I’ve been roaming the Internet looking for the closure I didn’t get from IJ itself, and found Sarah’s Infinite Summer blog. Her post on endnotes has the interesting idea that the “will this one be interesting/relevant or won’t it?” feel of the endnotes is addicting because you don’t know whether you’ll get the payoff you’re looking for.
Given the addiction themes of the book, I think it’s possible that DFW set up the endnotes for exactly that reason: to make you see just how hard you might work for an entertainment and pleasure you’re not even sure you’ll find.
Neat idea, anyhow!
I hit the Sept 18th spoiler line on the 12th but have been unable to make myself read forward. I think I was afraid of how it would end.
I wasn’t expecting a Hollywood-style ending, of course, or even something that tied up all the threads in any meaningful way. Neither would have fit the book.
But I was surprised by the depths of the violence at the end. Sorkin’s men and that awful eye “surgery” and the pain of Pamela Hoffman-Jeep. Orin under a huge glass dome and the roaches pouring in. Even the slow degeneration of Barry Loach is a form of violence, as he goes from believing in people to doubting them and then to a near-wreck state.
The last good action in the book, the last kind and generous thing, is done by Mario. Mario might be the only truly good person in the book.
I don’t know how to sum up the experience of reading IJ. There were some beautiful moments and certainly some stunning writing. Some of the ugliest moments (Accomplice!, the horrible death of S. Johnson the dog) included some of the best writing. The concepts of sponsored time, of the UHID, of eschaton, are truly brilliant. And I will never hear the words “something smells delicious” again without thinking (with a shudder, no doubt) of IJ.
But then there were the meanderings that never seemed to link to anything else, the drug-detail footnotes (I didn’t mind the other footnotes, frankly, but reading drugs’ chemical composition? Why? I know he had a reason, but I can’t see it), and the parts that seemed deliberately designed to confuse.
I felt early on like I just wasn’t seeing “the point” of the book. I still feel like there’s an overall point that I’ve missed. But perhaps that IS the point: that there isn’t one. Ending a book called “Infinite Jest” with three apparently unrelated anecdotes that all include pain and ugliness is maybe intended to show the randomness of life and the depths of ugliness within most people.
I don’t know. But I know I’ll be thinking of IJ for a long time, and that’s the mark of something great.
Well, thanks to Avery’s insightful “it’s like an art gallery” post on Infinite Summer, my whole attitude to IJ has changed. I think I’d been expecting it to converge, and hadn’t quite understood why that wasn’t happening.
I read a great deal at a friend’s cottage in early August, sitting in the lake (and I do mean IN the lake – the water temperature was perfect) reading off my Palm Treo. Something about being outside made the book just really click for me. I’m only just past the August 10th spoiler line, but I am still committed to being done by the 21st of September. Doable? Tight, but yes. I’m determined.
Yesterday I hit the part about Toronto’s SkyDome and the “people doing adult-type things in the windows of the hotel” issue. I remember when that happened! I don’t think it was as frequent an occurrence as DFW suggests, but it did most definitely happen and there was the usual outrage. I loved seeing that and having the book tie into my own experiences like that.
And I absolutely adored the eschaton sections. I’m right now at the point where the boys and Ann Kittenplan are waiting to receive possible discipline over the mess it became, but I can’t stop thinking about the game itself. I let some of the technical details roll over me, since I’m not exactly going to be playing it myself, but seeing the interactions of the kids, and the way the game changed as tempers flared… so clear and so beautifully written.
Finally, I got stopped dead by the vision of the Moms holding her feelings out in front of her with a Glock to the feelings’ head daring people to hurt them. It still gives me the shudders. I get the Moms in a way I didn’t before just by that one image. There’ve been a few spots in IJ that made me jealous of the writing skill, and this is most definitely one of them.
I so hope I get to the end with everyone else. If not, though, I will be getting to the end regardless. I want to.
Am I the only one who still can’t get into this book? Reading it is an odd experience… I’ll hit something that really makes sense to me, or touches me or amazes me, and then I’m back into the detailed descriptions of various drugs’ names and I’m lost again.
