Last night after dinner and a couple of these I started reading from page 32, and it did not go well. The language of the book is dense and looping, and it’s going to require more quiet concentration than I typically devote to get through it.
My background is as a newspaper reporter and most of my writing now is legal, so I’m firmly of the subject-verb, just-the-facts persuasion. And I don’t read a lot of fiction. Easily two-thirds of my free-time reading over the course of a year will be from The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the Sunday New York Times, etc. Of the one-third that’s left, I read more non-fiction than fiction. I tend to like my literary fiction spare (Chuck Palahnuik’s Fight Club, Mark Haddon’s Curious-Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), or tight and lyrical (Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner).
That all adds up to Infinite Jest — a big, dense, complicated novel — being a big departure from my usual routine. I don’t want it to be homework, and I don’t think it will be, but I’m going to have to put more effort into reading it than I am accustomed to devoting to a novel. That strikes me as a pretty good reason to do it.
I’m going to have to give an “amen” to the whole concentration thing. It’s summer, my mind is on hiatus, and it’s taken a good amount of will thus far to wake it from its slumber. Maybe a strong cup o’ coffee before reading? Or do caffeine and Wallace not mix? Hmmm…