Prologue: Who the hell is David Foster Wallace?

I had never heard of David Foster Wallace up until the day he put a noose around his neck and hung himself. Which, in of itself, isn’t that remarkable. I don’t know anything about most people who hang themselves. This makes me a little sad, because then I wonder if that’s why they killed themselves, because nobody knew anything about them. At any rate, people definitely knew of David Foster Wallace. His obituaries were filled with phrases like “genius grammarian,” “exuberant experimentalist,” and “fiercely honest.” On September 12, 2008 America (apparently) lost a once-in-a-generation literary talent.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering, “Who the hell is this guy?”

I consider myself to be a fairly well-read person, certainly well-read enough that I should have at least HEARD of him. I mean, I wear corduroy sport coats with patches on the elbows for Christ-sake. They don’t let just anybody wear those things. One must earn elbow-patches by reading One Hundred Years of Solitude in the original Spanish. 1

However, after his death, I suddenly couldn’t avoid him if I’d wanted to. Overnight, his scruffy, long-haired head peered up at me from every corner of the world-wide web, the glossy pages of every magazine; and his name was on the lips of every fucking hipster who wanted me know that they had read Infinite Jest before it was cool. (ie. before DFW died)

Infinite Jest.

The very title evokes imagery of something gargantuan and preposterous; a herculean task to be completed with much gnashing of teeth and sweat dripping off of brows, crinkling the pages with evidence of mental, physical, and emotional toil. In short, it sounds exactly like the sort of thing I have absolutely no interest in reading. I’m a big fan of the minimalist aesthetic, and am of the general opinion that the more you can say with less words the better. As far as novels go, if you can’t tell your story in less than 500 pages then you probably have no business telling it.

So, in the two years since David Foster Wallace affected his own tragic end, I have successfully avoided jumping on the Infinite Bandwagon, sidestepping offers to join “Infinite Summer” book-clubs, and politely declining well-intentioned but slightly smug offers from friends to let me borrow it. And for the most part have felt pretty okay about it.

…until the other day.

Things I’m doing instead of reading Infinite Jest:

Waiting for the movie to come out.

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Things that can be done with your copy of Infinite Jest while you’re not reading it.

Cat house.

Footnotes:

1. This is a lie.



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