Infinite Jest is a stalker.
It’s bad enough when other people get pushy about what books you should read, but when the book itself starts to make overtures–that’s just disturbing.
It began at my brother David’s apartment in Austin, TX where our family had convened for a small, paper-plate and pre-cooked, store-bought turkey Thanksgiving. His pad looks like most college kids’ places, hand-me-down furniture and naked walls adorned with the odd lonely poster, like fig-leaves tacked on for modesty’s sake. No free-standing bookshelves, only a built in nook bearing an assortment of magazines, textbooks, and…a copy of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I couldn’t help but notice that, unlike most copies of Infinite Jest I have seen out in the wild, this one had a creased spine.
“Have you read it?” I asked David, pointing .
“No way,” he said, “That’s my roommate’s.”
“Has he read it?”
“Not all the way. He tried but couldn’t finish it.”
I nodded my head knowingly.
A couple days later, after we emerged from our tryptophan comas, we decided to wander about the city. I had spent an angsty, unemployed year in Austin before taking a job in New Mexico, just long enough to develop fond attachments to various places about the town. We decided to visit one of my old haunts, a wonderful independent bookstore on Lamar St. called BookPeople.
As I walked in, I was immediately confronted by the “staff selection” bookcase, where at its keystone lay Infinite Jest. Directly below it, a laminated card read:
Jenn S. recommends:
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest
Forget what you think you know about this book. That’s Step 1.
Step 2: Open the book and read it.
(I did, and it changed my whole damn life.)
"Nice try, Jenn S.," I thought.
I beat a hasty retreat, ducked through the magazine section, made a sharp right at the romance novels and…WALKED RIGHT INTO AN ENTIRE FUCKING WALL OF COPIES OF INFINITE JEST!
There they were, rows of Infinite Jest paperbacks, sitting there bulky and imposing, one after the other, like linebackers about to do whatever it is that linebackers do. Below was another laminated staff selection card:
Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
I put off reading this book for over a decade. The thousand plus pages and endless footnotes screamed pretentious and inaccessible.
I was wrong. Wallace’s characters and narrative moved me, quite literally, from laughter to tears. Don’t neglect putting this off as long as I did.
Pick it up today.
I don’t believe in signs 1 but I do believe in persistence. If Infinite Jest was willing to be dogged enough to stalk me so thouroughly and with such feeling, I at least owed it it try. So, I selected a copy and walked over to the check-out line.
“Have you read it before?” asked the BookPerson2 manning 3 the cash register.
“The store book club is about to start reading Infinite Jest if you want to join!”
I chose this one because of its winning personality and “take me home with you” puppy-dog eyes.
I now own a 10th anniversary paperback edition of of Infinite Jest. It’s on.
Things I’m doing instead of reading Infinite Jest:
Reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. (Purchased in tandem with DFW's IJ)
Things you can do with your copy of Infinite Jest when not reading it:
File it under "way-too-fucking-long" on your bookshelf.
1. Supernatural signs are the only sort I don’t believe in. I’m at least agnostic when it comes to others–stop signs, for instance.
2. BookWoman to be exact. Kind of cute if my memory serves.