I’ll have a longer post about the first 63 pages later — I’m working this afternoon — but my snap observation is that the opening reminds me a lot of the opening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia” (1999).
I first noticed it in the section about the burglary victim with the head cold; that whole bit had the tragi-comic efficiency and off-kilter feel of the opening scene of “Magnolia,” in which the narrator tells a series of stories with neat, ironic outcomes — the first of which was a robbery-cum-murder by three vagrants. And then it occurred to me that the beginnings of both “Magnolia” and Infinite Jest set up a series of narratives that do not obviously interlock but that you expect will over time, and both introduce an exceptional, troubled boy.
Anderson’s film followed Infinite Jest by two years, so I wonder if he had read the book.
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 looked at the hit traffic for Infinite Zombies this morning and noticed a sharp uptick coming from the mother ship. Yesterday’s Infinite Summer roundup links us and says:
At Infinite Zombies, five writers intend to chronicle their reading of the book in a format they describe as “part book club, part Fight Club.”
Thanks for the mention, IS! (Also, Infinite Zombies now has seven bloggers.)
If you’re visiting us for the first time and notice there’s not much talk about IJ yet, come back often. We’ll be following the same spoiler rules that IS outlined here, so there won’t be any book-specific posts until next Friday, June 26, when IS lifts the cover off the first 63 pages of IJ. In the mean time, several of our bloggers will be writing about their previous DFW reading experiences and other topics.
I posted a few notes over the past several days on the Infinite Summer official page and Facebook page seeking writers for a group blog about the project and got a solid response. Four writers are listed already on the About page, and three more are confirmed. It looks like we’re going to have an interesting group with a variety of academic, reading, writing and professional backgrounds, and I’m looking forward to diving into the fray.
Here’s how the site will work:
- Over the next week and a half, the Infinite Zombies bloggers will introduce themselves and get acquainted with each other and the readers. We’ll discuss books, authors, what we’re doing this summer, and why each of us decided to read and blog our experiences reading Infinite Jest this summer.
- On Friday, June 26, the group will begin discussing the first 63 pages of Infinite Jest.
- Each week through mid-September, the discussion will progress through the book according to the schedule provided by Infinite Summer.
I’m hoping for a lively, spirited discussion about Infinite Jest, the themes of the book, the experience of reading it, the experience of group reading it, and observations about each other’s observations about Infinite Jest, the themes of the book, the experience of reading it, etc. Keep your fingers crossed that we all get to the end of the book!
Your comments and suggestions are welcome. If you’re reading along, give us a shout in the comments.