Liz and I have decided that we’re ready for another reading project: Distant Reading. Judging by our planned reading list, we’ll be reading new popular classics in fiction. Thank you for your support and enthusiasm in the Infinite Jest Challenge two years ago. We don’t expect the same fervor over our new site, but I think we’re pleased with the slower, less manic, goals we’ve created. Also, to everyone commenting on Liz’s posts featuring, as she calls it, the “disgusting giant rabbit”: we have no apologies. Happy reading.
That’s just sick
Good night, sweet prince!
I similarly threw my copy of Infinite Jest onto the floor last night. Except that I have carpet so it made more of a “WHOMP.” Then I stood on top of it and did a little dance. Okay, maybe a big dance. Like a big whomping Russian version of Riverdance dance.
Then I had a moment after finishing my dance (sweaty and sleepy) when I contemplated calling you and getting you to agree to not ever posting a conclusion to the blog. That way everyone can also go through the experience of finishing this book: utterly unsatisfied and nearly sent back to the beginning. I guess we’ll spare the readers, but I just wanted you to know that I seriously thought about it.
I agree with all your recommendations for future readers of the book. This is a book that gets easier the longer you live with it. But now that it’s out of my everyday life, my immediate recommendation to DFW newbies is: I still prefer the essays. There, I said it. I think part of what kept me going personally through this book was understanding and appreciating the underpinnings of DFW’s life’s work explained elegantly and egocentrically in such essays as “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” and “Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness” (by now are you really surprised by the title?). The second actually is a pretty nifty cipher from what I can remember for a lot of Infinite Jest itself, so a revisit to that might be in store for me. After a long break. Two weeks. At least.
I don’t think I’ll be organizing/participating in any more gargantuan novel reading events anytime soon, but let me know what you want to read together next, Liz. Thank you to everyone for all the support for the last month, readers! IJ would have been collecting dust on my bookshelf if not for you all. And thanks to Ballio for buying the book for me! My total costs for this project:
Web hosting… $0.00
Materials for Infinite Jest themed place mats I never made… $0.00
Finished?! No! It can’t be true!
The *THUMP* that Infinite Jest made when I tossed it onto my bedroom floor this afternoon was satisfying – the ending, not so much. I don’t want to give anything away, but the last 2/300 pages felt feverish (haha) until the, errr, abrupt conclusion…
I was actually sad when I reached the last page, not necessarily because I was devastated by the fact that I was finished with the book, but because I felt like I was just starting to figure out what the main characters were really all about, or, to be honest, even exactly who the “main characters” were supposed to BE. Hal and Gately actually felt HUMAN to me in the last few-hundred pages, all read in the past three days. So do I have to start again at the beginning and read it all again to figure out what happened? I was thinking this evening that DFW does seems to have a fondness for the elegant but aggravating Mobius strip and that the book viewed from afar sort of resembled one. A later Google search revealed that (hooray!) it seems I’ve finally made a relevant/meaningful observation about this book – or at least one that has been made before by people who seem to know what they’re talking about.
A few thoughts for future first-time readers that I hope will be encouraging:
-Don’t freak out about it. Most of the advice in the comments section on Day 25 seems pretty solid. I’m sure I missed tons of stuff, but whatever. I enjoyed it more when I tried not to care.
-The book gets more readable as you go along. Honestly!!! I don’t think it was just a matter of getting used to the style. There weren’t as many wildly-different things going on in the second half of the book and the chapters seemed to get longer.
-In defense of the schedule and pace: I found that I enjoyed the book a lot more when I read it in large sections. I really had to read it in hour-long (minimum!) sessions to make much sense of it, so the pace worked well for me. Also, I’m not sure that I ever would have finished it if I had been reading it over a longer period of time. Even if I had been captivated by every single page, which I wasn’t, the distraction of the growing pile of “to-reads” on my bedside table would have eventually proved an irresistible temptation. Once I started something else, I’m not sure I would have been able to figure out what was going on in IJ again when I returned to it and probably would have abandoned it.
-I’m also not sure I would have made it through – or enjoyed the process as much – if I hadn’t been reading and blogging it with a friend. Okay, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up in the first place. Thanks Aaron and faithful readers/commentators! I hate the thought of abandoning this little blog – I’ve grown quite attached to it. *sniff*
1. The page numbers don’t serve any purpose. I just put them there so that someone hoping to pretend that he/she had read the book after playing the game would know to mention its length. “Wow, page 561 was really tough!” etc.
2. That is not a “cute little bunny.” It is a huge, deformed, two-headed rabbit, and you wouldn’t speak so lightly of it if the blood dripping from its fangs was yours.
3. I had more fun drawing the squares and laying-out the board than relating it to the book. I think that’s pretty obvious, yes?
4. Yes, that’s my floor. Sock skating used to be taken very seriously around here, complete with real injuries! My sister once required several stitches after taking a turn too fast and sliding head-first into the base of the stairs.
In the spirit of the AA and NA meetings throughout Infinite Jest, I’d like to share something important and potentially life-changing that I learned about myself today during the five hours I spent reading:
While thinking back to the unusual “vision test”* I received while in Kyrgyzstan has been a source of great amusement to me, I was shocked to discover that the IJ-reading-experience suddenly became much easier and more pleasant when I finally gave the reading glasses a try for actual reading rather than goofy picture taking (see Day 2) this afternoon. The words are now jumping right out of the book and into my eyes, rather than crawling across the page and blurring before disappearing…behind…my…closed eyelids. Zzz.
I only wish that I ‘d made this earth-shattering discovery before page 800.
Just imagine what THESE might do to enhance the experience.
*Give an eye exam the Kyrgyz-way:
Old Russian Lady: (thrusting a magazine in front of my face) “Read this!”
Me: “Oh, I can’t read Turkish.”
ORL: “Can you see the letters?”
ORL: (gives me a pair of glasses) “Can you see them better now?”
Me: “Well yes, but…”
ORL: “Here is your prescription!”
I’m still not sure that I NEED reading glasses, but making those big words a little bigger doesn’t seem to hurt.