I can’t help feeling like the jest is on me. Is this actually deep and brilliant and insightful and I’m simply missing it, or am I supposed to pretend that I get it?
At the moment, I feel about this book like I feel about scrubbing the kitchen floor… I know I should, and I’ll be happy when I do, but I don’t want to.
Needless to say with that attitude, I am still behind. I am going to start reading it at lunch every day to make sure that I get caught up at some point, but the “mud” of what feels to me to be utterly unnecessary is dragging me down.
Am I in this mud alone?
I was ahead after my first reading session, and I think I somehow figured I was WAY ahead. Now, I’m behind.
I just spent 15 minutes bookmarking each ‘spoiler line’ page in my Treo, so that should help me stay at an appropriate pace… when I pass a bookmark I’ll know I’ve done what I need to by that date.
I don’t mind getting a bit ahead, but I don’t want to be so far ahead that I inadvertently post spoilers. (As a natural speed reader, I’m hyper-cautious about discussing books with people who’re still reading.) Of course, I also don’t want to be behind, because then (like now) I can’t read the posts here for fear of getting spoiled myself.
So I will get caught up over the weekend and be ready to post something insightful (with any luck) on Monday!
In the meantime, I am certain that my colleagues’ lovely long posts over the last few days are brilliant. I will read them on Monday and then know for sure. 🙂
Heather, who vows NOT to get behind again!
I am trying to put together a list of truly inspirational songs. As a writer, I occasionally get into funks of “poor me, can’t get an agent”. They don’t last long but I hate them! So I’m hoping having a prepared list of “listen to these and cheer up” songs will help.
If you have one that works for you, please go to my personal blog and add it to the comments, or feel free to add it here if that’s easier on you.
Thanks, and I’ll post the finished list here if there’s interest.
I started reading on the 21st, as per the rules (and I know I could have started earlier, but I liked the “we’re all beginning together” feel of the 21st.)
I can’t easily say how many pages I’ve read, since I’m reading on my Treo, but I’ve covered 199 screens and am past the first week spoiler line. (I’m a natural 1200 wpm speed reader, which should be a huge advantage with a book this size. 🙂
Frankly, I found the first ten screens or so to be difficult (too many people to keep track of) but then I relaxed and went with it, and I’m enjoying it. There are some absolutely gorgeous images in those pages, speaking as a writer… very early on (before the page 31 spoiler line on the mother ship’s forums for sure) he refers to “My chest bumps like a dryer with shoes in it.” So simple, such a perfect way to describe a wildly pounding heart.
I don’t want to get too far ahead (the first spoiler line was at screen 163 for me, so I’m not too far off where I should be), so I think I’m going to re-read the section I’ve already read and let it sink in some more.
But so far, I am enjoying it!
I don’t believe I’ve ever finished reading a literary novel. (Unless Chuck Palahniuk counts. I read Choke and was disturbed for days after. What a messed up man. The character, I mean. I think I mean, anyhow.)
I read and write commercial women’s fiction. I look for strong characters with a clear goal and clear obstacles preventing them from reaching that goal. I want to know, when I’m done reading a book, what happened and why; I’m not a fan of “um, WHAT?” endings. Beautiful turns of phrase do impress me, but I read more for the story than for the writing itself. From what I know of literary fiction (which, admittedly, would fit into an eggcup while still leaving room for a smallish egg), story is secondary to language. This makes me nervous about my ability to finish Infinite Jest with at least some level of enjoyment.
But I will finish it, or else I will a) feel like a failure, b) get kicked out of this blog, c) have wasted the money and space it took to put the book on my Palm Treo where I do 95% of my reading these days, and d) always wonder what the book’s really about.
From the sounds of it, I might still not know what it’s about after I’ve read it, but I will deal with that when I get there.
Today is the first day of Infinite Summer. In the immortal words of Bender from Futurama, “Into the breach, meatbags!”