The Dim-Post

May 20, 2011

Infinite Winter

Filed under: blogging,books — danylmc @ 1:15 pm

No, this isn’t about Game of Thrones, or the probable economic outcomes of the budget. I’ve been meaning to read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace for a while now. So inspired by the Infinite Summer project in the US blogosphere a few years back I plan to read it over winter, trying to average at least 75 pages/week, and I’ll blog thoughts, quotes and critiques as I go. I’ll start in a week or two so if anyone else wants to join me on my epic journey through ~1000 pages of dense post-modern prose then you have a grace period to buy or borrow a copy of your own.

A somewhat forbidding review of Infinite Jest can be found here.

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24 Comments »

  1. Dang. I was hoping for Game of Thrones.

    I’ll be interested in your thoughts on Infinite Jest – I’ve steered away from it on the premise that any contemporary fiction given that much praise by postmodernist reviewers must be absolutely awful. That, and I find the contemporary fiction “genre” pretty dismal, generally.

    Comment by Josh — May 20, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

  2. I’m not reading that thing twice…

    Comment by Bearhunter — May 20, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  3. Just finished my re-re-reading of all the Song of Ice and Fire books this morning, as it happens. Best. Series, Ever. And despite the extra narrative perspectives and deviance form the form of the previous three books, A Feast for Crows is considerably better and grimmer than I remembered. Hanging out for 12 June…

    Comment by Mark — May 20, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  4. FROM the form….

    Comment by Mark — May 20, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  5. I admit, I haven’t really dared get into Infinite Jest as of yet, but I will say that DFW was arguably the most original popular essayist of his generation. His collections “Consider the Lobster” and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” just floor me- the ability he had to seemingly to get deep inside a subject and stand outside it, to be almost pathologically sincere and yet have a style that was really flip and digressive, was spellbiding.

    Admittedly the guy’s love of footnotes (which often were as long as the essay themselves!) could be hard-going, but once you understood they were meant to gather in all those thoughts that couldn’t fit into the key text, then they took on their own life.

    He was also a commanding experimental short story writer, “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” was at once satirical and disturbing.

    He made pretty much all of his contemporaries, with the exception of Franzen, look very glib indeed.

    Comment by Matthew Littlewood — May 20, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

  6. I’ll be interested to hear your take. I found the only way I could get through Infinite Jest was to read it really fast, to help make the boring bits less boring (and keep the overdue fees within reason). I found quite a lot of it to be really, really wonderful.

    Also, it’s worthwhile to consider the less-successful aspects of the book in light of what we now know about DFW’s mental state. I recall he stated once that he wanted to write in a way that would change the way the reader thought, and make us better people. Trying so hard to achieve such a futile goal, and producing such beautiful work while also failing utterly, seems to me like both a symptom and possible cause of his mental distress.

    Comment by James Butler — May 20, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  7. Oh have you seen the GoT tv series? Loving it. Favourite characters are Arya and Tyrion, just like in the books. Awesome.

    Comment by Cat — May 20, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

  8. “Hanging out for 12 June…”…and I’m pretty sure it’s 12 July, so you’ll be waiting longer.

    Comment by Greg — May 20, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

  9. It’s an epic adventure tale!

    I’ve read it twice and really enjoyed it. Sure it’s hard going just from the sheer scale but after awhile becomes addictive. The way it explores human addiction (substances, entertainment…) etc is all fractalise with the way the book itself becomes addictive (probably only for particular addictive personality types, I suppose, but…)

    hope thatz not too post-modem 4 ya

    enjoy

    Comment by nommopilot — May 20, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

  10. Not a bad idea at all. Stretching it out over months though, yikes.
    Came across this a few days ago, it could prove to be relevant – http://www.themillions.com/2011/05/the-stockholm-syndrome-theory-of-long-novels.html
    And this David Foster Wallace short (short) story is definitely worth your time – http://www.harpers.org/media/pdf/dfw/HarpersMagazine-1989-09-0059029.pdf

    Comment by Hugh — May 20, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

  11. http://exiledonline.com/daily-inquisition-david-foster-wallace/

    His entire literary output barely ranked a step up from a Frasier episode; he leaves nothing behind but an embarrassing giant blowjob of John McCain from a 2000 issue of Rolling Stone, and some unreadable book as thick as an anvil, full of spot-the-literary-allusion games for middlebrow academics: Highlights magazine for grad students.

