I’m struggling a little bit with my approach to blogging about Infinite Jest. The part of me that has read the book a few times is inclined to try to be something of a cheerleader and to drop wisdom (ugh) and helpful reminders and clues about things that wind up being important later, and so on. But another part of me thinks that’s ultimately self-indulgent and potentially obnoxiously didactic. So I’m sort of thinking now that it might be nice simply to point out things I like in the book, to be 100% cheerleader and advocate and 0% armchair critic or seasoned veteran reader of Wallace’s work. I’m also perpetually worried about the whole spoiler thing. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about things early in the book without pointing to events or themes hashed out later in the book. It’s like trying to walk backwards through a crowded room without bumping into people or knocking lamps off of tables. If my co-bloggers (or others who may be paying attention) have any suggestions for what might be a useful approach from the one of us who has read the book before, I’m all ears.

4 thoughts on “Approach

  1. Anna Swenson June 23, 2009 / 5:44 am

    Hey Daryl,

    I’d kind of like to someone to be something of an armchair critic, personally. I’m sure all of us will be more than a little self-indulgent, and you can be didactic without being obnoxiously so. You ARE a seasoned veteran of Wallace’s work, you ought to be allowed to write like one. We IJ first-timers are only going to be able to point out the nice bits we like without the luxury (or the burden) or knowing how everything turns out: you, as a repeat reader, could do something quite different given your knowledge of the text. I always liked teachers better cheerleaders anyway.

    As to the spoiler issue: All of us are going to continue reading, no matter what we learn before we reach a certain page. You can tell us, “This is important” without telling us why right away. I know people are always worried that someone will give up the major plot twist that happens at the end, or something (“THEY’RE ALL ZOMBIES!”). But it is more than possible for the reader to enjoy a book once you know “what happens”, as your rereading proves.

    Again, whatever you feel comfortable writing will I am sure be enjoyable and informative, as your previous posts have been. But even though it is proving impossible to read this brick in an armchair, I’d appreciate some criticism. 50/50, perhaps?


  2. wheat June 23, 2009 / 8:59 am

    I’m terrified of violating the spoiler thing, too, especially since this seems a book you’re meant to piece together yourself, from little clues dropped here and there. But I don’t think it hurts anything to say (“pay special attention to ___” or “rest assured, we will see ___ again”) without giving away the whole thing.

    For my part, as a first-time reader of this word, the only way I’ll be able to keep it straight is to stop at each milestone and rough out some notes on it. I’ve been doing that so far: writing a quick summary of what has happened and what I take from it. And there are some things that jump out as things that I expect to come back with increased significance.

    My problem is how to condense all of that into blog posts, because I doubt anyone wants to read a summary of the novel. And, if they did, there’s surely a better one out there already. So I’ll try to reduce it down to thematic and formal observations, along with some notes on the experience of reading it. And that latter might be something of importance for you. I’m quite sure the experience of reading this a second or third time is quite different from the jumping-in-the-deep-end-of-the-pool feeling of going it the first time.

  3. Daryl Houston June 23, 2009 / 9:01 am

    Aw, geez, you already know they all turn out to be zombies? Well that’s one spoiler that can’t be pinned on me, at least. 😉 Thanks for your feedback, Anna. Something 50/50ish might be good. I won’t scrap that first draft of a post for Friday just yet.

  4. Daryl Houston June 23, 2009 / 9:04 am

    Wheat, yes, you’ve touched on a tricky part of this whole thing, which is how to write something that’s thought-provoking or appropriately revealing without just summarizing or providing so much information that it becomes too much to parse (alongside the book itself and all the other blogs and stuff we’ll all be reading). Might take a couple of weeks to hit our stride. The experience of rereading is definitely different than the first read, and that’s something that’ll probably be a theme as I write. Thanks for the great feedback.

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