(no subject)

I finished Infinite Jest while sitting in my car before my shift started today. 

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It's a wonderfully entertaining and humane book for a book based on a premise that seems soley spawned from Wallace's theories on postmodern literary theory.  (As delineated in that essay in A Curiously Fun Thing....) His characters hurt over concrete problems, they're funny, they're nuanced, the world they're based in is a recognizable, non sterotypical, and authentic Boston.

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I feel oddly empty now that I'm finished, but as it was getting so that I couldn't put the book down without deep feelings of regret and addiction, it's probably good I'm done.


shiny helm


(Posted over at the Infinite Summer forums, but what the heck.)

The Eschaton section is freighted so awfully damn heavily with explicit and implicit reference and symbolism, you have to wonder how seriously DFW was taking the enterprise as he wrote it.

You've got the map/territory discussion internal to the game reflecting the map/territory questions out there in the world of the novel. You've got the map-as-life or map-as-face thing going on which now has another facet altogether as we need to wonder, if "eliminating one's map" is suicide, then what territory does that map refer to? How much does the formation of O.N.A.N. and the Great Concavity/Convexity involve actual changes to territory vs. changes to maps? Which are people actually fighting over?

Having the role of "God" in the game played by Otis P. Lord is about as subtle as a flying mallet, and calling him "O. Lord" just makes it worse, but it's kind of an interesting exercise to read some of the exchanges as prayers and responses. And finally you get God's head stuck inside a monitor.

But also notice the last sentence about Hal: "For a brief moment that Hal will later regard as completely and uncomfortably bizarre, Hall feels at his own face to see whether he is wincing." There it is, in a flicker, a half-acknowledged moment of recognition that something's wrong, that there's a disconnection between what Hal thinks and feels or what he thinks that he feels and what he displays to the world.

Oh, and I've read but cannot recall where, that the math in Endnote 123 has some serious flaws, which some think must have been deliberate given DFW's mathematical competence (displayed elsewhere, I guess). 

The kids' obsessive study of the game and its documentation were spot-on as far as I'm concerned.  Certainly my D&D buddies and I back in college devoted far more time to the study of the Monster Manual than any of our texts, and I bet there are plenty of you out there who as kids memorized absurd quantities of equivalent information.

(no subject)

I'm at page four hundred something of Infinite Jest, and I'm at that stage where I'm not really analyzing what I'm reading, I'm just hungry for more story.  I especially want to hear more about the world of Bostonian AA, a world that Wallace depicts amazingly well.

This book is also really improving my vocabulary. 

Words I Would Never Have Learned If I Had Not Read Infinite Jest*

erumpent -- bursting through, as if through a surface

formicate -- a spontaneous abnormal sensation of ants running over skin

thigmotacic -- the response of an organism to direct tactile stimulus

deliquesce -- to melt or dissapear by melting

*definitions courtesy of the New American Dictionary

shiny helm

Endnote 61 - This should not be a spoiler

But if you're obsessively concerned about such things, you can skip it if you like. 

Endnote 61, from p185, is about "anticonfluential cinema",  "...characterized by a stubborn and possibly intentionally irritating refusal of different narrative lines to merge into any kind of meaningful confluence". 

It's pretty clear that, having thrown a big bunch of settings, characters, voices, deliberately obscure dates, and a generally non-linear and fractured set of narratives at us, DFW is sort of saying, 'yeah, this will frustrate and probably irritate a whole bunch of people.'  But from here we can take it a couple of ways.  As a simple acknowledgement of your (the reader's) possible frustration and irritation, even if it's not apologetic it's at least granting that you have an arguably legitimate gripe.  That's good, I think.  You could read it as a knowing wink at the audience, an attempt to share a cheap po-mo laugh at the text itself, but to me it doesn't come across that way. 

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(no subject)

I live in the Boston area and I'm fascinated by David Foster Wallace's depiction of Boston.  It's reasonably accurate, even if it is located in a future where the Combat Zone still exists in some form. (His descriptions of Comm Ave and a few adjecent areas are anachronisms even by 1996 standards.)  It is also quite affectionate, which is odd considering that being out in Western Mass as a freshman in college seemed to throw him into a culture shock that fueled his first significant breakdown. 

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reader's guides

I am not finding my reader's guide to be very useful. I have "Elegant Complexity" by Greg Carslile, and it just seems to sum up the most basic plot, which I already understand.

Is anyone else reading with a guide? Is it helping you at all?

(no subject)

I just got the book and I've read to about page 60.  I'm struck by two things:  the similarity of Wallace's prose to Don DeLillo's -- the lilt of many conversations recalls many of the conversations in White Noise, and the sheer giddiness of the book.  It strives to be quirky and weird, which suprises me because I've read some of David Foster Wallace's other writings and he seemed fairly down to earth for a man who used ten dollar words so often.