    My wife was reading it so I dipped into it one day to see what all the fuss was about. I won’t be making that mistake again.

    Comment by Jack — May 20, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  12. I made it about half way through and gave up… for the moment. I think the problem was I was trying to read it in half hour chunks on the bus only – it was hard to get in the flow and apart from anything else, I got sick of dragging a book that size to work and back. Top tip: two bookmarks, one for your place and one for the footnotes.

    Also: http://onion.com/k896fn

    Comment by Richard Irvine — May 20, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  13. I am tentatively in for this, but, fearing a relapse of Long Novel Stockholm Syndrome, I’m prepared to give up after 100 pages.

    Comment by bradluen — May 20, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

  14. I concur entirely about the Long Novel Stockholm Syndrome and I love that there is a name for it. Ulysses is the book that elicited the deepest sigh of relief upon finishing. As for Finnegan’s Wake, can suggest that the best use for it is if you have a table with one leg really shorter than the others. And if you have a table with two such legs, use Infinite Jest in tandem with it.

    Comment by Bearhunter — May 20, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  15. ” and some unreadable book as thick as an anvil, full of spot-the-literary-allusion games for middlebrow academics”

    Present company excluded of course

    Comment by insider — May 20, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

  16. some of us are lowbrow academics

    (who forget that you should refresh before posting if you haven’t reloaded the page for half an hour)

    Comment by bradluen — May 20, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  17. I haven’t read it, and don’t intend to sign up for this malarkey of yours, but thought this was a laugh. Unfortunately the humourless pricks at Yahoo took it down.

    L

    Comment by Lew — May 20, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  18. “I’ll start in a week or two so if anyone else wants to join me on my epic journey through ~1000 pages of dense post-modern prose …”

    I’ll have to demur. I’m having my entire skin removed with a belt-sander, which strikes me as a vastly more pleasurable pastime.

    (Spoken by the man still struggling just over half-way through “The Kindly Ones” … the Littell one, not the Powell … how middlebrow was THAT?)

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 20, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  19. DFW is a great interview subject, i know that for certain : http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/5639

    Comment by dylan — May 20, 2011 @ 8:18 pm

  20. Ulysses is the book that elicited the deepest sigh of relief upon finishing.

    I thought Ulysses was fucking laugh-out-loud hilarious from cover to cover. I guess the lesson here is “YMMV”.

    Comment by James Butler — May 20, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

  21. Enjoy the journey Danyl, it’s amazing. Don’t ignore the footnotes. It’s hard to read it while working ful-time. I broke its back by taking a week’s leave.

    As much as I like Jay McInerney I think he had a Salieri moment when he read Infinite Jest. I mean Bright Lights, Big City? Please.

    Comment by Guy Smiley — May 20, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

  22. “I’ll start in a week or two so if anyone else wants to join me on my epic journey through ~1000 pages of dense post-modern prose …”

    Can’t we just agree to smoke a kilo of crystal meth each and then cut the bugs out of our skin with rusty steak knives?

    Comment by abel the amish — May 21, 2011 @ 5:25 am

  23. “Can’t we just agree to smoke a kilo of crystal meth each and then cut the bugs out of our skin with rusty steak knives?”

    Spoiler alert!

    Comment by Guy Smiley — May 21, 2011 @ 8:35 am

  24. Hey Jack @11, I’ll see your whored exile link and raise this one: http://exiledonline.com/david-foster-wallace-portrait-of-an-infinitely-limited-mind/

    Comment by dylan — May 26, 2011 @ 12:33 am


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