael Pemulis (along with Ortho Slice, my two favorite characters) on Metafilter too? You three should start a band and call it the Bioavailable Five. ;p
posted by mrgrimm at 1:11 PM on May 22, 2009


Slice Stice. Unintentional tennis slip...
posted by mrgrimm at 1:12 PM on May 22, 2009


A couple longtime favorites that I don't think are names yet:

Homo Duplex
Latrodectus Mactans

..or maybe a P.G.O.A.T. derivation...
posted by troybob at 1:24 PM on May 22, 2009


Actually, I was surprised to see that Mme Psychosis isn't taken already
posted by troybob at 1:28 PM on May 22, 2009


Competition to think up new user names for hincandenza and myself, begins....here!

Having run across hincandenza but never registering Hal, I'd say his user name is relatively safe from "mass" recognition. Now yours, IF, is a different story.

A few of my favorite character names:

Poor Tony (P.T. Krause)
Madame Psychosis (P.G.O.A.T.) (The Prettiest Girl of All Time) (Joelle Van Dyne)
The Darkness (Ortho Stice)
and of course, Himself (James Orin Incandenza)

Seems to me, 'Himself' would be a rockin', if somewhat foreboding and definitively gendered, user name. And any of the subsidized years rendered in their acronym form might be good - Y.D.A.U. (Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment), for example.

But here are my recommendations for your user name or your band, whichever. Article (the) optional:

the MIT Language Riots
the Wheelchair Assassins
the Great Concavity
the Entertainment
posted by xod at 1:37 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will be participating in this, I believe. I even bought a copy recently.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:39 PM on May 22, 2009


WillemDeGroot

So subtle I had to Google it. Kudos, sir.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:39 PM on May 22, 2009


Thanks. I actually went out and bought that issue of Premiere off the newstand when it was mentioned in the Globe and Mail that Wallace had written that article, so the name has always stuck with me.
Then I went and lent it to a friend, a fellow enthusiast, and who knows - it probably ended up in his blue box.
posted by Flashman at 3:43 PM on May 22, 2009


John "No Relation" Wayne.
posted by SpiffyRob at 4:11 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Never heard of it. Maybe someone should make a mefi post about it.
posted by Eideteker at 4:41 PM on May 22, 2009


Oh goddamn it, now that you people won't stop reminding me of great characters and content, I'm probably going to have to dig the mother out and make room for a re-reading this summer after all. Curses!
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:58 PM on May 22, 2009


The Samizdat would also be a great username. Or band name.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:24 AM on May 23, 2009


the MIT Language Riots

Or better, the Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts.

Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office, Or Mobile (sic)
posted by puddleglum at 11:29 AM on May 23, 2009


The Samizdat would also be a great username.

Samizdata's pretty close.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:48 AM on May 23, 2009


The idea of anything being resolved rather than annular or circular is challenged.

I can see that you've read IJ, and have a fancy new vocabulary to boot.

My favorite word from IJ: monodontic. I can't find any evidence of it being used by anyone but DFW, and has such a bizarre meaning in the book. Poor, sweet Mario and his look-alike teeth.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 11:58 AM on May 23, 2009


Out of curiosity, I'm two hours and 18 pages into Mason & Dixon. The writing style seems fun and easy to adjust to. The difficult part seems to be not going on side-jaunts to explore topics like Duck Turpin and Ha-Ha landscaping.
posted by troybob at 1:17 PM on May 23, 2009


Dick Turpin
posted by troybob at 1:18 PM on May 23, 2009


Ten items or fewer.
posted by puddleglum at 2:37 PM on May 23, 2009


I can see that you've read IJ, and have a fancy new vocabulary to boot.

Well, I read it in 1997. Is my vocabulary still new?

My favorite word from IJ: monodontic.

Actually, I think the word is homodontic.
posted by mattbucher at 5:58 PM on May 23, 2009


Well, I read it in 1997. Is my vocabulary still new?
Yes, until everyone else has read IJ. I suggest finding a way to sabotage the summer reading groups in order to maintain verbal superiority.

Actually, I think the word is homodontic.
Quite right. Monodontism is less exotic, but far more likely to inspire the howling fantods.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 6:13 PM on May 23, 2009


Out of curiosity, I'm two hours and 18 pages into Mason & Dixon...

So whatcha curious about?

Again, I highly recommend M&D. It's the only Pynchon novel with Characters whom you actually care about (excepting perhaps Oedipa Maas). I'm not ashamed to say I cried at the End.

There may be found, within the malodorous Grotto of the Selves, a conscious Denial of all that Reason holds true. Something that knows, unarguably as it knows Flesh is sooner or later Meat, that there are Beings who are not wise, or spiritually advanced, or indeed capable of Human kindness, but ever and implacably cruel, hiding, haunting, waiting.

The great American novel.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:02 PM on May 23, 2009


Duck Turpin

Oh man, just wait until you get to de Vaucanson's mechanical duck. Hilarious.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:07 PM on May 23, 2009


About 100 pages into IJ and I've the fantods already.
posted by jquinby at 7:58 AM on May 24, 2009


Year of the ... um, Bible?

Word has it that Rep Paul Broun (GA) has introduced new legislation called National Year of the Bible Resolution a.k.a. the Bible Bill making the year 2010 the Year of the Bible.
posted by puddleglum at 10:28 AM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


So whatcha curious about?

Out of curiosity, on hearing about it in DFW threads, I started reading it, I mean. But just a sample so I don't get distracted from infinite summer.
posted by troybob at 4:06 PM on May 24, 2009


Late to the party, but for those who are wondering, I took a chance and picked it up on Kindle for iPhone, and it seems to handle the footnotes well enough. They're just links, and you click the link and go to another page where the footnote is. After the footnote is a link that takes you back to where you were.

I like books for the iphone because they're with me wherever I go. It's unlikely I would carry the hardback copy to the supermarket, for example, and start reading it in the checkout line, but I do that all the time on the phone. It's also excellent for reading in bed. I guess I'm lucky in that reading on the screen doesn't bother my eyes a bit.

Anyway, yeah, I'm a few dozen pages in and it's already much more engaging and funny than I thought it would be.

If there are any fellow audiobook nerds out there, you can get a free copy of the essay Consider the Lobster on audible, read by Wallace, including an endearing, apologetic foreword that deals with how the footnotes will be handled in the audio version.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 7:34 AM on May 25, 2009


A photographic tour of Boston locations mentioned in Infinite Jest. Those are geotagged, so you can retrace his steps, but another walking map might be preferable.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:06 PM on May 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


I can see my house on the photographic tour! This may be the only awesome thing that has come of living in Boston this year!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:33 PM on May 25, 2009


Finally the 10 of us who've read IJ will have someone to discuss it with! Or am I being too optimistic about Infinite Summer. PS. An IJ drinking game where you drink every time you encounter a significant female character will leave you very, very not drunk.
posted by Lidsville at 10:17 PM on May 29, 2009


I'd just like to point out that I'm totally in, purchased the book and am all of 45 pages in. I'm just posting this in order to be held accountable come autumn.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:04 AM on June 7, 2009


Username suggestions, off the top of my head:

Mildred Bonk

The Entertainment

Ennet House

Feral Infant

ONANtiad
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:51 PM on June 13, 2009


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