David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest
I took a trip to NYC to visit some very dear friends of mine, and I thought I’d attempt Infinite Jest (for the third time) on the five-hour bus ride. The old cliche proved right this time, because I found myself engaging with the book in a way I wasn’t able to the first two times around. I’m taking notes, marking important reoccurring characters, making a time line, and beginning to put together clues. This book is going to take several posts, I’ll go ahead and tell you, because I’m not going to be finished with it anytime soon.
I don’t know that I’ve ever approached a novel as a puzzle, but it seems appropriate for Infinite Jest, which is perhaps a bit of both. It’s Pynchonesque in many ways, but I find the narrative much easier to follow than that of, say, Gravity’s Rainbow, which still languishes unfinished on my shelf. It’s also Proustian, as Dave Eggers says in the introduction, in that it captures the tone and manner of thinking and speaking of a generation. Also perhaps in the way it can carry on for pages in an unbroken paragraph.
The best part, though, was when I arrived at my friend’s apartment and we prepared to head back out to grab some pizza (brussels sprouts with pancetta) and some Brooklyn Brown Ale, and I hefted the tome out of my bag to leave behind, partly to impress my friend and partly to lighten the load, but when she saw it she said, “You’re reading Infinite Jest?” as she reached into her own bag and produced her own dog-eared copy, which she was attempting for the second time, complete with marginalia and chronology.
And that is how I know true love exists.